But all we did was have a cup of coffee. That is how my friend Fr Martin Magill and I reacted when we were surprised, if thrilled, to win this years Civic Leadership award from the Community Relations Council of Northern Ireland.
We are convinced that all we did was have a coffee. That coffee was obviously weighty. Fr Martin was living in Lenadoon at the time, our Manse is off the Malone Road. He is a Catholic Priest and I a Presbyterian minister.
There is little doubt that that arrangement for coffee was fuelled by our desire to follow Jesus who spoke about loving enemies and who prayed that his followers would be one. We were being intentional about crossing the traditional boundaries of our wee country… but it was only a cup of coffee.
This week is Community Relations Week. Next Wednesday (September 21st) is International Peace Day. Maybe sometimes we think that community relations is the work of professionals and that Peacemaking is for international peacemakers, politicians and religious gurus.
Can I suggest that it is actually about all of us, and all of us doing the simplest of things. When Jesus said “love your neighbour” it wasn’t a nice catchy sentimental phrase. It was a call to revolution. A revolution that can start over a cup of coffee.
Yes. our cup of coffee has led us into founding the 4 Corners Festival. Yes, it has given us many platforms to talk about what we believe Jesus meant about making peace. Yes, it has got us into some messy and uncomfortable situations. Yes it got me my first award since my Holden Cup winners medal with Michelin Under 18s in 1980.
But it all started with a cup of coffee. Friendships transform. They transform those in the friendship. But that spills over into transforming each other’s friends. Then it rolls out further to transform Churches, communities and nations. Jesus knew what he was at with his “love your neighbour”.
So, on Community Relations Week and next Wednesday on International Peace Day, how about joining the revolution. Let us not sit waiting for some grand plan. Let us all think of someone we could connect with, across race, religion, politics or whatever other lines we’ve drawn. Let’s arrange a cup of coffee. It could bring a change.