Thursday, 28 July 2011

Adventure Learning

July 28, 2011
When groups come in, the volunteers are divided amongst several teams to support the group’s stay. Sometimes volunteers are assigned to the groups to actually facilitate the programme, which has been planned by one of the long term volunteers and the group’s leaders. These volunteers are responsible for not only leading some of the activities, but also all of the hospitality aspect of the group’s stay – setting up for meals, cleaning up, making the nighttime snack ... they have many different tasks.
Other volunteers are assigned to the arts and crafts team. These folks plan the activities that support the program through art – it may be puppet making, mask making, splatter painting a Wordle diagram (just found out what that is ... google it for those who don’t know – it’s very cool!!) doing a huge collage, chalk painting ... the possibilities are endless and extremely creative. They have an art supply room (actually, it’s a little cottage!) to die for! One of the cupboards in arts and crafts is also where all the great costumes are.
Some volunteers are assigned to the rec (ie recreation) team. They plan all the activities that fall under the category of “Adventure Learning.” These are the team building games, the parachute games, the scavenger hunts, the mini-olympics, the water fights, the monster hunts, capture the flag, the nature walks, the trips to the beach ... again, the range of activities is enormous. They are also the ones who plan the disco dances for the teens in the Tara Tavern and show the movies in the evening.
All these activities get hashed out at the daily morning meeting at 8:45 am. Because I am the Worship Coordinator this week, I’ve been a part of these meetings. A representative from each area is at the meeting, along with the Program Coordinator, (that person has the overview of all the events at the Centre at any given moment), the “Cover” person (the person with the huge set of keys that is responsible for all the health and safety issues, maintenance, drop in visitors, and anything else that comes up), plus the volunteer link with each group, and the group’s leader. And, the driver of the Corrymeela Bus. It can be a fairly large and lively meeting.
“We want to go to the beach at 10, then after that in to Ballycastle.”
“Our group wants to go to the forest for a monster hunt, then to the beach this afternoon.”
“Can you help us make puppets for the Corrymeela’s Got Talent Show this evening?” 
“We need to find time to paint the masks that some folks made yesterday.”
“What about a bonfire tonight? Any chance we can do that?”
Usually after some high negotiations with all involved, the answer is usually “yes” to everything. It’s an amazing exercise in communication and cooperation.
Tomorrow, from 11-1, is the handover meeting, where the new coordinating team, (consisting of Cover, Program Coordinator, Worship Coordinator, Driver) hands over the responsibilities to a whole new team. Many of these folks offering leadership on the coordinating team are Corrymeela members, of which there are about 150 throughout the UK.
So far, I think I’ve met about 20 plus of these folks – some founding members of the community. They are a dedicated and wise lot ... and I’m in awe at their commitment to the community and at their experience.  It’s been a real gift, and an education (my own “Adventure Learning”?) to be a part of this group this week.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

the homesick blues ...

