Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Corrymeela Diaries
Day 4 and beyond

Wifi seems to be down in many parts of London and which has delayed my last post. Here’s a final reflection from this year's journey …

Below are a couple of pictures from our final 24 hours at Corrymeela. One with jazz hands and silly faces (although some missed the memo on that one), and one “for the record.”

Sessions throughout the week took us deeper into the history and work of Corrymeela during the past 50 plus years. We had conversations with Karin Eybin, Community Famiily Worker, about her work with citizen engagement in several communities.

In addition to specific content sessions, participants are encouraged to have conversations with those at the centre during meal and break times … the many volunteers, young and old, from around the world, the visitors at the centre, whether for a day or a week, and the various staff people who are part of the community. Sometimes we learn as much from our conversations “around the edges” as we do in the content sessions.

Tuesday evening Paul began our sessions on peace and reconciliation by posing the question “how can we learn to live apart well?” At St. John’s this year many have spent some time studying the dynamics of conflict, how we personally respond to conflict, and how we can learn to still be in relationship with people with whom we profoundly disagree.

In order to get the conversation going amongst the leaders at St. John’s, I circulated an article from the Congregational Consulting Group that suggested that healthy congregations seek out conflict instead of trying to avoid it. That got some interesting comments! The idea is that by seeking out “conflict” in a congregation, we are really uncovering diversity, and encouraging the deep listening that is necessary to bridge the gap of stereotypes, misunderstanding, and competing narratives.

This has been the work of peacemaking in Northern Ireland for decades. Folks like Paul, Karin, Sean, Padraig, and Michael Doherty, who we met on Wednesday on our trip to Derry/Londonderry, have been mediating and facilitating conversations between different groups in the hopes that in the conversation a path will be found that will lead to living together with respect. Not always agreement. But acceptance, respect, and good relations. Below are a couple of pictures of our time in Derry as we walked the walls with Michael.

During the week we were also blessed to welcome into the group long term volunteer Kendal, from Colorado, and Alejandra, from Columbia, who is a student at York University (England) doing a two month internship at Corrymeela. Both young women were a rich addition to our group conversations. They also managed to take care of all of our physical needs, from getting our tea and coffee ready at break time, to ordering us a cab for the Wednesday evening pub run to O’Connor’s or the Thursday afternoon trip to the Giant’s Causeway.

It always seems like the time is too short at Corrymeela. Before we knew it, we were back in Belfast, enjoying Spanish tapas Friday night for dinner, and then having our final evaluation session on Saturday morning before folks went their separate ways. As is often the case, folks talked about the unexpected and profound insights that they experienced, both personally and in approaching the conflict in Northern Ireland with new insights.

As always … the journey continues … with blessing, challenge and much gratitude. Until the next time ...

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