Monday, September 07, 2009

Congregations plan for the International Day of Prayer for Peace.

Brethren congregations are invited to take part in the On Earth Peace campaign to observe the International Day of Prayer for Peace on Sept. 21--and so far more than 100 congregations and groups have registered to take part through On Earth Peace. The International Day of Prayer for Peace is an initiative of the World Council of Churches.

Following are just a few of the stories from congregations and groups that are planning events, provided by the On Earth Peace campaign organizers Michael Colvin and Mimi Copp.

Manassas (Va.) Church of the Brethren and Unity in Community:
The congregation is taking part in a vigil with Unity in Community, a local multi-faith organization in Manassas. Unity in the Community has been observing the International Day of Prayer for Peace since the beginning of the On Earth Peace campaign three years ago. Illana Naylor, one of the organizers, said that working on the event "has been a joy." The event carries the theme "Healing for Our Community," and will take place at the Reformed Jewish synagogue, Congregation Ner Shalom. Rabbi Jennifer Wiener attended the event last year at the Islamic center in Manassas, the Dar Al Noor Masjid, held in the middle of the Muslim holy days of Ramadan. The rabbi was warmly greeted by Muslims at the mosque, and spontaneously offered to hold this year's International Day of Prayer for Peace event at her congregation. This year, Sept. 20 marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and so it was agreed to hold the event on Sept. 13. Naylor is particularly excited about having the composer of the "Suite for Peace," Ahmad Nadimi, on hand to conduct a performance of his orchestral work for choir. She reports that accommodations to the customs and traditions of the participating groups has grown each year, resulting in greater tolerance between faith groups.
First Church of the Brethren in San Diego, Calif.:
The congregation is part of an exciting listening initiative. Linda Williams, one of the organizers, reports, "The San Diego church has wanted for years to get more closely connected with--and to better serve--our immediate neighborhood. We were recently blessed with the most perfect open door one could imagine!" Marigold Hernly, who has recently become a part of the church family, is closely connected with neighborhood groups and put the church in contact with a facilitator for the listening process connected with the California Endowment Grant. The endowment has chosen City Heights, the area of San Diego where the church is located, for a Healthy Cities Grant, part of the "Building Health Communities Initiative." "This grant will provide more than $10 million over the next 10 years to work on youth and health issues--including preventing Youth Violence!" Williams reports. "The California Endowment has given grants to 14 other locations in California, but the grant to City Heights is the only one where the decision about what project to pursue is being made at the grassroots level via a listening initiative." First Church of the Brethren San Diego is opening its building to host a listening process meeting for neighbors to give input about how grant money may be used. Williams anticipates that in the City Heights neighborhood, the focus may include gang violence, school attendance, and nutrition. The issues that arise from listening efforts in City Heights will form the substance of the prayers that will be raised by San Diego First Church of the Brethren and the other participating congregations during their International Day of Prayer for Peace vigil.
Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren, South Bend, Ind.:
The South Bend International Day of Prayer for Peace committee formed three years ago with On Earth Peace's first campaign, at the impetus of Lois Clark, a member of the congregation. This year the group is holding a vigil on Sept. 21 and then an extended listening initiative that will culminate on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Clark reports the group has "given the spirit full reign here" in their desire to have a season of listening particularly about youth violence, which they see as a public health crisis. Driving this effort is a diverse group of people and organizations including United Religious Community, Church Women United, CURE (a group that holds a prayer circle on each Thursday after a shooting or killing), TAP (Transforming Action into Power), Mennonite pastor Andre Stoner who has organized the Center for Peace and Nonviolence, Michiana Peace and Justice Coalition of union leaders and Notre Dame University professors and other community members, community outreach staff from a local hospital, the director of the Charles Martin Center (named after a young man who was killed in South Bend), and a person who works in the criminal justice system.
Green Tree Church of the Brethren, Oaks, Pa.:
Two years ago, pastor David Leiter got a call from pastor Nathan at Bethel Baptist Church, a neighboring African-American congregation, who had read Leiter’s book "Neglected Voices: Peace in the New Testament" and wanted to talk more about it. That phone call started a friendship between the pastors, and has brought the two to organize a joint worship service for their congregations on the International Day of Prayer for Peace. The service will be held Sept. 20 at Bethel Baptist, followed by a meal. The two congregations are inviting the community to attend and asking other local clergy to participate in leadership. Pastor Nathan will preach on "Peace and Violence: Broadening our Definitions." After the sermon, Leiter will offer a challenge about where the community may go from here.
