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Justine Huxley, reflects on service, resilience and improvisation.  This brief interview was completed for the Kalliopeia Foundation, who fund St Ethelburga’s programme, Listening to each other, Listening to Earth.

KF:  What’s one thing that you want people to know about your work?

JH:   St Ethelburga’s core aim is to build community resilience for times of ecological and social emergency. We aspire to courageously face the possibility of climate collapse and prepare for it. At the same time, we hold an unwavering vision for deeper transformation, for a world rooted in our interbeing with each other and with Earth. We offer spaces where people can gather and be nourished by that shared vision, and we work with others to plant the seeds of that transformation in people’s hearts, in our communities, and in the earth.

Our work is organised around four key principles, which are reflected in the stories of our centre, which has a very unusual history.  These principles are:  values into action, opportunity in crisis, community across differences, protect what is sacred.

These 4 values, for us, provide a map for navigating these times of disintegration and opportunity, in which the old systems are falling but the new has not yet been born. We see a real need for such maps. Probably many of the people reading this interview are awake to a new story of interbeing, but there are many who feel increasingly fractured. They live in a disjointed reality, showing up for their regular job and carrying on as usual—but watching disaster unfold globally and feeling powerless. A set of values like these can be an inner container, enabling us to internalise the situation we are in, to face it with courage and integrity. Then, rather than living in an illusion, we can let go of what no longer makes sense and begin to repurpose ourselves for what is coming.

There is an urgency about this work of preparation. We are all needed—to stand in solidarity with people of all races, faiths, and social classes; to bear witness to the greater transition that is happening behind the unfolding collapse; and most importantly, to carry a light within us, a vision, numinous and mythic, powerful enough to transform our relationship with life. We need to hold that vision like a baton, passing it from generation to generation, until a new, more beautiful world can arise from the ashes of our broken civilisation.

KF:  What do you see happening in your field—or beyond, in the world—that you’re really excited about?

JH: I’m energised by the sense of truth-telling that has swept the planet: those brave and articulate enough to name the magnitude of the crisis we are in—many of them young people—are no longer willing to be silenced by the forces of denial that would have us stay calm and carry on while we hurtle towards mass extinction. And that truth-telling includes the voices speaking out about racial, climate, and social injustice. We cannot live the story of interbeing in any meaningful way until those wounds of history are made fully visible and redressed.

I’m energised too seeing the compassion unleashed by the pandemic. It’s heartening to watch how, when tangible need is on our doorstep—like our patron saint in the seventh century—so many respond instinctively by reaching out, by caring, and by rediscovering what really matters. These things give me hope.

KF:  What does service mean to you?

JH: When I was in my twenties, I worked briefly as a counsellor for a social care agency in a deprived area. Until I was faced with the profound and debilitating needs that many of these people lived with, nothing in my life had really called me to show up with my full resources. They taught me how to be present with all of myself, for the sake of others. By leaving my own concerns at the door on the way in, I could show up empty of self-preoccupation, and in that space, healing could happen. And there was so much joy in it. So much freedom.

Since that time, I’ve been blessed with incredible role models who have taught me the meaning of real service. They show me that when we trust enough to sacrifice our own self-interest and give ourselves more deeply to life, that we receive so much; no other way of life could be as rewarding.

Service also gives us true resilience. If we contemplate a future of ecological collapse, with protecting ourselves in mind, it can be terrifying. If we contemplate that future through the lens of what we can give, it’s an entirely different experience. We can use the depth of need around us to summon parts of ourselves we might otherwise never live. Then there can be joy, opportunity, togetherness, and alchemy.

KF:  What did you want to be when you grew up?

JH: What a fun question—I wanted to be a dancer! A part of me still does! Having flirted with dance in many forms throughout my life, I still dance modern jive and west coast swing from time to time, but mostly I just aspire to bring the same quality of flexibility, improvisation, and passion to how I move through my working day.

 

Justine leads on vision, strategy, management and fundraising.  Her raison d’etre is bringing people together and co-creating innovative projects rooted in worldview of interdependence.  Her biggest achievement is building a dedicated and passionate team, who she feels privileged to work alongside.  She has a Ph.D in psychology and her first job (usefully) involved training an impossibly grumpy camel on a small Danish island. Her first book, Generation Y, Spirituality and Social Change is a reflection of six years of work with the younger generation at St Ethelburga's.     Justine can give workshops and keynotes on:  faith and the future; sacred activism; building resilience for a dystopian world; peace-making and conflict transformation and the role of inner work in effective social change.  

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