Greater than the Sum of its Parts
Updated: Nov 2, 2018
By Bathsheba Wells Dion
Reconciliation is one of our greatest needs and toughest challenges as human beings.
In a world plagued by conflict, division and indifference, the Church has a crucial role to
play as a community of reconcilers. Jesus calls every one of us to love God, our
neighbours, ourselves and our enemies – a challenging command, with nobody left out.
Since being installed as Archbishop in 2013, Justin Welby has made reconciliation one of his top priorities for the Church of England. Influenced by his reconciliation work as a Canon of Coventry Cathedral and by his earlier international work in Nigeria, this has become a central aspect of his personal ministry. This led to the formation of the Archbishop’s Reconciliation Ministry, the ARM.
The ARM team is currently developing a theology of reconciliation, with a healthy balance
between theory and practice which keeps all the work that they do grounded in reality. For
instance Victoria Mason, Reconciliation Programme Coordinator, has recently been researching the theological implications of curiosity. As something which can be a powerful
way to develop our connections with others but also a distraction seeking experience for its
own sake, it can be both a positive and negative aspect of faith.
Victoria sees reconciliation as ‘a continual and universal need spanning all our relationships’, but also as something specific. It is a privilege to meet people who are living out reconciliation in incredibly difficult circumstances, and to be challenged by them to find
ways to live out reconciliation in her own life.
The ARM works to bring about reconciliation through three main areas of work: Rapid Response, the Reconciling Leaders Network, and Women on the Frontline. Rapid Response seeks to support the church in responding to conflicts around the world. Whether this is the elections in Kenya or the war in South Sudan, the ARM team seeks to transform the Church into a reconciling presence in the midst of such discord.
The Reconciling Leaders Network hopes to build a worldwide community of Christians
committed to bringing about reconciliation. Kiera Phyo, Director of the Reconciling Leaders
Network, is leading the team in developing an experiential training programme and practical toolkit for churches that will support them in their own ministries, and explore how every single Christian can become a reconciler within themselves, with those around them, and also in their relationship with God.
Women on the Frontline seeks to equip women to be peacemakers in their own
communities. In South Sudan, for example, women may be the wives of influential
clergymen and bishops, but while their husbands have access to training and opportunities
that come with these positions these women may not. The ARM hopes to provide rest and nourishment to women living in contexts of conflict, and to equip and inspire them in their work for peace and reconciliation peace and reconciliation within their communities, seeing
this ministry as a God-given opportunity rather than a burden. Now, women across
Melanesia, Burundi and South Sudan are so excited to see the programmes develop more
and include more people.
Victoria, who is currently doing a lot of work on South Sudan in particular, describes the
best part of her job is seeing how programmes come alive through the women participants.
No matter how great a training programme looks on paper and no matter how well it is
prepared, in practice it is always greater than the sum of its parts. It sets in motion a process that is transformed in the hands of the women on the frontline, releasing something in them and in their relationships so that they can live out their calling as peacemakers.
One particular woman – trained to run the Healing the Wounds of Ethnic Conflict workshop
– has continued to run with the skills she has been given and to attend a month-long
training programme in Rwanda. Inspired by her experience, she has developed a project to
train other women like herself in South Sudan and to continue to transform their lives and
relationships. As Victoria says: ‘This is God at work’.