Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Cororymeela begins when you leave ...

August 23, 2011

Corrymeela begins when you leave ...

That’s the sign that greets you when you first enter the lobby of the Main House at Corrymeela ... “Corrymeela begins when you leave”. It’s a funny thing to see really, as one is beginning a journey, whether it’s a couple of weeks, several months, a year, or sometimes even more. I could intellectually understand it that first day, but I think now I am beginning to understand it from the heart’s point of view – and probably will even more when it is my own time to leave in four week’s time.

The LTVs (long-term volunteers) left yesterday at noon. It was a long goodbye. As I said in my previous blog, there was lots of processing and reflecting last week. Then, the party Saturday night, then, a formal dinner Sunday evening, and after that, a closing ritual for just the LTVs. Then, yesterday morning, a community worship and blessing, and an “Ulster Fry/Full Irish” breakfast (depending on which part of Ireland you are from) ... and then, there was the long line of folks to hug, and then, off in the Corrymeela bus they went with Peter driving, who I was told has probably done this about 25 times before.

The 2010-11 LTVs (pictured above) are: Jeni (Northern Ireland), Franc (Cameroon), Roland (Philippines), Valentin (Germany), Michaela (Northern Ireland), Sari (Hungary), Yael (U.S.) and Andrew (U.S.). These eight young adults have joined the ranks of Corrymeela LTV alumnae ... hundreds of folks who over the past 40 plus years have formed the heart and soul of this community.

My role during this past week was to plan, in consultation with several Corrymeela staff; a time for them to use the labyrinth to begin their reflection time last Wednesday; the Sunday night closing ritual for just the LTVs; and the community worship yesterday morning. It was a privilege to be involved. Sunday night we used a pilgrimage liturgy adapted from one a community member had written. We walked through the whole site, offering memories of the year at each stop and then scattering seeds from a large bowl. It was a symbol of all the seeds that they have planted during their time at Corrymeela, and also of the seeds that have been planted in them that they will take away, to be planted elsewhere.

Corrymeela begins when you leave ...

We closed the ritual by reading together the prayer attributed to 
Oscar Romero –

 “It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. ... This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, ... We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. We may never see the end results ...”

For the complete prayer, see:

In the closing ritual yesterday morning, I read the passage from Luke (Luke 13:18-19) about the Kingdom of God being like the mustard seed, and also read John Dominic Crossan’s observation that this parable is not so much about something small becoming something big, but about the fact that the mustard plant is pesky, and in fact dangerous, and tends to take over where it is planted.

From my growing knowledge of the Corrymeela Community, it seems like that is how its work has been carried throughout Northern Ireland, and around the world over the past many years – through the peskiness and perseverance of folks who have lived here and caught the vision, and then returned home to do the hard work of peace-making.  There have been visits to Corrymeela over the years from well known peace activists, including Mother Theresa and the Dalai Llama - an acknowledgment of the contributions that the Corrymeela community has made to the work of peace and reconciliation in the world. And this work has largely been carried out by those folks who spend time here, and then leave.

Corrymeela begins when you leave ...

When I was helping in the kitchen after the breakfast yesterday I had a conversation with Rita, long time community member from Dublin, who comes with her family to volunteer for this particular week each year. “I know what it’s like” she said, “it’s devastating, and sad, and there’s lots to be done to help out during this week in particular.” She herself is a former LTV, and a former staff person. “Well”, I observed, “you are also proof that there is life after being an LTV.”

I, along with most Canadians, was profoundly saddened to learn of Jack Layton’s death yesterday. Pat emailed me as soon as the news broke. It occurs to me, after reading his wonderful letter to Canadians, that Jack seemed to understand the Corrymeela principle well (and I have no idea whether he even knew about the Corrymeela community ...) – the principle that work is carried on by the next people in the line, that no one can do it all, and that to be part of a social movement is a great vocation for one’s life work.

Here’s to the 2010-2011 Corrymeela Long Term Volunteers, and to Jack Layton ... may those who come after you continue the work of building a better world.

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