Below, Manchester College student and OEP intern Kay Guyer draws the Alexander Mack Seal as a symbol of the meeting’s theme, with the heart placed at the intersection of the cross. Photos by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Sonja Griffith (center below) was presented the annual Revelation 7:9 Diversity Award from the Intercultural Advisory Committee, which is shown here surrounding her with applause. She is receiving a hug from Duane Grady, who worked with the denomination’s intercultural ministry for many years.
“I hope we are all looking forward to being in a sacred space…and just love each other,” said Rubén Deoleo, director of Intercultural Ministries, as he welcomed participants to the Church of the Brethren’s 13th Intercultural Consultation and Celebration.
It was a fitting opening to a meeting on the theme “United by the Cross of Peace” (Ephesians 2:14-22). Approximately 100 Brethren from across the US and Puerto Rico gathered April 28-30 in Mills River, N.C., hosted by His Way Church of the Brethren/Iglesia Jesucristo El Camino and Southeastern District.
On Earth Peace (OEP) offered a day and a half on peacemaking. Matt Guynn, OEP coordinator of peace witness, led several sessions with help from a team including Samuel Sarpiya, church planter in Rockford, Ill., and a nonviolence organizer for OEP; David Jehnsen, nonviolence educator from the area of Columbus, Ohio; Carol Rose, co-director for operations for Christian Peacemaker Teams; Bob Hunter of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship in Richmond, Ind.; and Kay Guyer, Manchester College student and a member of the 2011 Youth Peace Travel Team. An afternoon on mentoring and coaching in churches was given by Stan Dueck, the denomination’s director of Transforming Practices.
Each day included an evening worship service, moments for prayer, music from many different traditions, and warm fellowship during break times and meals provided by the host church and district volunteers. Concurrent Spanish-English interpretation was provided.
Throughout the weekend, speakers linked peacemaking to central themes of Christianity, in particular the love that Jesus expressed for the whole world, symbolized by the cross. General secretary Stan Noffsinger greeted the gathering, for example, with his conviction from scripture that “there are no ifs, ands, or maybes: love our neighbors as ourselves.” His Way associate pastor Carol Yeazell, while listing areas of the world represented, said, “Christ’s body is all over the world. He came for each and every one of us.”
Guynn characterized the OEP-led sessions as being about the “holistic peace of Christ” that “ripples out to issues in the community…issues where we challenge the situations in the world where there’s injustice and violence.”
Participants shared in Bible study of the Sermon on the Mount and Acts focusing on concepts of peace, and learned about nonviolence theory including the six basic principles of Kingian nonviolence and the three levels of violence posited by Dom Helder Camara. The meeting also identified barriers to peace or “bricks in the wall of hostility,” and talked about how Christ’s peace might break in. In small groups, participants shared about situations of violence and oppression, practiced listening to each other, and prayed for healing.
Each section of the OEP presentation invited responses from the group. Many focused on immigration issues, and in discussion the group identified many different types of violence suffered by immigrants: economic exploitation, targeting by gangs as well as law enforcement, anti-immigrant laws, ICE raids, deaths while crossing the border, family separations, discrimination, drug violence, immigrant children’s loss of cultural and family connections.
“How is God leading you in the midst of this? How might the love of Christ be available?” Guynn asked at one point during a session in which people listed “faces of violence” in their own communities. Some minutes later, a woman from Caimito, P.R., responded: “In the name of God, the reign of violence needs to be expelled out of human life.”
Preaching for worship also addressed the theme of unity through the cross of peace. Jehnsen spoke for the opening service, saying, “We cannot participate in the violation of God’s creation.” He traced the development of nonviolence theory coming out of the New Testament, the historic peace churches, and the work of Martin Luther King Jr.
Jesus came to shine “the light of love, the light of mercy, the light of truth,” preached Hunter on Friday evening. “The vocation of the Christian is to shine the light” in times of darkness, he said, telling stories of nonviolent action that has shined light on situations of violence and oppression. “The gospel of peace is a revolution, and it is a place of reconciliation.”
Friday’s service also included presentation of the Revelation 7:9 Diversity Award to Sonja Griffith, executive minister for Western Plains District and one of those who helped found the Intercultural Consultation. She was host pastor of the first consultation, held in 1999.
Three people spoke for the closing service celebrating ethnic diversity: Gladys Encarnación of Long Green Valley Church of the Brethren, Glen Arm, Md., who gave the message in Spanish; Timothy L. Monn, pastor of Midland (Va.) Church of the Brethren; and Founa Augustin, of the Haitian Brethren community in Miami, Fla.
Augustin and Monn, by coincidence, both rephrased the theme scripture in their own ways. “To follow the cross in unity with mutual agreement, for the sake of the love of Jesus,” stated Augustin. Monn displayed his version on an overhead screen, beginning with verse 11: “Therefore, remember that you who are… Black… Hispanic… Anglo… Haitian… Korean… Native American… Pennsylvania Dutch…. You who were once separated from each other have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, he has made the many groups one…. making you all Brothers and Sisters–in Christ. You are BRETHREN!!!!”
The Intercultural Advisory Committee that organizes the consultation includes Founa Augustin, Barbara Daté, Rubén Deoleo (staff), Thomas Dowdy, Robert Jackson, Nadine Monn, Marisel Olivencia, Gilbert Romero, and Dennis Webb. Webcasts were offered on the Bethany Seminary website by a team including Enten and Mary Eller, David Sollenberger, and Larry Glick.
View recordings at www.bethanyseminary.edu/webcasts/intercultural2011 . A photo album is at www.brethren.org/site/PhotoAlbumUser?AlbumID=14833&view=UserAlbum .
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