Tuesday, 6 May 2014

May 6, 2014

Best, worst and funniest

Often when my kids were little we would have dinner while sharing our best, worst, and funniest moments of our day. As I sit at Heathrow waiting for the flight to Halifax, I am filled with many memories of this latest pilgrimmage to Corrymeela. At our final dinner on Sunday evening, we sat at a round table at a popular Italian restaurant in Belfast, Villa Italia, sharing our best, worst and funniest memories of the week. Among the best ...

-          The sessions with Paul, particularly the first day and how he had us laughing one minute and extremely uncomfortable the next, and how we realized that there was a lot of deep learning in the discomfort
-          The beauty and hospitality that emcompasses life at Corrymeela
-          Rachel’s sharing of her story
-          Rachel and Deryk greeting us as the bus arrived on Tuesday afternoon
-          The day in Derry, and the sacredness of Jon McCourt’s story

There weren’t a lot of worst moments – certainly watching one of our members take a tumble in the Interpretation Centre at the Giant’s Causeway was named (she’s ok ... but bruised and sore).

Some of the worst moments (particularly mine, it seems ...) became other people’s funniest ...

-          One of the worst moments for me was on Monday when we were accosted over and over by competing tour guides for the Belfast City bus tour ... in exasperation I practically yelled at them (okay, I’m pretty sure I did yell at them ...) “Stop it! Do you know how frustrating this is for a tourist?” I guess that was pretty funny to everyone else ... in hindsight I can see that.
-          There was another running joke throughout the week. On our first evening, when we were creating our group standards to be agreed to by all, I said that the one thing I didn’t want to do was stand on a street corner with 7 people and try to make a decision. I said that if that happened, the top of my head would blow off. It happened at least several times the first day ... by the time we got to Tuesday evening and the reflection with Rachel, I was realizing that I could survive 8 people on a street corner making decisions. Rachel gave us each a footprint to draw images and symbols of our journey so far ... mine is below. April was beside me while we were doing it. She looked over and said “Is that the top of your head blowing off?” “Yes” I said, “but the next picture is one where it’s back together. I am realizing that sometimes you have to make decisions on the street corner, and I guess that’s ok.”

Perhaps that’s a good metaphor for the week – in some ways, perhaps all of us had the top of our heads blown off as prior assumptions, new knowledge, emotions, and our own experiences  got all mixed together. But we survived, even thrived after the initial discomfort, thanks to the gentleness and generosity of spirit of each member of the group, and of our amazing facilitators, and the fact that Deryk and the Corrymeela community took care of us so well. 

This spring I read a wonderful book called "The Unlikely Pilgrimmage of Harold Fry", a story about a retired man who sets off to mail a letter one day, and instead of putting it in the mailbox, he decides to hand deliver it by walking across England. It's a wonderful story about surprises, friendship, love, pushing through the hard times, and the gift of the journey. Sometimes I thought that this trip should be called "The Unlikely Pilgrimmage to Corrymeela in May, 2014" ... but ...

Once again, I watched the hills of Belfast fade into the distance in the early morning. Until next time – hopefully February 2015.

Monday, 5 May 2014

May 5, 2014

Cracks in the walls ...


Friday at Corrymeela was spent in Derry/Londonderry (or, “stroke city” as some call it ...). Upon arrival we met Jon McCourt, a peacebuilder for many years, who was actually in the civil rights march in January 1972 on what would come to be known as Bloody Sunday. Jon also loves stories and history, and started our tour on the 400 year walls of Derry, giving us many centuries of stories and legends. It was a very thought provoking and moving day, and gave us much to think about for a long time.

Paul helped us debrief the experience on Saturday morning. Asking us to use each other "as clay" to sculpt an image from the previous day, we each in turn presented an image and then had a discussion about it. Images included a representation of the famous statue of two figures almost touching, “Hands Across the Divide” by Maurice Harron. (http://www.agefotostock.com/en/Stock-Images/Rights-Managed/XT9-899092), and a recreation of one of the photographs that Jon had from the actual Bloody Sunday event. Each image led to conversation, surprises, and a deepening awareness of the pain carried in the hearts of many in this country, and of the complexity of the peace process.



The image that came to my mind was of a picture that I took while walking the walls ... a  picture of a little green plant sprouting through the 400 year walls (pictured above). Luckily, Sandy had a green shirt on ... so she became the little green sprout poking through the wall. The image speaks to me of the resilience of the people of this country, and of those all over the world who work tirelessly for peace and reconciliation. It is an image of hope, resilience, and persistence, of finding the cracks in the systems where growth and light can get through.


Below are pictures of the group with Jon McCourt in Derry, and a picture of our whole group with Paul.

Friday, 2 May 2014

May 1, 2014

Kids, fences, balloons and beer

The Centre site has been full of children these past two days ... dozens of pre-schoolers and their parents. The site is filled with squeals of delight, laughter and the odd ringing of the worship bell in the woods - something kids love to do once they figure out it’s there.

They are part of a program called Community Relations in Schools (CRIS), a  “proactive, open, welcoming organisation that is driven by a flexible approach to Community Relations work and an understanding of the need to work with each individual school and community at the stage they are at in their own Community Relations journey, CRIS works alongside children, young people, school staff and parents and community stakeholders withing schools and education communities to challenge bias and promote the values of equity, diversity, interdependence and learning.” (from their website).

Many groups visiting Corrymeela come for a residential experience only after several meetings and sessions in their communities. Their presence onsite this week is a very tangible reminder of the work of Corrymeela in the community, and with a new generation.

Our day was spent with Paul Hutchinson, until December 2013 the Centre Director in Ballycastle. Paul is a mediator, artist, filmmaker, poet, therapist, and all around facilitator extraordinaire ... during the course of the day he took us to many places, mostly in our “gut and hearts” as we uncovered layer after layer of the complexities of the peace process as it is lived out in this country. There was laughter, and times when we were close to tears. Below is a picture of a one of the lighter moments, the group trying to keep a balloon in the air to a count to 40.

At one point in our discussion, Deryk offered a helpful metaphor of the peace process. Comparing it to people of different heights trying to look over a high fence, he said that some people might need one box to look over the fence, while others need two, or even more, and perhaps a very tall person doesn’t need one. But the end result is that everyone is able to look over the fence. We expanded the metaphor ... what about those who might think outside the box and cut a hole in the fence, or even those who might want to take down the fence entirely? Paul pointed out that in the pace process, there are different places for people to work.

Paul challenged us to think about the words mercy, truth, justice and peace, and what each word meant in its true sense. No easy task ... most of us were quite flummoxed in the task of coming back in pairs with a skit, then later when we were asked to speak as our word to one side of the conflict in a very personal way. We were stretched, and uncomfortable, but the learning was deep.

After watching the movie Bloody Sunday after supper, and debriefing in preparation for our trip to Derry Friday, some of us decided a trip to O’Connor’s might be in order. Below are new Canadian friends Maggie from Vancouver and Alicia from Toronto (by way of Saskatchewan) with Deryk, and Sandy, April and Rick. Also, a picture of the many musicians gathered at O’Connors every Thursday evening.