our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness Phaedr. 244a


playing for change

Saturday, June 16, 2012
7:00 PM at Coffee On the Corner, Beer Garden (enter through front door and walk to back), Beverly St, Staunton. Video, "Playing For Change" and discussion. Lt refreshments available for purchase. Free and open to public. Sponsored by Occupy Staunton.

Stand By Me became our Ulster Project song. John sings it exactly like (you'd swear) John Lennon...

Wonder why we don't have some projects going in Virginia. It unites a community, breaks down walls between churches even here. Strength and love to this work.

The Ulster Project
from the Alliance Review, Alliance, Ohio USA
Aug 1, 1997

by Deborah Conner

Wednesday at noon, twenty-four teens linked arms, smiling through
tears for a last group photo. It was the tenth time this scene had
played out in Alliance, echoing simultaneously in thirty other US
cities in a dozen states. The Ulster Project was completing its cycle,
the last event shared in a month of sharing. Behind the teens, two
vans waited in the Trinity Church parking lot to take half of them off
on the first leg of their journey home to Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The other half would stay behind, treasuring the month of bonding,
friendship, and growth. All would tell you that the experience changed
their lives; past participants would add that it will continue to
enrich them in ways they will discover for years.

The project began twenty-two years ago as an experiment in easing the
tensions of the polarized factions in Northern Ireland. These
factions, drawn along religious lines -- Catholic and Protestant --
represent a political, non-theological conflict spawn by the long,
turbulent, and sometimes ironic history of the island. Father Kerry
Waterstone, an Irish Anglican priest, drew on his experiences of the
successful American ‘melting pot’, hoping it might serve as an example
of tolerance and understanding between diverse cultural groups for
Northern Irish youth. Matched with American teens and their families,
the Irish teens, both Catholic and Protestant, are chosen for their
future leadership potential. Here, they enjoy a month of fun and
self-discovery, bonding with their American counterparts, their
families, and each other. Waterstone hoped that the families would be
representative of average American life, allowing the teens to observe
and experience our diverse approach to everyday decision making and
problem solving.

Integral to the program are the many churches that have united to make
all this possible, donating space, resources, and welcoming the
project families to their services. During the month, four Time of
Discovery sessions are held. These are non-proselytizing sessions
developed to help the teens take responsibility for themselves through
the examination and building of relationships, and the discovery of
conflict resolution skills. It is "a time to build confidence", to
understand conflict and find that resolution can be a constructive
process with positive results.

Through the project, Ulster teen Michael Morgan says he has learned
about trust and giving other people a chance to get their points
across, about "not judging people by their beliefs." American teen
Jessica Montgomery shares the opinion of Northern Irish Constance
McGrath that, "This month’s been the best month of my life." The group
spent its last night together reviewing the month by watching the many
slides and videos made of the events. There was a touching moment when
they watched images of themselves dancing to a live band just a few
weeks before. The singer was singing the song, "Stand by Me", and the
teens spontaneously joined in together to sing along.

Former teens from the project, now grown into students and
professionals, sometimes parents themselves, look back with similar
memories of the experience. These were the teens who also finished the
project vowing to remain friends, and it’s heartening how often they
have succeeded. They have returned to be in each others weddings,
hosting the Americans back to Ireland, and the Irish back to America.
Though the Ulster Project finishes its month, it lives on in its
members attitudes. As Jacqueline Turner, a teen from the 1992 project
writes, "I realized at a formative stage in my life that there are
very few irreconcilable differences between any communities. The
feeling of love and unqualified acceptance that I found in Alliance
has instilled in me a confidence and peace that continually warms me."
Dareyl Armitage, a participant in 1990, writes, "The Ulster Project
made sure that the ‘them’ and ‘us’ dichotomy was erased from my mind.
I became a dedicated ecumenist. I came to know Protestant and Catholic
teenagers (both American and Northern Irish) not for their religious
labels but as human beings."

Alliance as a community also continues to benefit from the project.
The families feel an invisible bond, having had unique opportunities
to solve the problems of planning, funding, and carrying out the many
events. Lines of communication and camaraderie developed between them,
honing their problem solving skills as well. The churches, businesses,
and civic groups supporting the project have also had the opportunity
to work together in ways that can only make a community stronger.
Everyone involved with the Ulster Project has become united by the
pursuit of a common goal.

When the night has come
And the land is dark
And the moon is the only light we see
No I won't be afraid
I won't be afraid
Just as long as you stand by me

Stand by me, stand by me
Stand by me, stand by me
Stand by me, stand by me

If the sea that we look upon
Should it tumble and fall
And the mountains should crumble in the sea
You know that I won't, I won't cry
I won't shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

And darling, darling
Stand by me, stand by me
Stand by me, stand by me
Stand by me, stand by me
Stand by me, stand by me
Stand by me, stand by me
Stand by me, stand by me

You are the light that shines in my life
I reach out my hands to be with you
Let's keep on believing
You give me a reason, a reason to smile

Stand be me

If the sky and the mountains tumble to the sea
I'll be there as long as you stand by me
All the world come together, live in harmony
I can feel your love, long as you stand by me

Like the moon feeds the ocean, let me be your light
Won't you stand by, oh baby stand by, stand by me
All the world come together, live in harmony
Baby won't you stand......

Words and Music by Ben E. King, Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller

 Deborah and her family have twice been hosts for the Ulster Project,
and had the honor of having their house rolled magnificently with
industrial sized rolls of tp. Glorious...