The Corrymeela Site
The original main building, known as “The House,” lasted until 1997 when it was replaced by the current building. Over the years, multiple buildings were added to the site as the needs of the community developed and changed. The most recent addition to the infrastructure of the Ballycastle site is the Davey Village—a residential and conference unit whose name pays tribute to Corrymeela’s founder. The site can currently cater for 100 people residentially and frequently hosts multiple groups who join in the life of Corrymeela during the course of their stay.
There is something spectacular about the site— it is, in a certain way, a theology of place. We are blessed with such a place to do our work— with views to Kenbane, Fair Head, Rathlin Island and the Mull of Kintyre coming down like a ribbon of Scotland in the distance. It is a gathering place where the islands of Britain and Ireland are in close view of each other, about 15 miles across at the closest point. Whether it is cloudy or clear, sunny or stormy, the site offers an immediacy to the elements. To be at Corrymeela is to be close to the natural world, and in being close to the world, we believe that we can become close to each other’s stories— spoken and unspoken.
Holy Places – The Croí
On the site we have a space of worship called The Croí, which is designed in the shape of the human heart. “Croí” is the Irish word for “heart.”
This place is rightly called An Croí – the heart. Indeed it is heart–shaped. Here we can take time to listen to the great heartbeat – in a society where there are so many violent and destructive beats, here we can take time to listen to the Heartbeat that guides, inspires and unites us all together.
The Croí is an open place. It is not for any particular group or tradition but for all. It is for those who try to follow Christ and those who have not reached that stage, but want to be here.
It is a place of reflection and challenge, where Bonheoffer’s question is often asked: “What does it mean to follow Christ today?”
It is a place of celebration and hope. There are times of laughter and joy with songs and music and drama, proclaiming the unity of God’s creation and the totality of life together. Sometimes it is a place of sadness and tears, where the bereaved and broken find hope and strength.
The Building of The Croi
Peace is a theme in the building and the word is picked out from the prayer on the handle of the door as one enters. The circle has been used everywhere – a symbol of the unity which people gathered in a ring to achieve. The dome over the circular worship area reinforces this unity and is another reference to traditional spatial motifs.
The stained glass window in the small Croí, “The Descent of the Spirit,” was designed by Neil Shawcross. Elizabeth Andrewes designed both the lettering on the entrance and “The Tree of Life” mural.
My attempt has been to make the building become landscape but with obvious quotations from some of the most ancient Christian sources, as for example the Skelig Michael settlement off the coast of Kerry.
Architect, Norman Hawthorne
The bronze “St. Francis and the Birds” is by John Behan and is a reference to a Seamus Heaney poem.
The Croí was opened on June 16, 1979 and the London Corrymeela Venture raised most of the money to build it. The building was renovated in the autumn of 2008 with most of the money coming from a legacy by Mrs Wright, mother of Frank Wright, a well–loved community member who died in 1994.
The Croí is like an ear,
A great intricate ear to catch prayers in.
It is a trumpet wound round
Into a winding horn for sounding praise
For heralding good news
From a poem by Reggie Askew spoken at the opening in 1979
The Cross of Nails
Following the destruction of Coventry’s medieval Cathedral in 1940, a charred cross was erected behind the altar amid the ruins, and later the inscription “Father Forgive” was made on the stonework. Three of the roof nails were put together into the form of a cross (the Cross of Nails). This later became the symbol for an international movement of healing and reconciliation at first between Dresden and Coventry – two cities destroyed by bombing – but later extending to a worldwide network of Cross of Nails Centres.
Corrymeela became a Cross of Nails Centre in September 1971. The first Coventry House—the residential space housing the lived community of volunteers— was largely funded by the Coventry Cathedral Cross of Nails Network under the inspiration of Provost Williams and Canon Horace Dammers. It was opened in 1976.