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Archbishop Justin Welby celebrates five decades of peace-building in Northern Ireland

Posted on: November 2, 2015 3:15 PM
Archbishop Justin Welby preaches at a service celebrating 50 years of peace-making by the Corrymeela Community
Photo Credit: Lambeth Palace

[ACNS] Jesus calls us "irrevocably" to the task of reconciliation, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said yesterday (Sunday) during a celebration service for Northern Ireland's oldest peace-making organisation, the Corrymeela Community.

Archbishop Justin, who has made reconciliation a priority for his ministry, was helping to celebrate 50 years of peace-making by the Corrymeela Community at a packed service in St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.

The service, which was led by Corrymeela Community leader Pádraig Ó Tuama, included stories from Corrymeela’s reconciliation work over the past five decades.

Corrymeela is Northern Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organisation, as well as a dispersed Christian community. It was formed before the Troubles and continues on in Northern Ireland’s changing post-conflict society.

Archbishop Justin was joined at the service by other church leaders, including the Roman Catholic Primate, Archbishop Eamon Martin; the former Presbyterian Moderator, the Very Revd Dr Ken Newell; the Methodist President, the Revd Brian Anderson; and the President of the Irish Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Donald Watts.

Archbishop 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.

“Fifty years ago, the vision and passion of Ray Davey caught the imagination of a group of young volunteers,” Archbishop Justin, who has made reconciliation a priority for his ministry, said in his sermon. “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 said.

“This great story of the woman at the well can be interpreted in so many ways and at so many levels. Yet at its heart is the process of change, of the change that comes from a meeting with Jesus Christ.

“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 changed and enabled to love and 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.”

  • Click here to read the full text of Archbishop Justin’s sermon