Forming Communities of Reconciliation: The Nativity Center for Pilgrimage and Reconciliation
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SubjectSchool of Theology, University of the South; Reconciliation; Restorative justice; Leadership training; Community of the Cross of the Nails
AbstractThis project provides definition, structure, guidance and on-going evaluation for the new Nativity Center for Reconciliation and Pilgrimage ministry located at the Church of the Nativity, Episcopal, in Huntsville, Alabama. The Center was established in the spring of 2004 in order to promote the ministry of reconciliation and pilgrimage that is growing in scope at the Church of the Nativity. The clergy and lay leadership of the Church of the Nativity hope to build a community of reconciliation through the Center's several facets of ministry. The validity of these efforts is substantiated by a $90,000 grant award from Trinity Church (Wall Street), New York City. The grant's purpose is for the Center to train a core group of lay persons in the work of reconciliation who will then enable the seeds of the spirituality and the ministries of reconciliation to spread throughout the parish and into the world. Any parish or religious organization interested in the ministry of reconciliation and building a spirituality of reconciliation within, the milieu of its community might find this information helpful. The project begins with an examination of reconciliation and spiritual journey work and their," connection to pilgrimage as important facets of parochial ministry in today's diverse and pluralistic world. The work and ministry of reconciliation is critical to the faithful mission of the Church, as defined by the Prayer Book in the Catechism (page 855), is ''to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ." This charge for ministry is verified in st. Paul's 2nd Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 5, verses 17-20. The project documents the genesis of the Nativity Center for Pilgrimage and Reconciliation from its initial vision by the clergy (inspired by a small gift of $3,000 from a parishioner to expand lay pastoral care ministries) to its vibrant existence today as an important expression of parish life and ministry. Documentation of the work of two other parishes that have formed communities of reconciliation, Christ Church Cathedral in Cincinnati, Ohio, and The Cathedral of St. Mark in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is included in order to broaden the understanding of how the ministry of reconciliation can be accomplished. These two parishes are Community of the Cross of Nails Centers and their ministries of reconciliation stem from their important connection to this well-established organization. The project reviews the major creative avenues of reconciliation ministries established within the parish community of Nativity and outside the parish for the world through the Nativity Center for Pilgrimage and Reconciliation. These different avenues include the important ministry of bringing people together to study and reflect upon reconciliation and pilgrimage through small fellowship groups, as well as opportunities for dialog in larger groups by means of the Church of the Nativity's "Living In Communion When We Disagree" periodic series. The heart of reconciliation ministry centers in the worship and sacramental life of the church. Opportunities for worship that incorporate the spirit of reconciliation and pilgrimage are outlined, including a documented "Pilgrims' Eucharist." A sacred place for reconciliation is described as a visible signpost for this ministry. The importance and theological significance of the Rite of Reconciliation of a Penitent is also reviewed in Section Five. One of the Nativity Center for Pilgrimage and Reconciliation's defining elements is deep leadership training for lay people, thereby strengthening the commitment to mutual ministry of the laity and the clergy. The training materials for the laity's participation in these ministries, as we are defining them at the Church of the Nativity, are outlined. In establishing our training materials, we have developed our own materials for Nativity's unique ministries. Resources from the Caring Ministry of St. John's Cathedral in Denver, Colorado, and from Stephen Ministry program are utilized. Eventually, the Center's plans are to create a social justice outreach component. The project reviews the theology of reconciliation and restorative justice. Our hope is to engage the work of restorative justice as a means of offering reconciliation to the larger society.
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