I’ve delayed writing this post so I could figure out what I want to say. I mean that in a good way: this was one of the best things I’ve done in a long time. The problem is that there’s so much packed into those four days, and I could write quite a bit if I’m not careful.
First, the location: Kirkridge is beautiful, peaceful and remote. Its grounds include a tarn (Celtic word for “pond”) and a labyrinth (the labyrinth creators dowsed to find the place where the “undercurrents” converged to mark the center of the labyrinth, no joke). I’ve never walked a labyrinth before, and I enjoyed it. At the center, folks who walked it before left objects to mark their arrival in the heart of the walk, so I left a pinecone. Kirkridge sits adjacent to the Columcille Megalith Park, and visitors to Kirkridge can explore as they like. It’s very beautiful and quiet (no talking allowed!), and the megaliths are gorgeous and brooding all around. I wish I’d had time to explore further. Feel free to browse my photos.
The diverse group of trainees included a Catholic brother, an Episcopal deacon, a jujitsu instructor, college kids, school administrators, and others from all walks of life. One got the feeling that this was not a group that would have socialized together outside of this setting due to generational, professional, and other differences, but due to the nature of the training, the isolation of the setting and the shared bond of our devotion to creating a culture of peace, we became close very quickly. I thank God for the gift of knowing these people, and hope to stay in touch with them both as friends and co-facilitators for future trainings.
The training itself interested me for a variety of reasons. I first learned of Kirkridge and this particular type of nonviolence training during the preparation for the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq earlier this year. Janet Chisolm, the creator of CCP and the national coordinator for the program, held a 2-hour civil disobedience (CD) training for those considering risking arrest. The CD training included elements of the CCP basic training–the hassle line and storytelling–but was far from a full 20-hour training. Janet let me attend this training for facilitators anyway, though, and that made it interesting because I experienced most of the training elements for the first time.
“Creating a Culture of Peace” basic training is a course in nonviolence for personal and social change. The training uses popular education, a form of teaching in which a facilitator elicits from the participants rather than having a leader lecture. It includes modules on:
- social change;
- community; and
Participants leave the training with a greater understanding of nonviolent principles and a plan for community change (which they build themselves in the planning module). Implementing this particular plan seems not to be the point; rather, the point is having had experience with this kind of planning and being able to replicate it in other settings.
It’s hard to convey the depth of the training experience. Because it draws on each person’s piece of the truth, CCP basic training is a very personal and spiritual experience, even if it’s not couched in religious language or settings. I cannot wait to begin implementing these trainings here in Austin, where (as an outsider still getting to know the community) there is a lot of anti-war sentiment but not much of an organized peace movement. I’ve approached our rector about starting a chapter of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF), and plan to implement trainings regularly if possible.
I greatly enjoyed getting to know all of the participants, including Janet. Many in the peace movement know her name: she’s been the national chairperson for EPF, done great work at the Fellowship of Reconciliation, and travelled the country giving CCP trainings. Her orbit includes such peace advocates as Fr. John Dear, Walter Wink and Daniel Berrigan. Janet grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, where her father used to take her to watch nuclear tests from close range at dawn. Learning from her was an amazing experience: here we were, getting fantastic nonviolence facilitation training from a woman who started life fascinated by the Bomb, whose childhood memories included putting on dark glasses in the night so she could watch the end of the world. I’ve seen video of nuclear blasts; I cannot fathom actually remembering seeing a mushroom cloud in person.