End of year message 2021

Canon Sarah Snyder shares the Rose Castle Foundation's end of year message to all our friends, colleagues, and supporters in 2021.

 

Greetings Dear Friends and Colleagues,  

Here we are at the end of another extraordinary year of change, uncertainty, challenge and crisis for so many. Our heart goes out to all who are struggling with loss and disappointment.  

We too have witnessed the increased fracturing of individuals, families, and communities in so many ways, and yet also the power of strong and dependable relationships to carry us through the ups and downs. 

Rose Castle Foundation’s vision for a reconciled world recognises the power of relationship: between ourselves and our Creator God, with others we live and work beside – and those we turn our back on – and with all the created world/environment. That might seem an overwhelming ask at times like this, but relational strength is the root of our wellbeing, individually as well as collectively. And it is the smallest steps that make the greatest difference. 

This year we launched our Habits of a Reconciler series, highlighting 12 distinctive characteristics that emerge out of decades observing outstanding reconcilers in contexts of violent conflict – those who take risks to cross personal and communal divides to de-escalate rising conflict and build trust where it is broken. These habits are as relevant in the West as in many of the communities from which they draw inspiration. Indeed, I often wonder if our Western contexts are more in need of healing across political, ideological, racial and other significant societal divides, albeit with many more physical protections around us. Protective walls, as always, serve to divide as much as to keep us safe.

Our Rose commitment is to equip a generation of reconcilers with the tools and motivation to bridge, and where appropriate dismantle, damaging divides. Not to bury or undermine our very real differences, but to identify ways to collaborate despite them, for the sake of the common good.

This year we have brought together very diverse individuals and communities in shared spaces so they can listen and learn from one another before identifying collaborative action at home projects. They include Jewish, Christian and Muslim seminarians from across 5 continents, NHS chaplains, community leaders from the North of England, UK church leaders, university students, and researchers from Al Azhar, Princeton, Cambridge and Durham, to name a few.

We hosted our first in-person workshop at the Rose Castle estate since the start of the pandemic, welcoming community leaders from Toxteth in October. It was a powerful reminder of the quality of hospitality given and received when we are able to meet and learn in physical proximity. We were also privileged to work with Odyssey Networks, a US-based film company whose award-winning documentary, Stranger-Sister, features an unlikely friendship between two American Jewish and Muslim women in response to rising antisemitic and Islamophobic sentiment, including violent attacks on places of worship in their communities. Together they mobilised an active network of Jewish and Muslim women and girls called Salaam-Shalom. Our team supported in-person follow-up to the film, facilitating brave conversations (including over Israel-Palestine) not usually possible in a shared space, and exploring the role and challenges of inter-faith dialogue and action. We convened programmes with Jewish, Christian and Muslim seminaries in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and New York, as well as at Princeton University. Back in the UK we brought together faith and community leaders at Westminster Abbey, the New North London Synagogue and the Woolf Institute in Cambridge during UK inter-faith week in November 2021, exploring how to build resilient relationships across religious and cultural divides.  

Although we place huge value on person-to-person encounter, many of our programmes this year have had to be virtual, and we are so inspired by newly realised potential to build trust in an online, face-to-face environment. The team developed a virtual Rose Castle using a state of the art, interactive platform which enables every participant to share their voice as well as their creativity. It includes different kinds of learning spaces – from interactive workshops to intimate fireside chats, kitchen breakouts to outdoor reflection. This has now been included within a virtual learning platform for our alumni to share, enabling ongoing training, reunions, shared best practice, and other ways to continue their onward formation as reconcilers. 

Our core programmatic offering now focuses on: 

1. Encounter programmes, bringing participants together across a particular communal or campus divide, followed by a collaborative action at home project

2. Application of the 12 Habits of a Reconciler within their faith, cultural, workplace and community contexts, and sharing the outcomes.

3. Membership of an active Reconciler Network with online access to further training, resources, peer and mentor support. 

In all this we so value our committed partnerships with universities, seminaries, faith and peace-building networks, places of worship and communities. Together we identify the best participants for our programmes – those with potential to model and lead across societal divides – and enable their ongoing formation as reconcilers in action. We especially look for partners who share our commitment to leadership formation, so if you would like to connect us with your own, or known, educational institutions, we would love to explore a partnership with them also. Do be in touch with myself or one of the team if so.  

We’re delighted that following many conversations with trusted advisors, friends and key stakeholders, RCF now has a ‘New Strategic Plan for 2022 to 2025’, which will help us chart our course and future direction over the next four years. This plan identifies 8 key priorities, including the ongoing formation of reconcilers, and growing a bursary fund for those who’d otherwise be unable to attend our programmes.

Even as the new Covid variant threatens to sweep through our homes and communities once again, we still look out on a hopeful horizon in 2022, bringing people together across divides, whether in-person or virtually. Our online programmes will continue unabated, and if travel permits, we start the year hosting a week’s residential training with Princeton University, leading a ‘Journey of Hope’ retreat for UK Christian leaders at Rose Castle, and a second Emerging Peacemakers Programme with Christian, Muslim, and Jewish partners for up to 60 youth from the UK and the US. 

To enable all this, I could not be prouder to introduce you to our extraordinarily talented team: Lakshmi, Anna, Joe, Neil, Hannah, Phoebe, Owen and Isabel, with Nadiya and Anne leading the Story Tent initiative in schools, and Georgia currently on maternity leave. Each brings diverse skills, experience and many, many gifts (such as the regular home cooking we enjoy in the office at Rose!). I am so grateful to each of them for their passion and commitment to this work. As so often, it is the strength of relationships which carry us through the ups and downs of every changing moment. 

Finally, a huge thank you to all of you, our colleagues, friends, and supporters, for another year journeying with us and contributing so much in so many ways. We are immensely grateful for the final total of £13,667.48 given through our recent Christmas campaign – well over the £10,000 target - which will directly help us to continue delivering our reconciling mission in 2022.

We pray the Peace of God throughout the change and uncertainty of this season, wish a joyful Christmas to those of you who are celebrating, and really look forward to re-connecting in 2022. 

Warm greetings, 

Sarah

RCF Team at Christmas Dinner

The RCF team shares a meal in Rose Castle to mark the end of the year.

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