July 26, 2011
I got incredibly homesick this week.
I wasn’t sure that I could write about it, but decided that in fact I could, and should.
It hit me Sunday, after an incredibly busy and somewhat stressful week here. Not stressful for me, but for the younger volunteers who really carried the heaviest load supporting the two large groups on site all week. I just kind of ran behind everything, looking for places to plug myself in or help where needed, even though I was supposed to have two days off. With a combined number of almost 50 children ranging from newborn to teens, it required tremendous energy and stamina for those working directly with the groups for a full seven days.
As soon as they left Sunday, there was a huge cleanup of the site, evaluation meetings, and then finally around 5:30 pm, a time to socialize and relax until Monday, when the next groups arrived. There was a communal dinner planned, and by 6:30 the volunteer house was a buzz with cooking, laughing, and yes, a few glasses of wine and beer. Just like home.
I thought of the many Sundays over the years when our home was in a similar state, often on Sunday evenings. And I thought about how Pat and the boys would be enjoying dinner together that evening. And I thought about how it’s been almost a month since I’ve been here ... and what made me think I could go three months without being around my family and friends? And then the tears started ...
I don’t cry much, and when I do, it’s usually over pretty quickly. These tears wouldn’t stop. Maybe because in many ways it feels like my life has been nonstop crazy since I decided to come here last January ... who knows. I fled to my room with my glass of wine. Let them come in private, I thought – don’t want to spoil the party. Thought it was over. Tried to join the party again. More tears. I fled to the patio.
Then Jo, one of the other mid term volunteers came out for her smoke. “You okay?” she asked. “Not really,” I said. “Homesick I think. I think I underestimated how hard it is to start over, to form a new identity with a new group at my age.” She came over and gave me a hug. Jo, from Wisconsin, was here last year for five months as a mid-termer, so knows the ropes. She came to Corrymeela the first time after suffering several tragedies, including the sudden death of her husband, over a short period of time. She’s now an important part of the fabric of the community, and known far and wide for the incredible desserts that she makes, her sense of humour, and for taking the volunteers to Ballycastle for lunch on their days off.
Then Irene, a summer volunteer, a theology student from Boston came out for her smoke. “Is this a private conversation?” she asked. “No” I said, “I’m just missing my family.” Then she said “But your family is coming over!” Which of course she knows because I’ve been talking non-stop to anyone who will listen about Alana’s visit in two weeks. “And besides,” she said, “I’ll be your family.”
I’m writing this on Tuesday, and I’m surprised that as I write this, I’m still feeling a bit weepy. Maybe the homesickness isn’t going to go away ... and maybe that’s okay. It’s a beautiful day here in Ballycastle – as I walk out the front door of Coventry, there is a hillside full of sheep to my right. And the view of Rathlin Island and the cliffs of Ballycastle still takes my breath away every time I see it.
And once again, the place is full of families, youth and children. Our worship services this week have been lively and spirit filled. Despite my longings for family and friends, I still feel the hand of God has led me here to learn from and to contribute to this community. And every week I make new friends.
And ... Alana comes in less than two weeks!
Thanks to everyone who has commented on my blog – I’m not answering them individually, but have really appreciated hearing from you. It’s a funny thing just sending thoughts into cyberspace ... so it’s great to hear that the words are landing concretely somewhere. This week, I continue to coordinate worship, play my guitar when needed (led a Taize prayer last week with many voices!) and this weekend will facilitate the making of a giant portable labyrinth. And, I continue to work on the all ages worship resource.

But I’m still homesick, and maybe that’s ok. I carry you all in my heart.






Wednesday, 20 July 2011

What makes God laugh ...




July 20, 2011
There’s a saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell her your plans.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that this week as I have been tackling a particular project that Aileen, the volunteer coordinator, has asked me to take on – that of compiling a resource for worship planners and leaders with specific ideas about including children in the worship life of Corrymeela.
Silly me, I thought I was taking a sabbatical from children’s ministry. I thought I needed a break from it in order to come back refreshed, and with new ideas.
Yup, I can hear God laughing across the universe.
I think there is a spiritual teaching that says that we keep getting presented with the same lesson until we learn it. No matter how hard I have tried to walk away from children’s ministry in the past 25 plus years, I keep being called back.
If I were to write a Psalm, perhaps I would say something like “How long, oh God, how long shall I be a children’s minister ... no one else wants to do it, and it’s just too damn hard ..., but then you help me to see the joy in their eyes, to experience their curiosity and wonder, to hear their laughter, and yes, even then God, I get a glimpse of your kingdom ...”
or something like that, anyway.
It didn’t dawn on me that I might have some wisdom to share with this community. I just came to Corrymeela to soak up the experience ... this actually feels like ... like ... work. It’s taken me the better part of a week to actually wrap my head around how to begin the project.
The first thing I did was do some extensive research in the various resource centres here at Corrymeela, including the library in the Croi. Certainly there have been compilations of childrens’ liturgies done here in the past, and the resource shelves are full of ideas for creative ways of bringing “the message” to children. After all, this community has been welcoming families and children for over forty years. And, I have already met adults and young adults who are involved in the community now who remember coming to Corrymeela regularly as a kid, so they must have been doing something right these past many years. I seriously began to wonder what I could possibly offer that might be different.
When I was first involved in childrens’ ministry in the 1980s, we called them “intergenerational” services, and they took weeks to plan, involved many people, and everyone was totally exhausted (including, much of the time, the congregation), and they often went on too long. I learned a lot from those days, but my theology of worship has evolved since then.
These days, I am much more interested in finding ways that the whole community can worship together. And no, I don’t believe that means “dumbing down” worship. At St. Andrew’s and St. John’s in the past few years, we have had many meaningful worship services which have been inclusive of all ages.
I’ve also made a point of talking to a number of folks here, staff, volunteers and community members. This week at Corrymeela, out of about 80 participants, there are 46 children, 14 of them under 4. Last week, there were 20 children and youth under 15 in one program, and 50 youth in another. At morning and evening worship times, the attendance of children has ranged from one or two, to six or eight, to 20 or 30. Or none. So I don’t think it’s good use of time to plan a worship service here that is geared entirely towards children. Instead, I think that the liturgies need to be accessible to all, regardless of age.
Since I’ve been here, we have had a wonderful diversity of worship times that have embodied what I would consider to be worship that is inclusive of all ages. We’ve had conversations, flip chart prayers, stories, worship outside with the four directions prayer, a play ... and I’m sure there’s lots more to be experienced.
So, my plan thus far is that I will compile a list of short services, many that I have experienced in the past few weeks, and include ideas and resources from the past that folks can substitute, add their own ideas, etc. Perhaps an appendix with stories, movie references (of course!!) and songs.
And, I guess I’ll take to heart the sign that is above the receptionist’s desk here at Corrymeela, and in other places as well ...
“Please be patient ... God isn’t finished with me yet.”

