‘In the context of our centenary commemorations, attentive listening to one another, dialogue and engagement have become more important than ever’ according to the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Dr Paul Colton.
Bishop Colton was opening an event recently in Cork, hosted under the auspices of the Cork Church of Ireland Diocesan Centenaries Commemoration and Reconciliation Project. Planned long before the RIC Commemoration controversy hit the headlines, the training day for clergy and lay church workers was hosted by the Bishop on Monday, 13th January with guest speaker Dr Russ Parker (International Ambassador with the Acorn Christian Healing Foundation) who is author of Healing Wounded History.
Russ has a proven track record of work in this area internationally. As Acorn’s International Ambassador, he has been responsible for developing partnerships on listening and reconciliation in 12 nations ranging from Rwanda, Burundi, Hong Kong and the United States. The Acorn programmes were adopted, for example, as part of the resourcing of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, and its Director, Archbishop Desmond Tutu became the president of Acorn’s work in that country.
The title of the day was The Church as New Acoustic Community: the proactive role of listening in conflict resolution. Setting the scene, Russ Parker quoted. the author, nurse and priest, Bill Kirkpatrick who said:
There is a rise of ‘non listening’ among individuals and society. We are losing the ability to listen-in-depth and as a result there is increasing depersonalization and a corresponding number of people who feel themselves disenfranchised. This can and does lead to violence, towards oneself and others.
Reflecting on the training day in Cork, Russ Parker said:
In the midst of a season of sensitive commemorations which have the potential to re-polarise the divisions within a Community we held a day conference to reflect on how the Church of Ireland can offer the gift of listening to all affected by their still wounded history. With the talk of the need for reconciliation between the divided communities we explored how reconciliation requires dialogue and that dialogue is impossible without listening. The clergy who gathered discussed various ways in which they could offer a listening space to hear each others stories and with patience find the common ground on which we could forge a new way of respecting our different histories and find a new harmony for living together.