I arrived at university in London 10 days after 9/11.
I remember how the impact of that event shifted all of the conversations we had in the corridors and cafeteria after our theology lectures - what did ‘welcoming the stranger’ look like on a personal and national scale if we were afraid or suspicious of them? How would we engage in politics as followers of a non-violent Christ when our country was launching a war? What did ‘seeking the kingdom of God’ mean in an unpredictable and terrifying landscape? These conversations changed the course of my life as I became more aware of the full invitation to follow Jesus - the Prince of Peace - into the hard places and grey areas with a gospel of love in action.
Now almost 20 years later, in this time of Covid-19, racial injustice, the climate crisis, and Brexit - there is another major shift happening and you as students are asking similarly hard and complex questions in your zoom lectures and Whatsapp chats.
How do we galvanize action for the climate crisis? How do we speak truth to power about systemic racism? How do we build communities of peace and resilience in a politically polarised society? And still - what does ‘seeking the kingdom of God’ mean in an unpredictable and terrifying landscape?
I now work for St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in central London, a 12th-century Anglican church building that was bombed to near destruction in 1993 by the IRA and rebuilt as a peace centre in 2006. We are a maker of peacemakers and we believe in the potential of crisis to precipitate change and renewal. Creating change requires a prophetic imagination, a courageous kind of leadership that can face reality, stand in solidarity and take radically compassionate action. This was the way of the Old Testament prophets, who when confronted with nations in disaster or having abandoned their deepest values, responded with unwavering vision and hope for a new way of being inspired by their faith in God.
"We equip participants to creatively and courageously respond to issues of crisis and conflict in their communities..."
To meet this moment of opportunity, St Ethelburga’s is facilitating a 6 month community reconciliation training for 20 emerging faith leaders called Journey of Hope from February - July 2021. In partnership with some of the leading Christian based peace & reconciliation centers in the UK & Ireland, we equip participants to creatively and courageously respond to issues of crisis and conflict in their communities, cultivating a more relational and resilient society. To allow students and young adults to be a part of this offer, we are offering bursary places.
I leave you with this thought - the Greek root of the word crisis means ‘to sift’. So regardless of whether or not you sign up to be a part of the Journey of Hope, please don’t miss this moment to sift through your life, letting every excess fall away until what remains is the gold - the things of eternal value that will sustain you through the hardest of times.
Rebecca is a Community Reconciliation Programme Manager at St Ethelburga’s Centre. For all of the information you can visit www.reconcilerstogether.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.