p.s thanks to Tytti, one of our summer volunteers from Finland, for sharing her picture of me and one of our youngest participants from last week, and for agreeing to me putting it on my blog.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

My Belfast adventure ...

July 17, 2011
I came into Belfast on the Corrymeela bus on Friday morning with most of the summer volunteers. Some were finishing their 3 week cycle, and some were spending the day in Belfast before the return trip at 5 pm with a new crop of summer volunteers.
After I checked into my accommodation at the Elms Student Village at Queen’s University, I set off. My one major task, which I had offered to do, was to buy a Celtic turf cross from the tourist information place. These crosses (pictured below) are sculpted from real Irish bog turf, and are similar to the one used for worship in the Croi. My task was to pick one up for the couple who are leaving next week after their year at Corrymeela.
                                         
I also had a few other things on my wish list – some things at the pharmacy, a pay-as-you-go cell phone, a beer at the Crown Liquor Saloon (“the most famous pub in Belfast!”), and maybe, just maybe, I was going to buy a guitar. Oh yes, and have a meal without potatoes, preferably with a nice glass of red wine.
Somehow I got very turned around while walking on Friday, and just kept getting more and more lost. I finally did find the Welcome Centre and got the Celtic Cross, but got lost again and did not find the Crown Liquor Saloon. In frustration and tiredness, I walked in and sat down at what seemed like a nice place, but I immediately felt like I was in the middle of a Sex and the City movie set. At the table next to me four very well dressed women were sharing a jug of something very pink, martini glasses in hand. I sighed heavily, looked at the menu and felt deeply unhappy.
Then, with all the courage I could muster, I picked up my bags, put on my coat, found a taxi and asked him to take me to the place I had seen recommended on one of the flyers at Queen’s – Villa Italia. I’m glad I did – I had a wonderful meal. It was exactly what I was craving. And, not one potato.
Back at the residence, I sat down with my knitting to watch some TV. I was the only one in the lounge – and after flipping around a bit, found Coronation Street. Of course it’s way ahead of where we are in Canada and I didn’t quite know what was going on, but I did feel like I was with old friends. The students below me were making quite a racket by this time, which was to go on well past 3 in the morning. I remembered the sign I saw when entering the student village – “Quiet students make happy students – quiet time 11 pm.” I guess the folks below me didn’t get that memo.
The good thing about being wide awake at 2 am was that I began to look at my map and tourist materials again, convinced that I would be checking in to another place of accommodation in the morning. In the process, I got re-oriented to the city, and realized how I had gone so terribly wrong in my directions the day before. I made a plan for Saturday, which included meeting up with Ivan in the late afternoon at the Europa Hotel, which I was finally able to locate on the map, along with the Crown Liquor Saloon.
I did manage a few more hours sleep, and in the morning decided that I would lose most of the day if I tried to find a new place to stay. Hopefully things would be better the second night. After a great breakfast, I set out – took the bus to the City Centre this time, which was a good thing, as we drove past where I needed to be in the afternoon. Then I found the place that had been recommended to me for a phone – Carphone Warehouse. The guys were very helpful, and interested in my stay in Northern Ireland. I showed them my map, and asked where I could find some Irish stuff, and, maybe a guitar. They were helpful on both counts.
At Carroll’s, there is everything Irish, from Guinness T-shirts and paraphernalia, to cheesy leprechauns, to beautiful jewellery and claddagh rings. And, family crests. I was delighted to find several things, including a family plaque, of the name Madden, which was my family name. I guess the name goes back to the 10th Century, descendent of a great chief of Ui Maine and means “hound or mastiff.” Not sure if I’m happy to know this or not. I bought a few coasters and a plaque, and went off in search of my guitar.

