Church of the Brethren director of news services, Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, is reporting from the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) in Jamaica through May 25, the culminating event of the Decade to Overcome Violence. She hopes to post a journal entry each day as a personal reflection on the event. Here is the journal entry for Sunday, May 22:
Wonderful worship today! Here are some moments I’ll treasure in my memory of this peace convocation:
-- The presence of that "still small voice" in the midst of the whirlwind, as unprogrammed Friends sat in a small silent circle for worship first thing this morning.
-- The prophetic "prologue" to the big ecumenical worship service later in the morning, proclaimed by worship leader Ralph Hoyte, United Church minister from Jamaica: "And it came to pass that in the year of our Lord, 2011, the Global Church gathered and abided in the city of Kingston, Jamaica, to celebrate the triumph of peace over violence and righteousness over injustice."
-- Singing to the sound of steel drums, a Jamaican hymn by Richard Ho Lung:
"...Enter into de sanctuary, mek we walk-a-down there,
Swaying to the breeze with the God who reigns in peace,
Mek we walk-a-down there....
"...Enter into de sanctuary, let us go to God’s house,
Run and catch the breeze with the God who reigns in peace,
Let us go to God’s house."
-- A video message from Ecumenical Patriarch H.A.H. Bartholomew of the Orthodox tradition, which included these words: "We have it in our power either to increase the hurt inflicted on our world or to contribute toward its healing. Once again, it is a matter of choice."
-- US Ambassador Pamela Bridgewater and her husband attending worship with us this morning. Her choice to be with this peace gathering is an important statement.
-- A call to "acclaim each other" as a symbol of what peace truly is. Worship leaders Hoyte and Caribbean Conference of Churches president Oluwakemi Linda Banks led in a moving affirmation of children, calling forward the few who were in the congregation to be recognized. Then the women were asked to stand, to applause; then the men stood and received applause; and finally it was the turn of the youth. As each group stood, they were also asked to sing a song, signifying their commitment to faith and to peace.
-- A powerful sermon by Burchell K. Taylor, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Kingston, on the passage in Mark 4:35-41 in which Jesus and his disciples get in a boat to "go across to the other side" of the sea, and encounter a fierce storm along the way. Taylor reflected on the sea as a symbol of the barriers that keep people apart in our world, noting that it was Gentile territory on the other side. He spoke about "the need for border crossings in the interest of creating transformative relations for the common good." The trip may be costly, "threatening and dangerous forces" may rage at the faithful along the way, but "the community of discipleship must be prepared for the challenge.... Crossing of borders, heralding and indicating...that life, righteousness, and justice are possible."
-- When the worship leaders called for "a big hand for peace," the clapping went on and on and on, and seemed like it would never stop.
(More reports, interviews, and journals are planned from the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica, through May 25 as Internet access allows. A photo album is being started at http://support.brethren.org/site/PhotoAlbumUser?view=UserAlbum&AlbumID=14337. Peace witness staff Jordan Blevins has started blogging from the convocation, go the Brethren Blog at http://blog.brethren.org/ . Find webcasts provided by the WCC at www.overcomingviolence.org.)