Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Blog Day 6

The Corrymeela Community

After our busy and inspiring day on Thursday, we wondered if our brains could possibly hold any more information. But amazingly, our capacity to keep expanding our perspectives and abilities to hold new ideas was large.

Friday morning we met with Colin Craig, Executive Director of Corrymeela. A former Centre Director during the 1990s, Colin spoke about the massive change that the organization has undergone in the past year. From changes to volunteer and staff structures, reducing the environmental footprint, to changes in funding and communications, he talked about how the organization is trying to live out the mission of “living and learning well together.”

Since leaving Corrymeela as its Centre Director in 2001, Colin developed several organizations, including TIDES Training, working with communities in Northern Ireland and other countries around the world including Bosnia, Kosovo, and Pakistan. He then helped develop a city wide collaborative called Youth Intervention Network in California, and Different Tracks Global (DTG). He brings this wisdom and experience to the new position, and it is clear from talking to staff and volunteers that there is excitement and enthusiasm as folks move forward.

One of the biggest changes has been the creation of the two distinct leadership positions within the organization, with the clear division of role and responsibility. Previously, many of the administrative and organizational roles would have been lodged in the Centre’s Leader as well as being the spiritual head of the community. Last fall, Padraig O Tuoma was named Leader of the Community. This is an excerpt from a press release on the website:

Padraig brings a wealth of experience from his work in poetry, theology and conflict transformation around the world … Pádraig will work closely with Executive Director Colin Craig and the staff team to run programmes of respite, encounter, dialogue and reflective learning for the 11,000 visitors that come through the Ballycastle Centre each year. He will represent Corrymeela in current public debates and build relationships with church and faith communities in Northern Ireland and beyond.”

I had mentioned that Thursday the leader of the community, Padraig O Tuama, had welcomed us into his home for coffee and conversation. It was an amazing gift to sit with Padraig for an hour, hearing him speak about his own experiences of encounters of “faith in the public square.” As a lover of language and a poet, Padraig speaks powerfully and eloquently. He knows his own tradition well, and speaks of having the space in one’s own tradition to “question the corners”. He asks provocative questions ... “How can a community hold its story well?”,  “what is its relationship with difference?”, “How do we safeguard the virtue and value and wonder of curiosity?” and “What is the ethic of engagement when you disagree?” It was a holy space with Padraig, one that I will remember for a long time.

Friday evening was spent with Marianne and Ruth, long time community members who were on site for the weekend to do “cover” (kind of like a duty manager, keeper of the keys, the buck stops here kind of role …) They each told their stories – how they came to be community members and their first encounter with Corrymeela, why it is still important to them, its challenges, and several stories. It was a great opportunity to find out how the community works at the grassroots level.

And of course, all week long we have had the delight of being with two of the long term volunteers, Beni from Switzerland and Diego from El Salvador, and have also met many others over mealtime conversations.

Many perspectives, all interwoven to form what is the Corrymeela Community. It never ceases to delight and amaze me.


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