I actually bought a guitar. I had a wonderful encounter with a salesperson at Matchett’s Music Store, who helped me chose a guitar that I can play while I’m here, and then leave behind. One of my goals for my sabbatical was to reconnect with my musical side, and I have been feeling the call to pick up the guitar again. So within a very short time, I left the store with a reasonably sounding fairly inexpensive guitar, and landed in the Crown Liquor Saloon for lunch. 
I had a great lunch at the Crown Liquor Saloon, (Irish stew with yes, potatoes ... but it was the house specialty, and, I only ate about half ..) in my own little “snug” or booth. Then I proceeded across the road to wait for Ivan. His bus was late getting in, but we connected, and he graciously invited me to dine with his group. We had a fabulous meal at the Europa, and then decided to take one of the Black Taxi tours – the taxis that take you to the political murals and the Peace Wall..


All in all, it was a full and satisfying day. And, the folks downstairs seemed to have gotten the memo about quiet time – either that or I was just too tired to hear them. Had a great sleep, and was on the Ulsterbus “Antrim Coaster” to Ballycastle at 9 am. Time to meet all the new volunteers, and get ready for two new groups coming in tomorrow.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

of custard and hats

July 14, 2011
The program I was assigned to support, along with three other volunteers ended today after five days. Mostly I was involved offering kitchen and hospitality support. It was an opportunity, to experience first hand, the ins and outs of life here at Corrymeela while a program is on. The group, called “Connecting Cultures” consisted of a number of families from different cultures in the Belfast area who have been meeting several times a year for six years. About 40 in number, with almost half being under 16, most have been to Corrymeela before.
In the appreciations expressed at the closing this morning, one of the facilitators remarked that there seemed to have been much more laughter this year than any other. She said, there is a saying that “laughter is the shortest journey between two people.” It reminded me of a question one of the summer volunteers posed in worship last week. The worship leader asked us, “What is a question you would ask God if you had the opportunity?” The volunteer responded – “How does fun and laughter build sustainable peace?”
Irish journalist Alf McCreary, in his book Corrymeela: Hill of Harmony in Northern Ireland (1976) says:  “Throughout the troubles, ... there was a continual need for a practical reminder that there could be a way, other than war... There was a need for a group of Irish men and women, Catholics and Protestants, to show Ireland and the world that they could not only evidence conciliation by living in peace but that they could foster reconciliation practically by encouraging others to do the same. ... There was a need for a place of peace and tranquility away from the troubled areas where people from both sides could rediscover their humanity and relate once again to each other as human beings. In brief, there was a need for the light of caring and of love to lighten the darkness that was crowding in from all sides. That light was the light of Corrymeela.” (p. 10-11)
When we laugh, we are vulnerable. We give ourselves over to the sheer joy of being in the moment. At Corrymeela, whether it’s in the adventure learning cooperative games, or water balloon fights, sharing stories from our past, or taking part in a drum circle and singing songs, there seems to be joy and laughter attached.
I learned a new song this week, an African song – “Si, si, si, si dolada ...”. I wrote the words from the flip chart down and struggled to remember the tune. When I asked the music facilitator to sing it with me to help me remember, I felt I had it. “What do the words mean?” I asked, hoping that I wasn’t learning something rude or inappropriate.
She responded: “I think it means something like ... a little boy sitting under a tree, imagining that he is going to fill his aunt’s hat with custard ...”. I had a hard time keeping my coffee down. "Really?" I asked. "Well", she said, "it's close enough."

