Saturday, 11 May 2013

May 11, 2013 Radical Hospitality

        Thursday morning was spent with Rachel processing the incredible volume of information we have accumulated in the previous three days. By Wednesday night, most of us were feeling quite overwhelmed from both the complexity of the content and the emotional intensity of what we had heard. Rachel led us through several activities that led to reflection and conversation, and a deepening understanding of the of the Northern Ireland context, and of ourselves.

We also spent time in conversation with the leader of the Corrymeela
Community, Inderjit Bhogal. Several things stand out from our conversation
... one, he spoke about reconciliation as a process, not as a one time event.
Even though he admitted that many folks who are working actively for peace
and reconciliation are tired, and even discouraged, he said that Corrymeela
needs the encouragement that comes from groups like ours who are
interested in what is happening, and the work of Corrymeela. It is then our
responsibility to tell their story when we get home. It reminded me of when
I was in Gutatemala years ago, and after we heard the stories of their pain,
their struggle and resistance, they told us to tell their stories to folks at

        The twice daily reflection and worship times in the Croi this week have been lively, meaningful, and conversational. These times are usually led by volunteers or community members, and the format is informal. Another group at Corrymeela this week is a group called Volunteers in Mission, so attendance has been high. Yvonne Naylor, a long time community member, has been leading worship in the evenings, and has been able to get everyone singing – even in three parts!

        What started as separate groups in the dining room on Monday has morphed into blended groups of 6 at each table by Thursday morning. That’s the pattern at Corrymeela – volunteers and participants are encouraged to mix themselves up, meet new people, and engage in conversations with folks they haven’t met. Some of my most meaningful encounters at Corrymeela have occurred over mealtimes. We tell our stories, share our experiences, and make new friends.

From the moment I arrived as a mid-term volunteer in June 2011, providing radical hospitality was stressed as one of the most important aspects of participants’ experience at Corrymeela – and our group certainly experienced that in a big way this week. Whether it was in creating a safe space to learn and grow throughout the week, to providing a welcome sign on our arrival ... or making porridge, as Yvonne and Maria did every morning for us, to toast and hot chocolate at night, we felt welcomed.

        Thursday afternoon was free – a much needed break of a few hours. Some went to the Giant’s Causeway, some went for a walk, some took a nap. We came to the evening session refreshed and ready for another reflection session with Rachel, and then prepared for another jam packed day in Belfast on Friday.

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