This post is in celebration of Peace Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022.
Addie Banks lives in New York City and where she served in pastoral ministry. She is the founder and current CEO of the Groundswell Group, a peace and justice resource center, dedicated to engaging, equipping and empowering congregations and communities to create more just, peaceful and healthy cultures.
Peace, like prayer, is not something to be engaged in intermittently. To be most effective, these two need to be joined together to form the ground of our being, the foundation of our lives and the key ingredient that enables us to live into Jesus’ commandment to love one another. Perhaps, it is through this practice of pairing peace with prayer that we will live into the fruition of Jesus’ greatest prayer — that we “may be one” (see John 17:21).
It all begins with practice. By practice, I mean the actual doing of what we profess to believe. Prayer is the practice of relating to God; the perpetual recollection that God is with us, in us, every moment of every day. I join these two elements of prayer and peace together, because I have come to understand that they are interdependent. They rely upon each other.
Peace joined with prayer is the foundation for building a more loving world.
Peace joined with prayer is being present in the ways God’s grace teaches us to journey through each circumstance, dependent upon the one who can and does grant us peace. That peace is not simply a feeling but a radical permeation that touches us at the very core of our beings and transforms the essence of our lives. Christ is our peace; and we, like Jesus, become agents of peace.
As the Beloved Community of Christ, this Peace Sunday presents us with a time to pause, reflect, renew and expand our understanding of the meaning of peace. Perhaps this can be a moment to listen for the ways in which God is calling us to consider how we are living our lives and to ask ourselves: “Is this the way to seek and walk the path of peace?”
As I considered what I might say to our church on this Peace Sunday, I was reminded that, amid the peril of the COVID-19 pandemic in the summers of 2020 and 2021, an abundant harvest was manifested in our multi-voiced church in New York City. This came about through a series of “Teaching Peace” podcasts, which I, along with Jason Storbakken, the pastor of Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship, and co-director of the Brooklyn Peace Center, cohosted for six consecutive weeks during the past two summers.
The series brought us up close and personal in conversations with Anabaptist (and Anabaptist-influenced) educators, church leaders, pastors, theologians, scholars, activists, community organizers, and our Brooklyn and Bronx youth, all of whom weighed in on the conversation of teaching peace.
Each year these six-week series fertilized our urban soil for the planting, growing and harvesting of peace. In these dynamic sessions, shared with brothers and sisters across the country and around the world, the impact of our collective power to be agents of shalom was reaffirmed.
Space does not permit the listing of all the significant contributions to the manifestations of peace that each of these teachers made, so I will simply share a few examples of their trailblazing work for peacebuilding and invite you to listen in to hear more about how the Holy Spirit is leading and influencing these powerful agents of peace.
In each session, we began by asking the question: “How do you define peace?”
The responses we heard intrigued and inspired us, as we were guided to places where shalom was being tangibly practiced. We learned new models of witnessing and worshipping from “Soul Space,” an Anabaptist community in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where Jesus is tearing down the walls of division, seeded by centuries of conflict.
We were inspired to keep praying for peace by the example of praying women of faith —Muslim and Christian — who came together in prayer to end a bloody civil war and bring peace to Liberia, as they committed to “pray the devil back to hell,” led by an Eastern Mennonite Seminary graduate and Nobel Laureate from Liberia.
Our BIPOC communities were educated by the model of ReconciliAsian, a peace center in Los Angeles that equips Korean and Asian American churches and communities to serve in ways that promote unity, justice, peace and reconciliation.
We gleaned strength from the work of women theologians and church leaders from Quito, Ecuador,, and we grew in hope for ending racism and preventing and healing abuse in our church and family systems.
On this Peace Sunday, let us give thanks for all the ways in which the Holy Spirit is empowering us to access Christ’s peace; to co-create innovative practices that manifest the reign of God’s shalom.
Each of us is called to participate in the formation of this wider peace that spans far beyond our individual lives.
This is what it means to actualize our faith. As God’s coworkers, we are not limited to simply petitioning for the reign of God to come, rather we are called to actively engage in the manifestation of that reign. In the places where we find struggle, challenge, despair, uncertaint, and fear, we are called to pause and center ourselves in the reality that we are not alone; Christ is with us; Christ is our peace. His presence and his peace will grant us the stamina and strength to bring forth the shalom of God — the peace that God is pouring into the frailness of our humanity.
Therefore, my beloved Anabaptist family, since we have been given this ministry of peace, we do not lose heart, rather we remember that we have this treasure in jars of clay and that the surpassing greatness of this power to create peace is not from us but from God! So, while we are hard pressed on every side, we are not crushed, we are often perplexed but not in despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed (see 2 Corinthians 4:1, 7-9). For Christ is our peace!
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