Parishes of all denominations in the Mullingar area united as one Christian community last weekend in order to face the challenge of how Christians can offer practical support to those struggling to cope in the current financial climate.
Christian Voices Together, an initiative launched in Christian Unity Week last year by local Christian churches, hosted a conference attended by 120 people from all denominations who wanted to work together to help their community through financial austerity.
''The conference is a significant beacon of hope for our community,'' said Rev. Alastair Graham, chairperson of the group.
''Christianity in practice makes a difference to peoples' lives. We hope to clearly identify what needs to be done in the Mullingar area.''
''We need confidence in ourselves and confidence in the Good News,'' said Fr John Nally of Ballynacargy parish.
''If one Church was doing it, people would say fair enough, but when all Christian communities come together, society says that's different, that's something we need. It's a powerful sign that something new is there.''
When asked if this initiative could become a national Christian movement, Fr Nally said it was a very locally based project, ''but there is no reason why people can't do the same thing in their own area, if they have the heart for it and are prepared to work together''.
A local woman, Rosemary Horan shared her personal story with the conference on the devastating effects of the recession on her family and her own mental health.
Rev. Graham addressed the conference on the ''toxin of individualism'' saying that the promotion of self-discovery, ''confused people by saying all they need and require they have within themselves, if they only recognise it''.
''Christians have a much richer appreciation of dependence on community life. We all brothers and sisters in a spiritual way, united in Christ. Can we reclaim, promote and support community life?'' he asked.
Following prayers and reflections, the conference then broke into working groups to propose positive ideas for the community to action.
The three main proposals which are being brought forward to steering groups next week is to establish a central point where Christians can meet, share ideas and offer support to those in need, to create opportunities to communicate Christian values locally, and to host a youth forum to get young people involved in the initiative.