THERE are no soft options in the process of reconciliation, the Archbishop of Canterbury said on Sunday, when he joined the RC Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Eamon Martin, and other church leaders in celebrating 50 years of the Corrymeela Centre at a service in St Anne’s Cathedral, in Belfast.
In his sermon, Archbishop Welby said: “Fifty years ago, the vision and passion of Ray Davey caught the imagination of a group of young volunteers. Born out of the scars of his wartime experience in Dresden, it brought into being a community of faith that has held with great courage and hope the stories, trauma, and legacy of 40 years of conflict in these islands.”
The Archbishop preached on the story of the woman at the well, and the “concepts it opened up of being a place of welcome or a person of welcome”.
He spoke of Burundi, where a civil war ended ten years ago, but there has been limited reconciliation. Since this year’s disputed election process, many of the tensions in Burundi have re-emerged.
“There is, perhaps, something of this dynamic in the ongoing challenges you face here in Northern Ireland,” the Archbishop said. “The moment there is new pressure, or new suspicions, the gaps re-emerge. Let us hold on to this: Jesus does not permit these gaps.
“The welcome of reconciliation is a welcome that draws together antitheses, opposites, even materials that when combined are in danger of being explosive. They are deliberately, consciously, and expressly brought together by Jesus.
“The welcome of reconciliation is not a soft or an easy option. . . It is the hard choice which is a necessary part of moving beyond the politics of a peace process.” The Archbishop encouraged Corrymeela to continue its work: “Let the welcome of reconciliation, with all its discomfort, hold you to the path of the cross.”
Corrymeela was founded in 1965 by Mr Davey, a former chaplain in the Second World War, and a group of students from Queen’s University. During the war, Mr Davey was a prisoner of war in Dresden, and witnessed the bombing of the city. This experience changed him.
He returned to work as a chaplain in Belfast, and became concerned at the tensions brewing between people of different political, religious, and ideological loyalties in Northern Ireland. Corrymeela grew out of this concern.
He and the students from Queen’s raised £7000 in ten days to buy the present centre outside Ballycastle. The site officially opened on 30 October 1965.
Today, it continues to promote tolerance. It offers space for an analysis of the underlying dynamics of conflict, fracture, scapegoating, and violence which affect many spheres of the world today. Corrymeela now works with more than 10,000 people a year at its residential centre in Ballycastle and in schools and communities throughout Northern Ireland. It also has a dispersed community of more than 150 members who are committed to living out Corrymeela’s principles of reconciliation in their own communities.
The Corrymeela community leader, Pádraig Ó Tuama, said: “All of this work helps us learn how to live well together. . . Ultimately, the work of Corrymeela helps groups learn how to be well together.”