July 10, 2011
Hospitality is huge at Corrymeela. One of the first things that a group often experiences after they arrive at Corrymeela is a Welcome Concert, put on by the volunteers and staff. So far, I’ve been part of two Welcome Concerts. (well, technically, for the first one I was just an observer). The concerts are organized by one of the Long Term Volunteers, and it’s a chance to not only explain some of the activities at Corrymeela, but, once again, to have fun and be silly.
Camp Kidston regulars will be interested to know that “There Was a Great Big Moose” (... he liked to drink a lot of juice ...) is about THE most popular song here ... which leads me to wonder - do they even have moose in Northern Ireland? And what’s with the waving of the hands in the way-oh, way-oh part? The Kidston way (which I finally taught a group this morning) is to put your hands out straight and do the bendy move your hips thing.
Other parts of the Welcome Concert include silly skits –like the one four of the summer volunteers did for one group last week. Remember the old skit where two people sit down to eat or prepare food, hands behind their back, and someone is behind them with their hands sticking out, preparing the food, feeding the person, etc. It’s old, but hilarious. “This is how we do breakfast at Corrymeela” ... they said. It got very messy, and the group loved it.
Other offerings have included the rec team demonstrating a game, (ended with a pie in the face from one team member to another), a re-writing of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody about the new volunteers at Corrymeela, a round of groaner jokes, and other silly songs, including a very funny rendition of Tom Petty’s Free Falling’.
And the object of the Welcome Concert? To have fun, and to make people feel welcomed and safe in the space. If I have heard that once these past two weeks, I have heard it a hundred times. When I was trained last week to do “Cover”, which means that you are the site “duty manager”, it was emphasized that above all, it is important to make people feel at home in this place. Each of us is to embody that ministry of presence as we go about our tasks, and the leaders are to model that for the rest of the group.
This week I am on my first program team¸led by one of the long term volunteers. Our job is mostly to make the space as friendly as possible, make sure that the tables are set for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then organize the clean up afterwards. Oh yes, and prepare (and clean up) the hot chocolate and toast for evening snack – a Corrymeela tradition for many years apparently. And, then begin again in the morning. In the in between times, some of us are caring for and organizing activities for the 20 children and youth that are with the program, aged 7 weeks to about 16 years. And, building relationships and having conversations with as many people as we can. For some of these families, this is their summer vacation. This may be the only time away from the struggles of their daily lives.
There are over 50 teenagers from the Belfast area also here this week. They have been brought here intentionally this week to have an alternative experience than what some of them might otherwise have in Belfast around the July 12 parades and celebrations, and the random violence that is often associated with those events. Once again, the emphasis is on modeling a community that embodies hospitality and safety for all.
At last night’s Welcome Concert, it seemed that both groups received the offerings gratefully, and with a lot of laughter. Often there is a time later in the week when a group is invited to reciprocate with its own concert. Maybe we’ll learn some new jokes and songs for the next Welcome Concert.