Church of the Brethren Newsline
September 21, 2007
More than 90 congregations and other communities associated with the Church of the Brethren, including groups in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Nigeria, are sponsoring events this week as part of the International Day of Prayer for Peace, Sept. 21. “This initiative has clearly tapped into a widespread desire to take action about violence,” says campaign organizer Mimi Copp.
The response within the Church of the Brethren has been tremendous to a four-month campaign initiated by the Brethren Witness/Washington Office and On Earth Peace. The initial goal was for 40 congregations to plan prayer events as part of the International Day of Prayer for Peace, being observed for the fourth time this year by the World Council of Churches. The day coincides with the United Nations’ International Day of Peace, which has been observed since the early 1980s.
Church of the Brethren groups, including congregations, district conferences, colleges, and other institutions, are planning a wide variety of events in order to raise concerns about violence in their own communities and the world. The 93 participating groups creatively interpreted the meaning of “prayers for peace” in preparing a wide variety of events. Plans range from moments of prayer to entire weekend schedules.
Some congregations are initiating such events for the first time, and others have participated in previous peace prayer efforts. Prayer vigils or services are planned to take place on the grounds of church properties, around peace poles, along busy roads and other in public spaces, in prayer rooms, and in schools. Events include candlelight prayer walks, fellowship meals, hymn sings, Bible studies, sermons, and worship services. One youth group is meeting in a pizzeria to pray, another is visiting a local peace museum; yet another has initiated a prayer walk from a local park to the county courthouse. Many events are co-planned with other Christian communities and churches or with other religious bodies: Jewish, Muslim, Hindu-Jain. Events are taking place at noon, in the evening, and in ongoing vigils from 12 to 24 hours in length, or just briefly at 7 a.m. as people are passing by to work.
For example, Peace Covenant, a Church of the Brethren congregation in Durham, N.C., is planning an ecumenical vigil at the site of the greatest number of incidents of gun violence in Durham, which also will focus on remembering those killed in the Virginia Tech shootings. Kate Spire, the Brethren pastor involved in planning, writes, “We are not just planning an event, we are creating a community that can transform our local culture into one of Passionate Loving Humble Peace Makers.”
Carrie Eikler, co-pastor of Morgantown (W. Va.) Church of the Brethren, who is organizing an interfaith service as part of the local interfaith ministerial alliance, shared, “One of the goals is to bring people together who–for reasons of religion, economic status, geographic location, etc.–may not otherwise come together. Our prayers for peace, even acknowledging our sitting together to a meal as a prayer for peace, will be the unifying force.” Other specifically interfaith vigils are taking place in South Bend, Ind.; Fremont, Calif.; Monroeville, Pa.; Oakton, Va.; and Midland, Mich.; and other communities.
Mike Martin, a newly ordained minister at Glendale (Calif.) Church of the Brethren, writes of their congregation’s plans for a joint prayer vigil with a local peace group: “We hope to let others in our community know that there is a group of people in Glendale that believe in the message of peace and love that God originally intended for us to live by. We intend to give our community another way to think about the condition of our world. We intend to give our community the invitation to come and be a part of a group of people that lives what they believe and to let people know that this is possible to do. We want people to know that they can have a place to be, that practices brotherly love and peace and does what we can to eradicate violence that surrounds us.”
Several congregations are planting or rededicating peace poles in their church yards or a community location, which read “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in several languages. Dianne Nelson of Nokesville (Va.) Church of the Brethren writes, “I pray that this new addition to our front lawn in the heart of our community will draw lots of attention, not only from the town but from our own congregants, and cause some to stop and think, and then maybe to come in and ask a question. Then maybe we can have a conversation. Who knows where God will lead that kind of flow!”
Church of the Brethren congregations in Puerto Rico are planning prayers services to take place in the streets outside their church buildings, and a request has been passed from the headquarters of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria) to its 400 church councils, inviting participation. Sunday Wadzani, a member of EYN participating in prayer events this week, writes, “God promised to be with us when ever we come together in His name. I have a strong belief that by coming together in prayer like this so as to bring peace in the world, God will surely hear us. This is a unique prayer that God will surely be happy of, and I cannot afford to miss the blessing that will follow.”
Many individuals and churches that are participating are taking a first step in peace leadership in their communities. Morris Gill, a lifelong member of Daleville (Va.) Church of the Brethren, shared the positive impact of reaching out to congregation members as they prepared for the day, and reflected, “Through prayer, we feel that people may be able to overcome the helplessness associated with violence, and be empowered to look for ways to make a difference.”
For more information, contact Matt Guynn, coordinator for Peace Witness, On Earth Peace, 765-977-9649.
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The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail go to http://listserver.emountain.net/mailman/listinfo/newsline. Submit news to the editor at email@example.com. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.