The Strength that comes from Togetherness
Updated: Oct 31, 2018
By Bathsheba Wells Dion
We are teachers, writers, people looking for work, retired people; we are young, middle–aged and old; we are people of doctrine and people of question. We are people who seek to engage with the differences of our world. We are people who disagree with each other on matters of religion, politics and economics. We are people who wish to name our own complicity in the fractures that damage our societies. We are people of dedication and commitment. We are people of prayers, conversation, curiosity and questioning. We are people of truth telling and hope. We are Corrymeela. And you are always welcome.
During World War II, Ray Davey joined the YMCA to provide both spiritual and physical support to troops. He was captured and sent to Dresden, where he witnessed the city’s horrific bombing. This underscored for Ray the futility and destructiveness of conflict, and strengthened his desire to bring community and restoration to situations of conflict.
Later, Ray became the first Presbyterian Dean of Residence at Queen's University Belfast, where he was committed to fostering a sense of community and gathering amongst his students. When a site in Ballycastle came up for sale in 1965, Ray and some of his students decided to buy it. The name of this place was Corrymeela.
‘Corrymeela’ can be interpreted in different ways: ‘Hill of Harmony’, ‘Hill of Honeysuckle’, ‘Lumpy Crossroads’, and many others. This multiplicity of definitions quite accurately reflects what this community is. Just as the various definitions come together to shape our understanding of what Corrymeela is, so the community itself is a place for gathering, work, faith and discussion between people of different backgrounds, political ideologies, religious beliefs and identities. At Corrymeela they celebrate the strength that comes from togetherness, ‘when we can be with each other in commitment’. Out of the range of interpretations and translations of this one word, an idea of community is formed. From this ‘Lumpy Crossroads’ of difference and disagreement comes a ‘Hill of Honeysuckle and Harmony’.
This focus on community and conflict transformation has been sustained throughout
Corrymeela’s history, through ‘The Troubles’ and continuing into Northern Ireland’s changing ‘post-conflict’ society. In the 53 years since its original foundation, Corrymeela has grown into a dispersed Christian community of 170 members, 50 associates and thousands of friends around the world. Their mission to ‘transform division through human encounter’ focuses on four core programmes: sectarianism, marginalisation, public theology and legacies of conflict. They use dialogue, experiential play, art, storytelling, mealtimes and shared community to help individuals, families and communities embrace difference and learn how to have difficult conversations.