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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, November 28, 2002
    Final thoughts from Ballycastle Library
    So that's it. This time tomorrow I'll be at Belfast International Airport awaiting my flight back home. Today, my last day in Ballycastle, is a gift because it's one of those perfect days - clear blue skies, bright sunlight, a breeze which is insufficient to ruffle the waves breaking on the shining beach. I watched the CalMac ferry chug out of the harbour towards Rathlin Island just now, and rued leaving my camera at the house. It was the perfect Irish coastal scene. Good day to do my final round of what's become almost routine - walk up here rapidly, arriving out of breath because it's a long hilly journey through the town, do my blog, wander back at a gentler pace through the small shops, pausing to buy wine gums to energise me on the way back. Today I'll be stopping to buy a big tin of chocolates to leave as a 'thank-you' for the Corrymeela staff who've made this month so easy, full, worthwhile.

    Yesterday was a gift too. For a different reason. It was one of those terrible days - the high winds and driving rain brutal in their impact. It was a day to stay in - and therein the gift - because it gave me the incentive to settle and finish the last third of Moving Beyond Sectarianism. Like the rest of the book it was challenging reading, serious, and difficult in parts. But worth reading every word. The final third focussed in on the churches role in perpetuating sectarianism, and it makes hard reading. Harder still when considering that authors Cecilia and Joe refrain from citing extreme examples - that's the media's job - and instead concentrate on the subtler strains of Sectarianism which 'polite society' promotes often without realising it. Such as 'benign apartheid', which is about clergy concentrating on their own to the extent that they have no time to explore dialogue / partnership with the others around them. Enough said for now - there'll be plenty more in the paper I write once all this has sifted, settled, and been seen from a Liverpool perspective. I hope to make the conclusions positive - all of this leads to the feeling that there are new and freeing ways of doing things, of thinking and acting towards others. The joy will come in the discovery of them.

    From a month of good conversations, memorable journeys, deeply interesting and challenging work, just as a taster, here's a very small number of highlights, moments and places of inspiration:

      The place - the beach which has been well-described in blogs from here, the centre itself which is so creatively-designed, a place of comfort, space and light, of interesting tangents, private nooks in open spaces.

      James Alison's talk on prayer - which wonderfully combined deep theology with a real sense of what he called 'the other other' and which led us perfectly into an act of worship.

      The view above Belfast docks from the motorway - as the road sweeps down and round a big corner the east side of the city comes into view. If you're moved by the landscape of commerce, as I am having been raised a mile from Liverpool's docks, you can't fail to be impressed by this. And those massive Harland and Wolff cranes, Samson and Goliath, which domintate this view and many others within the city - astonishing.

      Playing wide games with Edenbrooke Primary - the schools groups work kept me fit, long days of endless activity. I enjoyed working with them and the staff, Shona, Ivan, and the very capable volunteers.

      Ian Cranston's talk on 'Golf and the Spirit' - one of the Iona Community's most loved public speakers, Ian took his inspiration from a Scott Peck book of the same name and opened up a weekend with the potentially sticky subject of 'Ecumenical Spirituality' by illustrating his talk with a selection of balls and gadgets pulled out of an egg-box. As ever, uniquely inspirational.

      The telly in Cedar Haven - which fuzzed and crackled but was sufficient to ensure I kept up with Everton's reanissance and UTV News and Celebrity Big Brother and provided the backdrop to good late-night conversations with other fellow-travellers onsite at Corrymeela for a while. They're a wonderful welcoming community, and all of us pilgrims are thankful for that welcome and all the other things that come through being with them awhile.