June was absolutely wonderful and flew by so quickly.
From Mama Foltz visiting to the YAV retreat on Iona to traveling to New Orleans for the Fund for Theological Education conference, what a full month.
All of my regular activities around EBM have wrapped up for the year. July is very much the travel month for people in Belfast. (Vacations are timed to get out of town during the parade season.)
Speaking of parade season, I saw my first parade in Belfast last night.
It was one of the early 12th parades... in memory of the WWI battle, the Battle of the Somme.
The parade passed by on the street off of which we live and was definitely a unique experience.
Orange orders from all over Belfast and other cities in Northern Ireland were out marching in full glory - from uniforms to pipe and drum bands to colorful orange banners.
Definitely a taste of what to expect on the 12th coming up...
For those of you in need of a history lesson, let me recap the significance of the 12th:
William of Orange (yes, of William & Mary fame) fought the Catholic James II at the Battle of the Boyne on July 1st 1690.
Due to James II's Catholic faith, parliament had invited William to take the throne... Not entirely random as his wife, Mary II, was the daughter of James II.
And you thought you had family problems.
Well, the Battle of the Boyne pitted James II's Irish supporters (and some French support) against the Protestant supporters of William.
William won the day, and in effect, ensured British control of Ireland for the next couple hundred years.
So, Orange orders (similar in practice to Masonic Lodges/ Elk Lodges/ name any male-dominated orders lodges) were first formed in 1796 and are extremely pro-Unionist (aka pro-British).
So, while the battle of the Boyne took place on July 1st in the Julian calendar, it is now celebrated today by the dates of the Gregorian calendar - July 11th into the 12th.
Not sure what the 12th has in store this year, but from the bonfires currently being constructed (many of them having large quantities of tires) and the recent skirmishes suggest that it could be a really interesting day.
In the meantime, I am trying to enjoy my last moments in Belfast and make the most of continuing opportunities to reflect on how to bring peace to a divided society.
It was really interesting to hear Irish President Mary McAleese's thoughts on the matter when she came to visit EBM last week. Yes, I did get to shake her hand!!!
She actually grew up in Belfast, and her husband grew up in Short Strand, the Catholic neighborhood of East Belfast.
She is an extremely intelligent speaker, and it was great for all members of the community represented (from paramilitary leaders to community workers) to hear the reminder that while there is much work to be done, there is hope.
In peace and grace.