I actually checked in on Google – and it’s a pretty close translation.
Now, who would make up a song like that anyway? Only a person filled with silliness who actually did that one day ... or at least imagined it. I’m glad to have it my repertoire now – it will now always remind me that “laughter is the shortest journey between two people.”
Tomorrow I’m going in to Belfast to poke around the city, and to meet up with Ivan Gregan and his group who are arriving Saturday. He’s got a carefully prepared package (by Pat) of things I either forgot, or couldn’t bring because of the weight restriction. It will be great to see him.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Welcome Concert

July 10, 2011
Hospitality is huge at Corrymeela. One of the first things that a group often experiences after they arrive at Corrymeela is a Welcome Concert, put on by the volunteers and staff. So far, I’ve been part of two Welcome Concerts. (well, technically, for the first one I was just an observer). The concerts are organized by one of the Long Term Volunteers, and it’s a chance to not only explain some of the activities at Corrymeela, but, once again, to have fun and be silly.
Camp Kidston regulars will be interested to know that “There Was a Great Big Moose” (... he liked to drink a lot of juice ...) is about THE most popular song here ... which leads me to wonder - do they even have moose in Northern Ireland? And what’s with the waving of the hands in the way-oh, way-oh part? The Kidston way (which I finally taught a group this morning) is to put your hands out straight and do the bendy move your hips thing.
Other parts of the Welcome Concert include silly skits –like the one four of the summer volunteers did for one group last week. Remember the old skit where two people sit down to eat or prepare food, hands behind their back, and someone is behind them with their hands sticking out, preparing the food, feeding the person, etc. It’s old, but hilarious. “This is how we do breakfast at Corrymeela” ... they said. It got very messy, and the group loved it.
Other offerings have included the rec team demonstrating a game, (ended with a pie in the face from one team member to another), a re-writing of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody about the new volunteers at Corrymeela,  a round of groaner jokes, and other silly songs, including a very funny rendition of Tom Petty’s Free Falling’.
And the object of the Welcome Concert? To have fun, and to make people feel welcomed and safe in the space. If I have heard that once these past two weeks, I have heard it a hundred times. When I was trained last week to do “Cover”, which means that you are the site “duty manager”, it was emphasized that above all, it is important to make people feel at home in this place. Each of us is to embody that ministry of presence as we go about our tasks, and the leaders are to model that for the rest of the group.
This week I am on my first program team¸led by one of the long term volunteers. Our job is mostly to make the space as friendly as possible, make sure that the tables are set for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and then organize the clean up afterwards. Oh yes, and prepare (and clean up) the hot chocolate and toast for evening snack – a Corrymeela tradition for many years apparently. And, then begin again in the morning. In the in between times, some of us are caring for and organizing activities for the 20 children and youth that are with the program, aged 7 weeks to about 16 years. And, building relationships and having conversations with as many people as we can. For some of these families, this is their summer vacation. This may be the only time away from the struggles of their daily lives.
There are over 50 teenagers from the Belfast area also here this week. They have been brought here intentionally this week to have an alternative experience than what some of them might otherwise have in Belfast around the July 12 parades and celebrations, and the random violence that is often associated with those events. Once again, the emphasis is on modeling a community that embodies hospitality and safety for all.
At last night’s Welcome Concert, it seemed that both groups received the offerings gratefully, and with a lot of laughter. Often there is a time later in the week when a group is invited to reciprocate with its own concert. Maybe we’ll learn some new jokes and songs for the next Welcome Concert.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Croi

