A group comprising Columban co-workers, a lay missionary, the current Faith in Action Volunteer in Britain and friends of the Columbans in Britain and Ireland, have commenced a 10-day journey which will involve them experiencing Holy Week and Easter Week in Peru, visiting parishes and projects associated with the Columbans in Lima.
The group came together for a day in January and for two days in February to prepare for this experience as part of the Columban Invitation to Mission programme. Here are some of their reflections after these preparation days.
Group formation: Encounter on a human level
In January, a group of us, mainly strangers, gathered at St Columban’s at Widney Manor on the outskirts of Birmingham on a cold, wet and windy Saturday. It was about to turn snowy.
The purpose? Group formation as part of this year’s ‘invitation to mission’, which involves a trip to Lima, Peru over Easter. On this trip, we will visit a Columban community in Peru, and learn from them and those they work with.
Over the course of the day, we began to learn about the history and current practice of the Columbans, we got to know each other, and we attended Mass. Personally I found it very interesting to learn a bit about the Columbans, because I must admit that I knew very little about them before.
Over the last century, they have become increasingly focused on social justice and grappled with the question ‘what is mission?’
It was also great to meet everyone, and to hear about the different journeys by which we had decided to embark on this venture. To give just a few examples, there was excitement to see and learn from a different culture, to be part of a group, to travel, to experience Holy Week in Peru.
We discussed these different ideas, and considered which motivations chimed with us – or didn’t. I have the impression that I wasn’t the only one who found the latter part difficult, because everyone’s motivations seemed to make a lot of sense.
Not that the main purpose appeared to be to plumb the depths of our psyches, or to discover the roots of a spiritual epiphany (fortunately for me!).
In small groups, we answered questions about when we had recently felt awkward, and fulfilled tasks such as humming nursery rhymes and mimicking barnyard animals. The point was to encounter each other more deeply, but on a human and therefore slightly silly level.
This day felt like the start of something exciting. None of us really know what will happen in Peru, but I think we’re all eager to find out. Watch this space!
Visit to Carr’s Lane Community
On arrival on Friday evening, we all met in Fatima House and after a gathering prayer and some time reconnecting with each other in the group we were divided up.
Some of the people were to stay and visit Fatima House and meet the people living there and the rest of us were off with James to visit the Carr’s Lane Lived Community. It was about a 25 minute walk further into the city and we when we arrived at Carr’s Lane Church and heard that the Community live in an apartment upstairs.
Steph and Mathew gave us a very warm welcome and in the spirit of their community’s commitment to hospitality, they sat us all down straight away to a lovely supper with plenty of good food and lively conversation.
Over supper Matthew and Steph told us of their belief in living life in community and that their life is one of daily prayer, shared life, openness to hospitality and service in the community.
The commitment to prayer occasionally means that they have to forego events but this is one that they take seriously. Over the years they have had a variety of people who have chosen to life with them in community and explore what ‘community living’ is and to join them.
As well as working with a variety of ministries in the local area Matthew and Steph talked about their involvement in the Resistance Network – joining in solidarity with people who protest against war and the arms trade. They often act as witnesses to these peaceful but occasionally disruptive protests.
They also shared that the church in Carr’s Lane had a history of being a place of sanctuary for people who opted for passive resistance to joining the army – during the two world wars. I thought we were only beginning to get started on a conversation when it was already time to leave.
The warmth of their welcome and the commitment to their way of life was very evident in the way they instantly made us feel at home and there was a real sense of family around the table.
It was a most interesting visit and the conversation on the way home was more thoughtful and reflective on the topic of what does ‘living in community’ really mean and how it can be witnessed by each one of us – especially by those of us who live alone.
Weekend Preparation February 2018
We met at St Anne’s in Birmingham and started the weekend off by sharing our passions in an ice breaker. Here we learned we had many hidden talents among us including sailing, forestry, art & crafts and avid reading to name just a few.
We then split into two groups. I went with the group visiting Fatima House on the same site as St Anne’s. It is a project which provides shelter to nine ladies seeking asylum.
We watched a video and listened to a short talk on the refugee crisis in the wold today and the process of seeking asylum. We learned also of the English contribution to solving this crisis – not great as it turns out!
The ladies from Eritrea staying at Fatima House cooked us a lovely traditional meal which we shared with them.
The other group visited a community lead by a married couple seeking to eradicate conflict by peaceful observation and prayer.
We returned to St Columban’s, Knowle and after a good night’s sleep began our second day.
The group presented their assignments on history, popular religiosity and current affairs. This was very interesting and informative. We explored the need and reasons for keeping an open mind and reflecting on what we have learned when visiting Peru. We prepared and shared a three course Peruvian meal which I think again was enjoyed by all.
After lunch we discussed some practicalities for the invitation to mission and then had some time for quite reflection. The day was concluded by mass where we all experienced the laying on of hands to bless us on our invitation to mission programme.