Freeing up peace impasse with WD-40

David Stevens Memorial Lecture and Presentation of CRC Award for Exceptional Achievement, Parliament Buildings, Belfast, Northern Ireland. @NI_CRC #CRWeek15

David Stevens Memorial Lecture and Presentation of CRC Award for Exceptional Achievement, Parliament Buildings, Belfast, Northern Ireland. @NI_CRC #CRWeek15

Freeing up peace impasse with WD-40:
The David Stevens Memorial Lecture by Rev. Harold Good
by Allan Leonard for Northern Ireland Foundation
1 October 2015

At the third annual David Stevens Memorial Lecture, the Rev. Harold Good used a physical metaphor of a tin of WD-40 lubricant to illustrate the need to ‘unlock and free up the mechanisms’ of peace building.

The Chief Executive of the Community Relations Council, Ms Jacqueline Irwin, introduced Rev. Good by reviewing the life of Mr David Stevens, who was a founder member of the Council.

Mr Stevens was also General Secretary of the Irish Council of Churches, and also served as Spiritual Director and Chief Executive of the Corrymeela Community.

Ms Irwin said that Mr Stevens valued reflection, and cited a positive role that churches have in the voluntary sector: “Churches have a tradition of moral and social care [in our community]. There are bright spots.”

Mr Colin Craig then gave a tribute, explaining Mr Steven’s appreciation of going beyond mutual tolerance of one another, to where community is where one can feel that they belong, not just tolerated.

“What can we do today that will make a difference, so that drip-by-drip we can get to reconciliation?” Mr Craig asked the audience.

Rev. Good immediately paid homage to Mr Stevens, describing him as “a pilgrim”: “It is up to us to continue with the journey.”

Having taken off his tie, joining the rest of us appreciating the fine, sunny afternoon, Rev. Good then produced a tin of WD-40, mooting: “How do we break the impasse?”

He suggested proceeding with uncomfortable conversations, holding up a book with a title of the same two words:

“Only through conversations can we hear, understand and challenge. It was conversation that brought us to where we are [the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and beyond]. We need to put on the table that which we find uncomfortable.

“We need to be strong enough to have uncomfortable conversations,” said Rev. Good.

He added that such conversations must be had not only by our politicians, “but also in our golf clubs and churches”.

So what can we bring distinctively to the conversation?

“Your story,” he answered.

Rev. Good then suggested three words to help free up the conversation:

  1. Confession (Honesty)
  2. Grace (Generosity)
  3. Forgiveness

Confession (secular alternative: Honesty). Rev. Good made the observation the whole world is more comfortable living in denial than dealing with honesty: “We hide behind our irreconcilable narratives.”

He proposed a Day of Acknowledgement, with the purpose of identifying with each other, as a kind of “spirited WD-40”.

Grace (secular alternative: Generosity). Rev. Good noted that many that were unhappy with the early release of prisoners (as part of the Good Friday Agreement) were from the churches.

But Rev. Good explained that the scheme wasn’t about justice, but allowing all to be part of a new beginning, “whether you deem them worthy or not”.

Forgiveness (no secular alternative!). Rev. Good recalled when asked what is forgiveness,  the Dalai Lama replied, “Who knows what forgiveness is?” Rev. Good thought that perhaps only those who have forgiven and have been forgiven.

Here, he recommended the film, “A Step Too Far”.

Rev. Good concluded by saying that “to unlock the rusty mechanisms” to deal with the past, we need more than laws and legislation, quoting Nelson Mandela: “Reconciliation has to happen in the hearts and minds of people.”

“You can’t get a change of heart in a spray can,” said Rev. Good.

Allan Leonard is a board member of the Community Relations Council.

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  • Gopher

    How much tax payers money went to this event? , How many peope are on the public payroll? More non jobs in the Troubles industry.

  • chrisjones2

    Did he mention how come IMC last time missed all those guns and that Semtex that now seems to be lying about everywhere

  • Gopher

    I see the Irish News is big on forgiveness this morning, Northern Ireland’s qualification is below a Tyrone GAA match :D.

  • Sharpie

    I see the rusty nuts are the first to arrive at the disparage-fest. Despite the palpable fear oozing around so many comments that makes them seem nasty, this work will continue and it will succeed – it will just take time for some people to be ok with it. I increasingly admire people brave enough to put themselves forward to try to make a change in this beautiful but forsaken land.

  • Gopher

    “Forsaken Land” Honestly you dont see too many Mercs or BMW’s in a “Forsaken Land”. Tell you what try running the “troubles industry” with private money.

  • Sharpie

    What does that even mean?

  • Gopher

    Well we are hardly “forsaken” if there are signs of affluence everywhere you look. As for funding how is the CRC funded? Expenses? Wage? Anyone on over 30k a year?

  • Sharpie

    I still don’t see your point. Are you unhappy with the levels pay of individuals in the CRC or the idea that they actually exist and do what they do? I have no idea what anyone is paid but to me that is not the important point I wanted to highlight – it was more about how people in whatever sector they work in, get attacked for having the seeming audacity to try to move things forward.

    Its as if people have a default mode of putting something down, and all the more so when it is related to us resolving the sectarianism that splits us. With this mindset (which I have to say is very widespread) there is less chance of progress here.

    It can be a toxic mindset, maybe pathological, certainly habitual, and it needs to be mirrored back, challenged, and confronted. Part of that is to have people explain why they hold such views, why they value the negative.

    It could be that there are excellent reasons to have the negative opinions of these types of aspirational initiatives but once they are heard and understood (and acknowledged) maybe we can all move on, which I am assuming no one will argue is something that needs to happen.

  • Gopher

    Please spare me the sermon from the publically funded invent a “forsaken land” pulpit. This is just another carriage on the gravy train. Lets have a breakdown of what these “saints” have actually achieved and how much money has been spent.

  • In Jacqueline Irwin’s introduction, she commented how those in the voluntary sector (vs community sector) have contributed to peace, without payment or reward, i.e. not taxpayer subsidised.

    There are surely some saints, as you put it, who provide out of altruism.

  • Sharpie

    Good question. Sure humour yourself – phone them up and ask. I’d imagine there’s someone there right now. Be sure to let us all know what they tell you.

  • Brian O’Neill

    Just out of curiosity do you think we should give no money to any community relations work at all? We give no funding or attention to the past or sectarianism?

  • Brian O’Neill
  • Brian O’Neill

    All their reports and accounts are here:

  • Gopher

    1/ Nope
    2/ Thank god for small mercies

  • Gopher

    Over 1 million in wages plus pension and eveyone gets a week off on the sick a year. I dont think the CRC will be missed.

  • Gopher

    Thank you, bit of a soup kitchen

  • The CRC isn’t going anywhere, “Gopher”. But do you have an opinion on the value that those in the voluntary sector not on the public purse have upon our peace process?

  • Gopher

    Pity because its a waste of good money. If I’m not paying them through taxes whether it be wages or expenses the voluntary sector can feel free to be as ineffectual as they like. “Peace process”, thats a good Troubles industry catch phrase and everyone has a different destination.