Saturday, 3 September 2011

My second Belfast adventure ...

September 3, 2011

I haven’t written in a few days because I’ve been sick – for the second time since I’ve been here. I was proud of the fact that I seemed to miss all the bugs that were going around the St. Andrew’s staff last year, but I guess something about living in close community with 25 people increases the odds of catching something once its in the building. Earlier this summer, the same bug kept being passed around for weeks. I fought it off several times, and finally succumbed. Anyway, this time it’s just a typical cold, but it has lowered my energy level for sure.

I had a great two days in Belfast last week. Came in by train on Monday afternoon, and settled in to my room at the Camera Guesthouse, near Queen’s University. It had been recommended to me by Aileen (Corrymeela staff), and it’s where Alana and I stayed for one night a few weeks ago. It’s owned by a young couple, who seem to work very hard at catering to the guests’ needs and comforts. When I checked in, he noticed that I was reading “Game of Thrones.”

“I’m working on that. It’s being filmed up on the north coast,” he said, “Hollywood had come to Northern Ireland.” Which is precisely why I picked up the book after my kindle broke (a long story ...), because I had read an article that HBO was filming the series on the coast, near Ballycastle. He must be pretty busy, commuting from Belfast, and running the B&B. I hope I can get to see some of the filming sites before I leave in a few weeks.

I set out on my mission for Monday afternoon, which was to find claddagh rings for the folks I had promised them to ... fortunately I found a very patient young woman at the huge Irish shop Carroll’s. (“Are you buying rings for your whole family?” ...). I”m happy to say I was successful in my mission.

Monday evening I went back to my favourite little Italian place that I had been twice before. I couldn’t help it ... it seems that once a month I’m craving a really good Caesar salad, pizza, and half bottle of wine. Why mess with a good thing? I came “home” and had a great Skype conversation with Pat – whatever did we do before Skype?

Tuesday morning I met with a wonderful Presbyterian minister named Lesley Carroll, who is the minister in an inner city amalgamated church in a mixed area of North Belfast. She has been there for 14 years, and the church has been involved in teaching mediation and conflict resolution and promoting restorative justice practices in schools, amongst many other things. We had a wonderful conversation, and I know she will be someone I will keep in contact with as I think about some possibilities and projects in my own ministry in Halifax.

Lesley was kind enough to drop me off at An Culturlann on the Falls Road, a cafe, tourist information office, community radio, and the north’s largest dedicated Irish language and media book and gift shop. Of course, I did a bit more shopping and poking around, and headed off to my next meeting, which was with Nicola McKeown, the Schools Worker at “Number 8”, as it is referred to, the Corrymeela Belfast Office.

I have long wanted to understand more about the Corrymeela Schools Program, and I did get a few more pieces of the puzzle as Nicola and I shared lunch. Corrymeela has been working in the schools for many years, and because of that, has a lot of credibility. Working in both Primary and Secondary Schools, Corrymeela facilitates and supports teachers for the delivery of topics and themes such as making choices, communication skills, positive management of conflict, recognizing and valuing diversity, and forgiveness education, just to name a few. Our conversation challenged me to think about how the interfaith community in Halifax could be a resource to the schools, facilitating these kinds of conversations.

After my meeting with Nicola, I hopped on a bus to East Belfast to have a lovely dinner with new friends, Emily and Hedley, and their small sons Liam and Rhys. Emily, from the U.S. and Hedley, from Belfast, both have a history with Corrymeela, and with peace and reconciliation work in Northern Ireland. We had some great conversations, and I was very appreciative of their hospitality.

Wednesday morning I met with long time community member (and former Schools Worker) Yvonne Naylor to show her my draft children’s worship resource, and to plan a session on worship planning for the new long term volunteer team. Then, I hopped back on the bus, and arrived back at Corrymeela about 4 pm. I was greeted with “Welcome back!” “How was your trip?”, which made me feel like I had been away for ages. Life certainly carried on in my absence – sometimes when you are away for a few days, it’s a challenge to catch up, as so much can happen.

All week long, folks have been busy preparing for the new ltv team, which arrives tomorrow. These are 12 folks from around the world who will spend the next 12 months living in community, and providing the main leadership to the Corrymeela programming over the next year. The place has been cleaned, scrubbed, and tidied ... and welcome posters and cards made. The “induction” (think orientation ...) schedule has been largely set, and all is ready! Everyone is very excited for tomorrow.

In addition, there are three groups on site this weekend, one group from Hungary (led by a former long term volunteer who brings a group here every year), a family group, and a university group who couldn’t make it out of the U.S. last week because of the hurricane, and are arriving tomorrow.

Never a dull moment at the Corrymeela Centre!!

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