The Corrymeela Community in Northern Ireland is place and a presence of reconciliation not only in Ireland but in many parts of the world. It is located just outside Ballycastle on the beautiful northern coast of Ireland. As you travel the coast line, the scenic route takes you past the Giant’s Causeway. The community has been very much part of the work of reconciliation between divided people for over 50 years. When one visits the Centre and spends time with the staff, volunteers and community members one becomes very aware that in this place people are working very hard for peace and justice in our world. I personally have found this a very encouraging experience especially in today’s world with all the bravado of leadership which threatens, accuses and seems to be working very hard at war.
One of the lovely prayers used at Corrymeela reflects the earthiness of this community and how its members brings the work of reconciliation into their daily lives. The prayer recognizes how Jesus, through friendship, changes people's lives and thus changes institutions and structures. It asks that like him we might recognize that on our daily journey we meet unlikely people in unlikely places. It further asks that in these situations and places we might have the opportunity to offer friendship. It identifies meetings at bus stops, or in line-ups—whether in a grocery store or a coffee shop—as places of opportunity. It further identifies the crossroads of crisis and invites us to use kindness and curiosity as ways to engage in acts of friendship.
It seems to me that we who live in this modern world of screens and vehicles which separate and alienate us from one another, need to find ways of engaging each other once more. If we were to look at each day as a pilgrimage to a holy place of encounter can we with kindness and curiosity enter and journey through the day expecting the unexpected and meeting unlikely people in unlikely places. I was recently on a pilgrimage in Scotland and Ireland. We used this prayer as we travelled by bus, train and taxi. As I was personally open to these encounters I met and befriended people who brought much into my life—a woman in a retreat centre on Iona who helped me make a significant connection here on Vancouver Island, another woman priest on a train from Oban who gave me an insight into ministry in the church in England and how it connects here in Canada, a taxi driver in Berwick who reminded me of my youth and brought to me a sense of joy and home, a young couple in a pub in Durham who spoke to me about a priest friend of theirs who was moving to Canada and a number of bus drivers whose openness and friendliness changed me and made the journey, rather than the destination, so important.
It has been identified that one of the main social issues of our communities is isolation. Isolation relates to every age group: teens, young couples, elders. Isolation needs our attention. How will you, in ordinary everyday encounters and in ordinary places, work to break down the dividing walls of hostility and see folk no longer from a human perspective but from a divine perspective, the child and image of God? How will you offer friendship to unlikely people in unlikely places?
The Right Reverend Logan McMenamie is the Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of British Columbia
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* This article was published in the print edition of the Times Colonist on Saturday, August 18th 2018