Part of my module last week at Redcliffe was focused on reconciliation as mission. So we had a bit of a field trip to Coventry Cathedral. It´s a spectacular place with a really interesting history and legacy.
The original Cathedral was bombed in the war. The bishop at the time, when he visited the site day after the bombing, decided to add a new inscription behind the altar saying 'Father Forgive'. Although many suggested to him that it should be more specific - asking God to forgive the Germans who were responsible, he was adamant that it should be simple 'Father Forgive'. He explained that we are all responsible for conflict, and should all seek God´s forgiveness for our part in it.
A time later they needed to work out what to do with the bombed out site. Some suggested razing it to the ground, others rebuilding on the same site, but it was decided to preserve the ruins as they were - as a reminder of the past, but to build a new Cathedral to it´s side. Coventry Cathedral has become a centre for reconciliation, linking with other sites around the world seeking to be the peacemakers in situations of conflict.
The sculptures around the site remind us of the realities of war. Above is a (bad) picture of a memorial dedicated to the Unknown Civilians who have lost their lives in war. Apparently, although there are many memorials around the world to the Unknown Soldier, this is the only one recognising the civilians who are caught up in conflicts.
The new Cathedral has some spectacular windows. The one above, is at the entrance hall, and has a glass engraving of angels and saints.
The side window panels, which are only visible as you reach the front of the Cathedral and look backwards, depict the various stages of life. As you walk past them going forward, you only see the stark concrete of the building - but as you look back, they appear, just as we often only make sense of the stages of our lives with hindsight!!
Archangel Michael defeating Satan.
This side window is really spectacular, and depicts the sense of God´s light breaking into, and expelling the darkness. It´s much better in real life, so I encourage you to go and have a look!
For the last couple of weeks, I´ve been based in Redcliffe College in Gloucester. I´m completing the taught component of 2 modules for the MA in Contemporary Missiology (the study of mission). So here are a few of the topics from last week,
globalization (political, economic, religious etc)
gender in mission,
Redcliffe has a new centre and offices, just next door to the Cathedral, so there´s a great view out of the window, if we ever need further inspiration, and they have even lent us some study space in the Cathedral Gallery.
This week, has been a sort of reading week, when I have had chance to find resources in the library for the essays. But I´ve also taken advantage of being here.... the module for the MA in Member Care has been going on, so I´ve sat in on a few of their classes as well.
This week coming, it´ll be advocacy and reconciliation studies - including a trip to Coventry, to hear about the centre for reconciliation there, and the work they do.
As my time approaches to return to the UK for a sabbatical, I have found myself considering friendship again. Perhaps it´s a natural thing, but having spent a couple of years away, I begin wondering what has become of the friendships 'back there'.
There are those with whom I had a close friendship previously - but perhaps the long distance contact hasn´t been forthcoming... so I wonder what will it be like now when I return.
Then there´s those who I have got to know here in Guatemala, but who have already returned to the UK - and with whom I´ve talked on a deep level about their lives - and now that I prepare to go back, and have the opportunity to see them again, I wonder if our connection was simply a result of me offering support in the rollercoaster of their emotions that is a short term missions experience and perhaps doesn´t have any longer term purpose now that they are back in their 'normal life', or will it develop into a more mutual and equal relationship?
And of course there´s the friendships here in Guatemala that I leave behind for a while. What will happen with those?
I am now realising that this reflection is a part of the rhythm of living
abroad and that this issue seems to come to the forefront of my mind each
time I prepare to return to the UK, and the moment that I realised that, it was a relief. It was somehow easier to hold all those questions - without worrying about the answers, and just trust God. Trust God - not for anything in particular - just trust God. He is here.
Recently a friend in the UK died. Apart from feeling very sad - it was way too soon for him to go! - I also felt very conscious of the divided life that I lead. Immediately I realised that here, there wasn´t anybody to tell - because nobody here knew him. I forced myself anyway and told a few friends, but it didn´t mean much to anyone; of course because they didn´t know him, and in fact they don´t know anything about my life previous to coming to Guatemala.
At the weekend, I went to San Pedro La Laguna for our Latin Link prayer meeting. It was really good to spend some quality time with fellow Latin Link members, in such a beautiful spot. And as I shared these reflections, it was great that they understood, as they live in the same dynamic. One friend, who lives there in San Pedro so has a regular view of the Lake and all that goes on there, shared the image of balancing between two canoes, with one foot in each. I think that´s exactly my experience. At times all your weight is on one canoe, perhaps with just your other foot touching the other one. At other times, it´s the other way around. But the tricky part is changing your weight, swapping your attention from one to the other in order to transition between the two. That´s when everything feels a bit wobbly and unsure.
But then falling into water has never held much danger or fear for me!
It´s actually where I feel closest to God, and know him holding me up in
whatever circumstance. And so spiritually and in my friendships, I´m
learning to keep focused on God, trusting in Him, in his 'upholding' -
whichever canoe I´m in, or even falling in the water inbetween. He is
Funny what you get asked to do when you´re a missionary in another country!.
Last week, a friend of mine, who is studying for a degree in Education management, asked if I could participate in a forum for her course about interculturality (not sure if that´s a word in english).
So that´s what I did this afternoon, - I was part of a forum panel, discussing interculturality (multiculturalism) in education.
I don´t know an aweful lot about education or mutliculturalism in education here in Guatemala but I shared a few models for understanding culture itself, which have been very
useful to me as I support new volunteers adapting to a different culture. That seems to add a different perspective to the discussion.
And I was very well looked after.... with food, and a traditional basket of sweets, and flowers to bring home.
Latin Link is an international and interdenominational mission with a focus on Latin America. They aim to be a channel so that people can develop their God- given potential in the service of others, working alongside churches and partner organisations. Members of Latin Link serve in Latin America and in Europe, working with local Christians at their invitation. They have 5 main areas of commitment; outreach and evangelism, training and preparation, care and social action, publishing and resources, and business and ethics.
Latin Link runs 3 programms;
Step teams - undertake practical projects for 3 weeks to 6 months.
Stride - individual placements using your skills and talents for 6 months to 2 years.