Today’s post is written by Henry Jackson.

Day 5 was another day in the small town of Bushmills. We began the day with a breakfast of bagels and cereal at Bushmills Presbyterian, a short walk down the road from the youth hostel. After breakfast, Pastor Karen led us in a devotional on Acts 11. In this passage, Peter explains to other believers how he had come to believe that the early church ought to include Gentiles. Through his visions and interactions with Gentile believers, God had led him to a change of heart in the matter. Throughout the week, Pastor Karen has invited us to reflect on who in our lives might have a similar role to Cornelius (the God-fearing Roman centurion): that of an ‘other’ whom God might be calling us to invite in or accept. 

The morning was centered around another session on peacemaking. This time, Dave Thompson and his father Raymond, from North Belfast, came to speak with us. Dave talked us through the various effects of conflict and violence in communities, including fear, paranoia, and numbness. We reflected on conflict in our personal lives and in the United States as a whole. Raymond, who was twenty-one at the beginning of the troubles, shared some of his experiences and perspectives from those times, including his brief stint as an Orangeman (a member of the Orange Order, a protestant group honoring William of Orange). His honest reflections on his past and the changes that he has made allowed us to gain insight into moving forward from conflict. 

During the afternoon, the group split into two. Several members (above eighteen) visited the Bushmills Distillery to learn more about how whiskey is made there. The rest of the group ventured on to Dunluce Castle, which is said to have inspired C.S Lewis’ Cair Paravel (from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, of course). The ruins of this castle sit overlooking gorgeous cliffs above the blue ocean.

After a hearty dinner, we took a van to the Corrymeela retreat center. There, we learned about the history of the building and of the group’s teachings. Their work is largely centered on a singular principal: that human beings, who are made in the image of God, are all the same. Through this lens, they are able to work with many distinct groups of people, seeking reconciliation in all conflicts. Towards the end of our visit, we gathered in a small circular room to share songs of praise. The Corrymeela staff introduced us to an adaptation of a classic Irish folk tune. Ever the fans of Wendell Kimbrough, we chose to share a classic, Rejoice In All Your Works, while Pastor Karen accompanied the group on piano, completely from memory. Afterwards, we piled back into the van to head back to Bushmills for the night, eager to head to Derry/Londonderry the next day.