October 26, 2017
Dear Hyde Park Family,
Last week, I spent time with clergy from the Florida Annual Conference and the faculty of Candler School of Theology studying the history of “The Troubles” and its ongoing difficulties in Northern Ireland.
Much of what we learned about the conflict is applicable to our own legacy of slavery in the United States, as well as our deep divides over politics, economic disparity, and LGBTQ inclusion. The following is a ten-point summary of my key learnings and hopes for the future, as I return home to ministry with you.
1. IDENTITY — the deepest and most difficult conflicts are ones based on identity, not just on ideology, dogma, or political allegiance. The struggle between the Unionists (loyal to Britain) and the Nationalists (seeking freedom from Britain) is not just based on what they believe, but on who they are at their core, as they see the other side as a threat to their own personhood.
2. EMPATHY — The most important means toward reconciliation and non-violence is empathy, respect, and listening. It is the ability to say, “We may not agree. But I respect your point of view, and I trust you respect mine, as we learn to see through each other’s eyes.”
3. STORYTELLING — The chief way to cultivate empathy is through the sharing of personal narrative. It is based on the realization that there is not just one way to describe the present, but multiple narratives. When we allow for the mutual sharing of those stories with authenticity and vulnerability, and without defensiveness, then healing can begin.
4. MEMORY — Just like there is not one way to describe the present, there is not just one way to describe the past. There is not one history, but many ways to view and experience that history. We must summon the work of our historians to reveal truths about our history that are too easily concealed, so that we can widen our perspectives beyond those that reinforce our beliefs.
5. RHETORIC — Language matters. As Gary Mason has often reminded us, though there is no longer violence in Northern Ireland committed with a gun, there is still violence committed with the tongue. The language we use to describe issues of conflict can cause harm, even unintentionally. Subtle choices of word usage can have profound impact. We must be careful how we phrase our thoughts and positions.
6. FORGIVENESS — Often it is difficult, even impossible, to forgive in the conventional sense of “forgiving and forgetting.” The way forward is not through amnesia of the past, but in choosing to not let the pain of the past dictate one’s choices in the present or one’s hope in the future. Instead of “forgive and forget,” we might “forgive by moving forward.”
7. PEACE — True and lasting peace is not simply the absence of conflict, but a commitment over the long haul that leads to justice and equality. The Good Friday Agreement led to an end of physical violence, but even twenty years later, there is ongoing work to nurture peace through political means. But even when political processes fail, as is the case now in Northern Ireland’s current impasse, peace is possible when individuals and communities learn to relate beyond their differences.
8. LEADERSHIP — Peace happens through leadership. It happens when a network of influential advocates for peace work together across the divide to create a shared future and lead their own peers toward resolution. The church must be among the leaders who guide the community in crafting a shared vision of the future, based on God’s inclusive love and grace.
9. HOPE — God is doing a new thing in Northern Ireland, and it should inspire us to see possibilities of God’s reconciling work in our own polarized country. The church is called to be that conduit of healing in our communities, as we call people to repentance of injustice and inequality, and then bear witness to the hope that comes through Jesus Christ. Our prayer ought not to be, “God, grant me a vision for my church,” but “God, grant me a vision for your world, that your church may help bring it to reality.”
10. PARTNERSHIP — On a personal note, I am amazed by the leadership in this Florida Annual Conference, and am privileged to be among such gifted clergy and lay people. I’m grateful for the vision of Bishop Ken Carter to create this experience, and for Bill Barnes, Anne Burkholder, and Clarke Campbell-Evans who made this trip a reality.
Most of all, I am immeasurably grateful for the kinship of my traveling companions, many of whom are my closest and dearest friends in the ministry. I constantly admire and learn from them, and have great hope for how this experience will shape our shared ministry in the future.
I continue to be excited for our future together at Hyde Park, as we discern the vision God has for our community and our world. Let us work together to bring that vision into reality.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist
THIS SUNDAY: STORIES FROM OUR FUTURE
Join us as we conclude our worship series “Making God’s Love Real” with a celebration of all that God will accomplish in our future together. We invite you to turn in your financial commitment cards, which are available in the Sanctuary or online. Your pledges are critical in helping our Committee on Finance make responsible plans for ministries and programs over the upcoming year. Thank you!
THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION’S 500th ANNIVERSARY
This Sunday marks the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517. For a wonderful reflection on the impact of the Reformation today, I invite you to read Bishop Ken Carter’s sermon from last Sunday, which he preached as part of our trip to Northern Ireland, at Knock Methodist Church in Belfast.