Carlisle vicar's key role for Rose Castle peace centre plans

A Carlisle vicar has been appointed chief executive of a Foundation behind plans to create a reconciliation centre at Cumbria's Rose Castle. 

Canon John Libby has served as vicar of St James Church in Denton Holme and its daughter church St James Cummersdale for 18 years. 

Now he is to help lead on the plans for the international centre of reconciliation at Rose Castle, which was previously home to the Bishops of Carlisle for 800 years. 

John said: “It is a great privilege and an exciting challenge to be 'in at the start' of such a visionary project. 

“My role involves laying the foundations and creating the structures required for the peace and reconciliation themes to take root and flourish. One of these themes, the relationship between religious and secular faith communities, is of particular interest to me and needs to be explored in many international contexts. 

“As well as taking operational responsibilities I will also help develop resources and lead the Christian devotional rhythm that underpins the vision.” 

The Foundation was set up in early 2014 after Rose Castle's owners, The Church Commissioners, announced plans to sell the building. Previously home to the Bishops of Carlisle, it became vacant in 2011. 

The Rose Castle Foundation aims to develop reconciliation in various ways: 

  • Within and between faith communitites,
  • Across the religious/secular divide, and
  • With the land and environment, via a conservation project in the grounds. 

John now plans to lead the Foundation forward in developing a business plan and refurbishing the castle to make it fit for purpose. The Foundation is developing links with similar initiatives in Coventry Cathedral and St Ethelburga's in London. 

Sarah Snyder, Directior of the Rose Castle Foundation, said: “We are all too aware of the impact of conflict and misunderstanding between communities both locally and internationally, especially those in which faith identity plays a key role. 

“The Rose Castle Foundation builds on many years experience helping communities to better understand their differences, rather than seeking compromise or artificial common ground. It is still possible to work together for the benefit of communities and children without the need to agree in all things. 

“The Foundation brings together, face-to-face, young and emerging leaders who rarely or never meet in their own context, either through fear, misunderstanding or political separation. 

“With the support of trained mediators, they learn to step into another's shoes for a little while, to see the world from their perspective and to understand how they themselves are viewed by the other. 

“They learn to articulate their distinctives, to challenge negative stereotypes and to develop strategies for working more effectively together. They also work alongside current faith leaders to build bridges across traditional divides – whether ecumenically within one faith tradition, between faith communities, or with the secular world.” 

The Foundation is working with a number of universities and other organisations to deliver high quality programming from Autumn 2015. 

John's new role will see him draw on his experience in Christian mission and ministry as well as the business skills he honed before being ordained, when working in international banking. Starting with Rothschild's merchant bank he went on to several senior positions that included looking after the global money market operations of a large USA bank, dividing his time between Los Angeles and London. 

He and his wife, Daphne and their three children came to St James in 1996. 

The Rt Rev'd James Newcome, Bishop of Carlisle and the Chariman of Trustees of the Rose Castle Foundation, said: “I am delighted that Canon John Libby has been appointed as Chief Executive of the Rose Castle Foundation.  

“He has had a very distinguished career at St James’ Carlisle over a long period and is ready now for a new challenge. He has exactly the skills and personality we need at the beginning of this exciting new venture.  

“This represents a considerable act of faith on his part and I greatly look forward to working with him in his new capacity.”

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