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

    Saturday, March 27, 2004
    The birth-cry of new life
    History says, don't hope
    On this side of the grave...

    - Seamus Heaney's lines from The Cure At Troy resurfaced today as a mailing from The Corrymeela Community arrived. First for a long time: since my time there the Community's been through a time of crisis and change, of taking tough financial decisions to ensure its future. Appointed a new leader. Made a new start.

    All this at a time when peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland ceased to excite journalists enthralled instead by the axis of evil, and thus ceased to capture most other folks' interest either. Mine included, I admit.

    Meanwhile the conflict bubbled on, alongside people's efforts towards healing and just getting by. New Community leader David Stevens says, "We have a sort of peace and we have a sort of normality but we haven't got to first base in reconciliation ... This is a traumatised society that has suffered 30 years of violence..." I hear echoes of Heaney again, as I did so many times whilst in Northern Ireland:

    History says, don't hope
    On this side of the grave.
    But then, once in a lifetime
    The longed-for tidal wave
    Of justice can rise up,
    And hope and history rhyme.

    Stevens again: "Reconciliation [is] a generational task. This has to be in a perspective of 30 years or more. And out of trauma, newness comes. Newness will come in this society. Our task is to be a symbol of hope, to put deep roots down, and act for the long-term."

    I, like many visitors to the Community's clifftop Ballycastle centre, have stood looking across a windy Irish Sea hoping that the seeds of reconciliation sown by their work, will keep catching, sweeping inland and, yes, rooting down in places still torn by sectarianism. There's less money for their work from 'abroad' these days. Stevens says it'll be a struggle to sustain it, that they're now faced with being "visionaries and accountants". But I'm glad they've made it through their leanest time to renew the vision which Heaney hymns so well:

    So hope for a great sea-change
    On the far side of revenge.
    Believe that further shore
    Is reachable from here.
    Believe in miracles
    And cures and healing wells.