Mack Memorial Church of the Brethren, Dayton, Ohio:
The congregation has a whole weekend of activities planned for the International day of Prayer for Peace. On Saturday, Sept. 19, the church will participate in a peace festival at the Dayton Peace Museum. On Sunday, Sept. 20, they will worship with five other churches at Island Park, where two rivers converge. The theme will be, "Peace Like a River." On Monday, Sept. 21, the congregation will hold a vigil in front of the church, and has invited other churches in the area to join in the vigil. The theme will be, "Peace in the Community." The Dayton area, since the economic crisis, has experienced an increase in petty theft, juveniles breaking into houses, more gang activity, and violent crime, according to a report from the church. Mack Memorial is interested in finding ways to gather people together and listen to their needs. Even though the congregation is smaller than in the past, it has adopted a vision calling for the church to be the hands and feet of the community.
Middlebury (Ind.) Church of the Brethren:
According to the website of this small town (population 3,191), "Middlebury is everyone’s idea of a small town: the neighborhood butcher, the Main Street hardware store, the proud shop owner; all busy serving residents and visitors alike in a thriving Main Street historic district. Amish and ‘English’ come to Middlebury to do business and trade." Yet Middlebury, in the heart of Elkhart County, has been hit hard by the economic downturn. Melissa Troyer, the congregation’s coordinator for the International Day of Prayer for Peace, reports that in previous years, participating churches have been the four or five Mennonite and Brethren congregations in the area. This year, to focus on the economic situation, the community is going to hold an International Day of Prayer for Peace celebration "with all the groups around town who have worked towards the struggles of our 18 percent unemployment.... It won't be a quiet vigil, rather we're having probably eight churches and five different music groups involved. The theme will be taken from Matthew 5:23-24." The celebration will have three focus areas: a story of reconciliation between two Mennonite congregations that split 80 years ago over issues that are no longer relevant, and are now beginning to merge in light of their economic circumstances; activities of the Middlebury Ministerium including the Community Food Pantry that used to feed 12 families a week and is now feeding 200; and recognition of the new Middlebury Area Recovery Committee--an effort to coordinate church and civic programs that are helping people.
Mechanic Grove Church of the Brethren, Quarryville, Pa.:
The congregation’s peace committee has made an intentional and concerted effort to involve the children of the church in learning and talking about peacemaking, according to a report from pastor Jim Rhen. The church participated this year in a "Kids as Peacemakers" mural project as part of a larger initiative through the Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness. The church used curriculum and resources provided by Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness for a six-week teaching time with the 20-30 children in their congregation, culminating in the children painting two mural boards. The murals incorporated what the children experienced in learning and talking about peacemaking. The murals will be displayed in an Art Walk, along with others from the county, on Sept. 19 at the Lancaster Clipper baseball stadium. The Barnstormers team will donate $4 from the price of admission to that day's game to the Lancaster Interchurch Peace Witness.
Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren:
The congregation is hosting a premier showing of "I’d Like to Buy an Enemy" by Ted & Company Theater Works on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. Other congregations are invited to attend. The show by Mennonite comedian Ted Swartz and company will be "an evening of drama...poignant and hilarious," according to an announcement in the Shenandoah District newsletter. The Russian Baptist youth choir also is scheduled to sing. A donation of $5 is suggested to cover costs. "In the meantime, we trust you will be praying for peace in your community and in the world. There are so many situations people are facing where prayer can make a difference," the announcement said. For more information contact Roma Jo Thompson at or 540-515-3581.
Portland (Ore.) Peace Church of the Brethren:
On Sunday, Sept. 20, the congregation plans a whole day of peace-related activities, including a morning worship service led by Brethren folksinger Mike Stern, an afternoon prayer vigil with the Metanoia Peace Community, an afternon children's folk music concert by Stern, and an evening program with a delegation from the World Friendship Center in Hiroshima, Japan.
Church of the Brethren General Offices, Elgin, Ill.:
General secretary Stan Noffsinger will lead a special chapel service for employees, volunteers, and guests to observe the International Day of Prayer for Peace. Because chapel services at the General Offices are held every Wednesday at 9:15 a.m., this special service will be on Wednesday, Sept. 16.
Source: 9/7/2009 Newsline Extra

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