Blog 2 – July 1, 2011
As well as welcoming many new folks, such as myself, and 13 summer volunteers, into the community this week, the folks at Corrymeela have also said goodbye to a number of beloved community members. Folks who have been here anywhere from 3 years, to 2 years, to several months.
For especially the long term volunteers, these folks have been a large part of the system that supports them in their work, and personally. There have been several parties and gatherings, lots of laughter, and many hugs and tears. Although I have been invited to everything, there were some things that just didn’t feel appropriate for me to attend. It felt for me that I would be intruding on some very intimate moments, moments of which I had not been a part.
Throughout these early days of dealing with my own insecurities and musings about how I will fit into this community over the next three months, I will admit to feeling excluded at times – even though as I said, I have been invited to all the events. As the goodbyes seemed to go on forever, I have been challenged to remind myself that there is nothing personal about this – it is just the natural manifestation of a community that continues to change and evolve ... and to reinvent itself every time a new person enters the community. It speaks of a community that loves deeply and holds everyone in the circle.
I talked to a woman at lunch yesterday who lives outside of Belfast, and has been coming to Corrymeela since she was a child. Now, with teenage children and a very busy career in mediation, she volunteers in the community when she is able. She has been here all week as the worship coordinator. She has learned how to come and go in this community – hello, goodbye.
In Mexico, on the Day of the Dead, a holiday that coincides with All Saints and All Souls Day, November 1 and 2, folks visit graves of their friends and relatives and build little shrines of honour and memory. Many even have such a shrine in their homes. Below is my little Corrymeela shrine that reminds me of communities and people in my life – communities that have sustained me over the years, people that I hold in my heart while I am on my big adventure.
- Of course, prominent is my very first Jesus Action figure – I’ve had him since my early days as a Chaplain at Mount Saint Vincent University and he has traveled with me many times. His only official tricks are that he glides and blesses – which, if you can only do two things, gliding and blessing are pretty much right up there.
- Three rocks – first, my heart shaped rock that Alana gave me many years ago. I’m not sure if she found it at Camp Kidston, or Southampton, but both places hold a special place in my heart, as does Alana. Second, a small rock that a member of St. Andrew’s gave me to leave in Ireland. I’ll put it on the beach at Ballycastle (picture below) one of these days. And the third rock is from the pocket of my clergy gown that I only wear on “high Holy” days at St. Andrew’s. It’s been there since we gave out rocks to everyone during our theme year of “Crossing the River” ... for some reason, every time I put my hand in my pocket before a service I would find it, rub it around in my hand, and then leave it in my pocket. I had to take it out a few weeks ago when I took my gown in to be dry cleaned. It reminds me of the community that continues to bless and support me on this journey.
- Two birds – the coloured one from Solintename, Nicaragua. I bought it when I was in Managua, Nicaragua in 1997 with my class from the Centre for Christian Studies. The Gospels in Solintename are four volumes of transcripts of bible studies in the early years of the Nicaraguan Revolution. They document the liberation that comes with community engagement, conversation, and the stories of Jesus. The little white bird is from Pat, from New Orleans. Part of the BirdProject, it came encased in black soap, also shaped like a bird, made from Louisiana Clay. As the soap is used, eventually the ceramic bird inside is freed – a symbol of restoration and recovery from the oil spill disaster. This also reminds me of the power within, and how we all need the help of others to be restored and whole.
- The little wooden painted cross from El Salvador which I bought at Phoenix Rising, an international interfaith university chaplains’ conference in Vancouver in 2000.
- My hand made prayer beads, which a colleague and close friend taught me to make, and which I have in turn taught other groups how to make
- And my finger labyrinth, which reminds me of life’s journey, with all its twists and turns.
These little objects all remind me of times in my life when I’ve had to say hello, and goodbye. And the richness that I have received each time it has happened.