Reconciliation in Divided Societies: How can Christians respond?

Church of the Servant Visit to Northern Ireland

June 11-22, 2022


We are living in a time of deep polarization and conflict. Racial injustice as well as the contentious political climate remain divisive forces within the U.S.  Families and friends, neighborhoods and workplaces are all experiencing increased levels of misunderstanding, distrust, and hurt.  Even the church is facing deep divisions that call us to ask what a faithful Christian response could be. As followers of Jesus, we desire a deeper understanding of what it means to “do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with God” (Micah 6:8). 

Gail and Ken Heffner have been invited to plan and lead an Interest Group of COS members and friends through a study of reconciliation in divided societies. This Interest Group will examine the religious roots of the conflict in Northern Ireland particularly during the past half-century as well as the reconciliation work that is occurring in the last several decades. The theological differences and the political, social, and economic factors which led to the Protestant-Catholic conflict will be explored. What lessons can be learned from the Northern Ireland experience?  How has reconciliation unfolded in Northern Ireland and what role has the Christian community played?  Particular attention is given to the contribution art, poetry, and popular music have played in fostering reconciliation and forgiveness.The group will meet monthly beginning in January 2022 for learning and reflection that will culminate in a 10-day trip to Northern Ireland in June 2022 where participants will be able to experience and learn about reconciliation and justice from leaders and artists in Northern Ireland. Stepping out of our own comfort zones and experiencing another culture can offer insights and perspectives that can be transformative in our own settings.


This Interest Group is open to high school and college students and adult members and friends of Church of the Servant. Prior to the trip, we’ll host a minimum of 4 discussion sessions along with some introductory reading. We’ll develop a covenant of shared commitments and expectations for this community of learners and some contemplative Christian practices will be explored including Morning and Evening Prayer. We hope participants will commit to attending 100% of the discussion sessions. While we will be doing some sight-seeing, this is not primarily a tourist trip. Our hope is for rich interaction with Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland, deep listening, mutual learning, and meaningful reflection on how Christians can promote reconciliation in places where division and conflict exist.

An informational meeting and question-and-answer session will be held on November 14 in the COS Living Room following the morning worship service. Interested people are also encouraged to contact the Heffners for more information as you consider joining this Interest Group. In order for the group to begin getting to know each other and forming community, participants must commit to the trip by January 20, 2022, including agreeing to cover the costs associated with this trip. Initial estimates suggest the trip will cost between $2000-$2500/person, depending on airfare. High school and college students are encouraged to participate and there may be fundraising opportunities to assist with the costs of the trip.

For more information, contact Gail and Ken Heffner

Email:  Gail Heffner              

Email:  Ken Heffner