July 7, 2011
The Croi (pronounced Cree) is the name of the building at Corrymeela where worship is typically held. For the first week that I was here, the carpets were being cleaned, and worship was held in the lounge of the main house. I was disappointed, as I had heard several folks who have been to Corrymeela speak about this incredible building as one of the highlights of their trip here.
I have posted a few pictures below – the path to the Croi, the building from the outside, and a couple of pictures of the inside. Also, I’m including a picture of the bell that is rung twice a day, once in the morning, and once in the evening, to call people to worship. It is from the parish church of St. Patrick, Kilcock, in Co. Kildare, and was cast in Dublin in 1869.
This is an excerpt from the book ‘Travelling The Road of Faith, Worship Resources from the Corrymeela Community’ about the building:
The Croi opened in 1979 to serve as a worship centre, conference space, theatre and focal point for all those using the centre. “Croi” is the Gaelic word for “heart” and the building actually resembles the shape of the human heart with its different chambers all flowing into each other. The Croi also acts as a heart for the centre. ... The Croi is also shaped like an ear. It is a place of listening to each other and to God.”
Each week there is a Worship Coordinator, whose responsibility is to coordinate the daily worship times. Volunteers and participants are invited to offer leadership for any one or more of the 12 daily worship times through the week, and for the one 12:30 pm worship time on Sunday. The experiences are varied depending on the offerings of the worship leader, and a couple of times this week when the sun was out we actually stood outside the Croi and offered prayers and morning gestures as our centring time.
I have offered worship twice this week, both during the morning times. Many of you know that this is a particular passion of mine, and folks here are also beginning to know that I am always willing to offer something when there are gaps in the schedule. I’ve also been asked to be a Worship Coordinator for a week later in July.
As well as offering leadership during these times, I will make it my personal goal to attend each morning and each night’s worship while I’m here. It is a great gift to be led during these times by so many different folks, and to be part of a community that values this aspect of life together. So far I have experienced the leadership of staff, community members, and summer volunteers.
Also, I am moved that many attendees from the programs also attend these worship times. This week, in the space of a day we went from the energy of the young teens in the morning, to the evening worship that included participants of the next program that came to Corrymeela – folks with special needs and their caregivers (over 30 in total), who are here for holiday and respite. It been a humbling and spirit filled experience.
Next week, once again the place is filled with over 50 youth from Belfast, and a family group which will include a number of participants that are under 18. Tomorrow, I start on my first program team, led by Michaela, one of the long term volunteers. It will be with the family group, and it lasts seven days. Prayers for sustained energy welcomed!!









Monday, 4 July 2011

Just what exactly, will I be doing?

I can’t tell you how many of the other volunteers have said to me over the last few days ...”so, what exactly is it that you will be doing while you are here at Corrymeela?’ It’s a good and honest question, and one that I can’t answer specifically yet. I meet with Aileen, the volunteer coordinator, today to talk about my place in the “rota”. I’m assuming that I will take my turn alongside the others in the kitchen, doing housekeeping duties, and other tasks as they arise. In addition, everyone is encouraged to offer the specific skills and experience that they might bring to the program areas.
In the meantime, until I get my assignments, I have been spending the last few days doing what I first heard described many years ago in campus ministry circles as “lurking with intent.” In food lines and common areas, in the smoking circles (even though I don’t smoke, many here do ...) and at the dining tables, I’m just trying to have conversations that deepen my understanding of the folks who have come here, and of Corrymeela itself.
Since Friday, the place has been filled with 100 youth from Northern Ireland, a yearly event planned by youth that offers the opportunity for learning, community and friendship building, and, high on the list from my observations, fun. Their evenings have been spent in a huge covered tent, right outside the door to Coventry House, the volunteer accommodation. From music and dancing, to a costume party, to a talent show, it’s been loud, hilarious, and great fun to watch. I’m not sure what’s on deck for tonight, but I suspect it will be more of the same. There’s no point in trying to go to sleep before midnight, when it ends. But sure enough, at midnight it’s like a switch is turned off, and all is quiet – at least outside my window.
The summer and long term volunteers have had great fun taking part – the costumes the other night were wonderful – Spice Girls (mostly guys) and the Scooby Doo gang were the main offerings from them. Last night Valentin from Germany suggested a circus theme for the talent show, and within an hour there were 2 mimes, a lion jumping through a flaming hula hoop, (or, a hula hoop with a lit lighter held at the bottom), a death defying pyramid, a siamese clown, a knife thrower (or carrier, anyway), circus music, and a ring leader announcing it all.
Oh yes, and it was Christmas yesterday. While all the youth and the leaders were at the beach for the afternoon, the rest of us who stayed behind got out all the Christmas decorations – a huge blow up tree, the life sized nativity scene (including one of the magi, which I hugely protested ... (‘‘but they don‘t get there for another two years...‘‘), garlands and baubles, lights and stars, and a chair for Santa - and put them up in the lobby. Why – because we could I guess. And it was just plain fun. Something I haven‘t had in a long time I don‘t think, and I suppose it‘s one of my objectives for my sabbatical. To have fun.
As I begin to release all the tension and energy of the past many months, tension and energy just from work and daily living, I realize what a gift it is to be here, and just be. To take in the spirit and beauty of the place, and just let it wash over me.  I am grateful that Aileen has given me a week to acclimatize and “lurk with intent.” Soon enough I will be busy with the daily routine. In the meantime, maybe I will put on a clown nose and have some fun.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Hello, Goodbye

