From inspiration to action
by Bathsheba Wells Dion
There is nothing quite like a cathedral flooded by candlelight. It is remarkable how navigating a space in near-silence, illuminated only by sporadic low light, entirely changes the way you relate to and inhabit it. As part of the international gathering of the CCN network (more information on this is in our previous blog post), the reconciliation team at Coventry Cathedral invited participants to "Cathedral by Candlight". In a busy week of workshops and discussions and network building, the evening was an opportunity for everyone to take a moment to stop and meditate at prayer stations placed throughout the cathedral. Walking up the illuminated aisle to the glowing altar was a truly inspirational experience.
This potential for inspiration is something that all of our partner centres share. Whether this is through their physical space or the stories that they tell, each of them has the ability to change the way that people view their world. However, inspiration can only be truly transformative when it translates into action.
During one keynote session at the CCN gathering, international mediator Bill Marsh, helped us to identify four clear stages of moving from inspiration to practice in order to transform conflict:
1.Lament – This may seem like a counter-intuitive place to start, but it is in our failures to live as the body of Christ that we see the potential for new development. Actually experiencing the pain of people in situations of conflict is crucial to maintaining our integrity as reconcilers.
2.Unseen – Successful peacemaking requires the ability ‘to see what might be, and see what is, and not flinch from either’ (Bill’s words). Inhabiting the space between these two realms and imagining how we might move from one to the other.
3.Spaces – This means creating a safe enough place for encounters between adversaries can take place. It needs to be somewhere neutral, and outside of individual territories, where people feel able to voice their feelings without becoming combative.
4.Encounter – Fundamentally, our role as peacemakers must be to enable encounter. It is to facilitate those meeting points of ‘us’ and ‘them’ which begin to break down prejudices and encourage open discussion. After every encounter we inevitably end up back at lament, to begin the cycle all over again. Because we are still ‘this side of heaven’.
However: often in churches and religious organisations this four stage cycle seems to happen the other way around. We start with lament (for our sins, or perhaps in the voice of a psalmist), and then expect to jump straight into an encounter with ourselves and with each other. This encounter is intended to draw people into churches or religious spaces, and thus to the unseen presence of God, but the dwindling size of congregations suggests that this is not the case.
Bill spoke throughout his talk about challenging the gravitational pull of comfort of ‘normality’, the societal structures that tend towards homogeneity and division. So how might we work against the gravitational pull in our own communities? How do we challenge the structures that draw us more towards people who are like us than towards diversity? And what might happen if we were to change the direction of this cycle?
Our 'Journey to Hope' training includes many moments for inspiration, as well as addressing how we journey from inspiration to practice.