Thursday, February 24, 2011

Florida peace churches prioritize six areas of service.

About 60 participants from the three Historic Peace Churches in Florida (Mennonite, Friends/Quakers, Church of the Brethren), including 15 peace people from other groups, gathered on Jan. 29 at Ashton Christian Fellowship (Mennonite) in Sarasota. This was a second such meeting in 13 months.

Bob Gross, executive director of On Earth Peace, facilitated the first consultation in January 2010, guiding the group in prioritizing six areas of concern and mission. By this year, six subgroup chairs had been selected by a coordinating committee, allowing attendees to choose areas of service to join as active participants (listed here in order of priority): 1. Witnessing to lawmakers, 2. Peace education in schools, 3. Kids as peacemakers, 4. Praying for peace, 5. Building relationships with Muslims, and 6. Community outreach for peace.

Each subgroup chair gave a short presentation describing the particular area of concern and mission. By mid-afternoon, participants had an opportunity to attend the subgroup of their choice for further planning. This was followed by each group highlighting for everyone present some of the key projects they will be attempting in the months ahead. An e-mail network has been developed to keep attendees informed of progress and encourage their involvement.

The day began with a keynote presentation "From Conflict to Community" by Cecilia Yocum, a Quaker and a licensed psychologist. She shared from her 28 years of experience working in Rwanda, Burundi, and Colombia with Friends Peace Teams, as well as facilitating the Alternatives to Violence Project in prisons in Florida. She involved several from the audience in demonstrating applications of each topic.

Four literature tables filled with materials from several peace groups added to the day’s value. Included was information about miniature desk-top Peace Poles (eight inches high, including a square base for greater stability), which are available from the Church of the Brethren Action for Peace Team in Florida, for a $10 donation. Contact for information.

-- Phil Lersch facilitates the Coordinating Committee of the Historic Peace Churches in Florida.

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