From Corrymeela in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland. A place of peacekeeping, reconciliation, and conflict resolution. 

It’s been quite a 10 days…As you know, I tested positive for COVID-19 on October 28. Not exactly how I planned to celebrate my birthday…so I am grateful we celebrate birthday month in my family. Emma also tested positive, while Lamont tested negative. Our time of isolation ends on Sunday, November 8 and Emma cannot wait to get back to the barn. For me, I am looking forward to gaining some energy back. That has definitely been the hardest part for me…feeling overall okay, but not having the energy or desire to do anything. I know my energy will not magically re-appear on Sunday afternoon, just like I know that COVID-19 will not disappear because the election is over. 

I have had lots of time to think, reflect, and wonder. I’ve wondered why Emma likes playing the game “Among Us”, so I started to play with her. It is actually kinda fun. I thought about reading a novel, you know, a book for fun; so I started one and even downloaded it to my kindle app. I’ve always wanted to watch “This Is Us,” so I started watching and it is so good! I’ve watched and waited for the votes to come in and be counted. I have learned how each state has different rules and regulations for how people vote and how votes are counted depending on state rules. And I have continued to see what a divided country we live in as I have seen a few Facebook posts, watched a little bit of the news, refreshed webpages, and heard from you. And I am reminded that severe division is caused by a lack of community and relationships and of the importance of building a real and authentic community. 

In the 60s and 70s, there was something in Northern Ireland called “The Troubles.” “The Troubles” was a time of division in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics…but it was really an internal war in Northern Ireland of great political division and ideologies using religion as the facade. Fires were set by Catholics in Protestant neighborhoods, Protestants shot Catholics in different neighborhoods, divisions grew and grew and grew…so did hatred, judgment, destruction, death, and war. Then a community formed of like-minded individuals. These like-minded individuals were Protestants and Catholics, and truly against the division that was happening in their country. They formed a community called Corrymeela. “From its first days, Corrymeela has been a place of gathering, work, faith, and discussion; bringing people of different backgrounds, different political and religious beliefs, and different identities together. We believe that there is strength in gathering and that, when we can be with each other in commitment, no difference is great enough to break us (”

I had the opportunity to spend 3 weeks with members of the Corrymeela community and live in a community in Ballycastle, Northern Ireland. One of my greatest learnings during that time was how important conversation was in healing division. I learned how Corrymeela was able to go into communities that had been burned down, bring the women and children to Ballycastle, and allowed for authentic community to be built across religious and political lines. As an intentional peacemaking community, the families went from being either “Protestant” or “Catholic”, to families who were hurting and struggling and needing community. Relationships formed in Corrymeela began to heal the divide and move people forward, together.  When people left the safety of Corrymeela and went back to whatever was left of their home, they weren’t just “Protestant” or “Catholic,” but they left friends with people they had built authentic relationships with. Relationships across divided lines started to heal a nation. 

We have a call before us. We have a call as people of faith to continue to come together and build relationships and help heal the divisions that surround us. As Corrymeela continues to do, we too need to work towards being a place of gathering, work, faith, and discussion; bringing people of different backgrounds, different political and religious beliefs and different identities together. Together with commitment. A commitment to one another, to moving forward, to healing division, and building authentic relationships in a hurting world. 

On Sunday, we begin a journey of simplicity. And I am reminded by my thoughts and memories of Corrymeela of how simple life can be when it is built on relationships. With the reality that COVID-19 is increasing in our community and our world, that the election has brought up lots of different things for different reasons, and the fact that many of us are going non-stop; it is time for us to reflect and be present with God. To be reminded that God is walking this journey with us and calling us to examine our lives in ways that will bring us closer to God and one another and our neighbors. Simplicity could be part of healing our divisions. 

Todd and I are praying that this journey through simplicity will be one that calls you to look at your life and wonder what needs to change and to find ways to make some powerful moves in your life. I know for me, this time of isolation has been a forced way for me to take a look from the outside in and pause in a way that I didn’t know I needed. And it isn’t one that will end. My week of continuing education is focused on Sabbath…which is something we all need to do more holistically with God. 

I will be out of town at a continuing education event in Orlando for the week. If there are any emergencies, please contact one of the elders (Bob Swails, John Murray, Bud Fullen, Sharon Smith, or Barbara Woods). Julie will be available in the office on Wednesday morning (941-743-5335). I look forward to seeing you when I get back.   Friends, as we move forward, let us move forward praying for healing, peace, understanding, and authentic relationships. I pray for rest for all of us and am hopeful for our community because of who you are. And I am eternally grateful to be the pastor with so many wonderful people. Thank you for that honor. Love to you all, 

Pastor Devon