We have just had such a wonderful weekend at the Celtic retreat and people have been so enthusiastic about the liturgies that I hate to break the flow, but I must.
The downside of the weekend was that we have problems with vandals. This has always been a problem but recently their vandalism has become more destructive. Most heartbreaking of all is that they have shot at our new building, hitting the new windows and shattering the glass sliding panels. I was so upset that I could not even photograph the results. And I confess that my thoughts towards them were not loving and kind.
Then I read the words of our opening liturgy:
God you show us that hospitality opens doorways into your eternal world.
Whether the sun is at its height, or the moon and stars pierce the darkness,
May this place be always open.
May it never be closed to anyone, lest we should close it to Christ himself.
And God transfixed me. And I was not the only one impacted by the words. How do we show hospitality to those who have vandalized our property became quite a discussion point. We talked about everything from putting up signs inviting them to lunch at our next event, to trying to have someone meet and befriend them or even putting up a shooting target with a sign saying “Please shoot this not our building”. We even talked about how to “redeem” the broken glass by creating a mural or other art form with the shards. Perhaps we could even incorporate some of the spent shotgun shells.
Just before we left the Mustard Seed Village site on Sunday morning, Andy Wade and I stood in our chapel area, talking about the acts of vandalism which began with the destruction of our Celtic cross – just a tree branch nailed to another tree with vines woven for the circle, but symbolic of who we are and what we want this land to represent. As we talked I walked behind the altar, and there in the grass was a rusty old piece of junk that looked just like a Celtic cross. I felt God was saying:
Garbage into gold, I can restore, redeem and make new all that is created.
It was a very heartening note on which to end the retreat though its implications continue to resound in my head, reminding me of the principles of restorative justice rather than punitive justice. In looking for resources on restorative justice I came across this fascinating pdf downloadable book The Little Book Of Restorative Justice which has just jumped to the top of my reading list.
So my question for the day: How do we in all challenging situations work for restoration and transformation rather than punishment and incarceration?