Blog 2 – July 1, 2011
Hello, Goodbye
As well as welcoming many new folks, such as myself, and 13 summer volunteers, into the community this week, the folks at Corrymeela have also said goodbye to a number of beloved community members. Folks who have been here anywhere from 3 years, to 2 years, to several months.
For especially the long term volunteers, these folks have been a large part of the system that supports them in their work, and personally. There have been several parties and gatherings, lots of laughter, and many hugs and tears. Although I have been invited to everything, there were some things that just didn’t feel appropriate for me to attend. It felt for me that I would be intruding on some very intimate moments, moments of which I had not been a part.
Throughout these early days of dealing with my own insecurities and musings about how I will fit into this community over the next three months, I will admit to feeling excluded at times – even though as I said, I have been invited to all the events.  As the goodbyes seemed to go on forever, I have been challenged to remind myself that there is nothing personal about this – it is just the natural manifestation of a community that continues to change and evolve ... and to reinvent itself every time a new person enters the community.  It speaks of a community that loves deeply and holds everyone in the circle.
I talked to a woman at lunch yesterday who lives outside of Belfast, and has been coming to Corrymeela since she was a child. Now, with teenage children and a very busy career in mediation, she volunteers in the community when she is able. She has been here all week as the worship coordinator. She has learned how to come and go in this community – hello, goodbye.
In Mexico, on the Day of the Dead, a holiday that coincides with All Saints and All Souls Day, November 1 and 2, folks visit graves of their friends and relatives and build little shrines of honour and memory. Many even have such a shrine in their homes. Below is my little Corrymeela shrine that reminds me of communities and people in my life – communities that have sustained me over the years, people that I hold in my heart while I am on my big adventure.
-      Of course, prominent is my very first Jesus Action figure – I’ve had him since my early days as a Chaplain at Mount Saint Vincent University and he has traveled with me many times. His only official tricks are that he glides and blesses – which, if you can only do two things, gliding and blessing are pretty much right up there.

-      Three rocks – first, my heart shaped rock that Alana gave me many years ago. I’m not sure if she found it at Camp Kidston, or Southampton, but both places hold a special place in my heart, as does Alana.  Second, a small rock that a member of St. Andrew’s gave me to leave in Ireland. I’ll put it on the beach at Ballycastle (picture below) one of these days. And the third rock is from the pocket of my clergy gown that I only wear on “high Holy” days at St. Andrew’s. It’s been there since we gave out rocks to everyone during our theme year of “Crossing the River” ... for some reason, every time I put my hand in my pocket before a service I would find it, rub it around in my hand, and then leave it in my pocket. I had to take it out a few weeks ago when I took my gown in to be dry cleaned. It reminds me of the community that continues to bless and support me on this journey.

-      Two birds – the coloured one from Solintename, Nicaragua. I bought  it when I was in Managua, Nicaragua in 1997 with my class from the Centre for Christian Studies. The Gospels in Solintename are four volumes of transcripts of bible studies in the early years of the Nicaraguan Revolution. They document the liberation that comes with community engagement, conversation, and the stories of Jesus. The little white bird is from Pat, from New Orleans.  Part of the BirdProject, it came encased in black soap, also shaped like a bird, made from Louisiana Clay. As the soap is used, eventually the ceramic bird inside is freed – a symbol of restoration and recovery from the oil spill disaster. This also reminds me of the power within, and how we all need the help of others to be restored and whole.
-      The little wooden painted cross from El Salvador which I bought at Phoenix Rising, an international interfaith university chaplains’ conference in Vancouver in 2000.
-      My hand made prayer beads, which a colleague and close friend taught me to make, and which I have in turn taught other groups how to make 
-      And my finger labyrinth, which reminds me of life’s journey, with all its twists and turns.
These little objects all remind me of times in my life when I’ve had to say hello, and goodbye. And the richness that I have received each time it has happened.