02 Nov 2015
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, celebrated 50 years of peacemaking by the Corrymeela Community at a packed service in St Anne’s Cathedral on Sunday 1st November, 2015.
The service was lead by Corrymeela Community Leader Pádraig Ó Tuama and featured an extended liturgy written by John Bell from the Iona Community as well as music from both Voices Together and St Anne’s Cathedral Choir. During the service there were stories from Corrymeela and previous leaders, staff and volunteers were honoured.
Listen to the Service by clicking the image below, the full text of the Archbishop’s sermon is available here.
The Archbishop of Canterbury opened his sermon saying:
“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 forty years of conflict in these islands. This is an immense gift you now offer to the world and to the church, which in so many places, is faced with unspeakable horror and violence.”
He 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”.
“The welcome of reconciliation confronts us with our own differences and our own failures, confronts the Other with the gap between us, and at the same time offers us a way of beginning to narrow that gap and of going forward together.”
He referred to a recent phone call with a colleague in Burundi. The civil war ended ten years ago, but there has been very limited reconciliation. Since this year’s disputed election process, many of the tensions have re–emerged.
“There is perhaps something of this dynamic in the on–going challenges you face here in Northern Ireland. The moment there is new pressure or new suspicions, the gaps re–emerge. Let us hold onto 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 that you face, that your leaders face, that we face in different places in different parts of the world that I face with those who I fear or struggle with. It is the hard choice which is a necessary part of moving beyond the politics of a peace process.”
Referring to last week’s House of Lords debate on tax credits:
“Whether it is within the Anglican Communion, within our politics or elsewhere, hostility is a very painful thing to sit in the middle of. The debate in the House of Lords on Monday of last week over the issue of tax credits had an atmosphere of genuine anger and hostility. I find such encounters scarring, yet the truths put forward are human truths that needed to be heard. The welcome of reconciliation is always painful and uncomfortable, and may well leave marks and scars in our lives.”
The archbishop encouraged Corrymeela to continue their work:
“The welcome of reconciliation means in practice encounter and listening, and is best done through communities like Corrymeela which offer an element of safety in the space. Albeit there cannot ever be complete safety in the words we will hear. Please, keep going as a community, whatever happens around you, let the welcome of reconciliation, with all its discomfort, hold you to the path of the Cross.”
He concluded his sermon saying:
“There is no substitute for that, and all of us, including Corrymeela, must hold on to that sense that the welcome of reconciliation is not surrendering what we are but rather encountering definitive truth together in the person of Jesus so that we are transformed and enabled to love and to see the deep differences which mean that past tensions, conflicts and even murderous outrages can find true reconciliation in the arms and presence of God. As disciples of Jesus we are called irrevocably to be part of reconciliation, to make it happen, to bear the burden, and demonstrate the hope that none but he can break.”
The Head of the Worldwide Anglican Communion was joined by other church leaders, including the Roman Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin, Former Presbyterian Moderator Very Rev Dr Ken Newell, Methodist President Rev Brian Anderson and President of the Irish Council of Churches Rev Dr Donald Watts.
Roman Catholic Primate Archbishop Eamon Martin led the gathered congregation through the opening liturgy using the three symbols that have guided the Corrymeela community in their first fifty years: an open Bible, a lit candle, and a turf cross.
Methodist President Rev Brian Anderson referred to the differences in the Lord’s Prayer or Our Father between denominations saying: “The heart of the pray is always the same – to bring God’s people to the place of peace and supplication. Today with all our differences, both serious and slight let us join our hearts in this prayer.”
Former Presbyterian Moderator Very Rev Dr Ken Newell said: “The founder of the Corrymeela Community Ray Davey described the Christian message of peace as much more than a permanent ceasefire”. What was necessary was an understanding of “the total health and wellbeing of our society, especially the recognition of the dignity and worth of every person”.
Before the service, Corrymeela Community Leader Pádraig Ó Tuama said:
“We are welcomed by god who knows all and forms all. Our work helps us learn how to live well together. It helps groups learn how to work well together. Corrymeela believes in the power of people telling their stories, of shared hospitality, of telling the truth about the present, of turning towards each other and finding strength, life and hope in each other. Ultimately, the work of Corrymeela helps groups learn how to be well together.”