Mennonite Church USA (MC USA) has named Michelle Armster and Dona Park as the first recipients of its #BringThePeace award. The award recognizes the work of denominational peacemakers and is sponsored by MC USA’s Church Peace Tax Fund.
“We who believe that Christ is our peace, walk knowing that the journey is long,” said Sue Park-Hur, MC USA denominational minister for Transformative Peacemaking. “Along the way, we need to acknowledge and honor courageous peacebuilders who have faithfully paved the path of peace. We also need to encourage and be inspired by younger leaders who are shaping creative ways to communicate the peace of Jesus. We hope the #BringThePeace award is one way we can recognize peacemakers in our midst,” she said.
Michelle Armster is the executive director for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Central States, a contributing author of Colorizing Restorative Justice and an adjunct professor at Bethel College, North Newton, Kansas. During her employment with MCC U.S., she has served as the director of Mennonite Conciliation Service and co-director for the Office on Justice and Peacebuilding. In her positions, Armster has provided resourcing, consulting and training on conflict transformation and restorative justice for churches, agencies and communities.
Armster has extensive training and experience in meditation, facilitation, conciliation, restorative justice, arbitration, victim/offender mediation, anti-racism and alternatives to violence. She has served on various community boards, including the YWCA Lancaster (Pennsylvania), The SpiritHouse Project, Lancaster Mediation Center and NAACP Lancaster branch. Armster graduated from Lancaster Theological Seminary’s Master of Divinity program in 2007. She served as a co-pastor of St. Andrew United Church of Christ and as the associate pastor for community outreach at Blossom Hill Mennonite Church, both in Lancaster. She currently attends Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church in Wichita, Kansas.
“As a peacemaker, I choose not to cause harm, but it does not mean that I don’t put myself in a situation that may cause harm,” said Armster. “My call is to stand in the gap, to speak truth clearly as I see it. I’m always mindful of the person on the margins. Bringing peace is about including those who are on the margins to not just sit at the table but creating a table where they belong — even if it means designing a new table,” she said.
Dona Park is a graduate of Goshen College, Goshen, Indiana, and a former intern at ReconciliAsian. She is a Korean Canadian illustrator and graphic designer from Vancouver, Canada, who has worked intensively on art for peacebuilding initiatives with Women Peace Makers in Cambodia. She is a co-author of Navigating the Nexus of Art and Peace. More recently, she has worked with MC USA to create art for several peace and justice initiatives, including “Laboring Toward Wholeness, A Training on Dismantling Patriarchy” and “Defund the Police? An Abolition Curriculum.”
“I think we tend to associate peace as being nonconfrontational, being passive, being silent in the face of conflict, because we don’t want to ruffle any feathers,” said Park. “We don’t want to become the whistleblower or change the status quo. I think we need to redefine peace as actively participating and dismantling abusive and oppressive systems,” she said.
MC USA’s Church Peace Tax Fund is a way for people to engage in MC USA’s peacebuilding work. The Church Peace Tax Fund:
- Provides funding for educational programs that address militarism and promote living out ways of peace.
- Allocates a $100 annual grant to a Mennonite youth (age 16-25) who is actively engaged in resisting war and promoting peace in their congregation and community.
- Annually recognizes a faith leader in MC USA who has committed to resisting war and promoting peace.
- Provides grant opportunities to support war tax resisters, through already established alternative funds.
To donate to the Church Peace Tax Fund, visit mennoniteusa.org/give and donate to #BringThePeace (write in: Church Peace Tax Fund) or download the free Give Plus app on your mobile device. Donors also may write a check, payable to Mennonite Church USA, 718 N. Main St., Newton, KS 67114. Please designate “Church Peace Tax Fund” in the memo line.
#BringThePeace is a call to action for individuals and congregations to extend peace in their communities. It is also a prayer, inviting God to bring the peace that expands our capacity for empathy, compassion and love that actively seeks to dismantle oppression and violence.
For more information on MC USA’s peacebuilding efforts, visit http://mennoniteusa.org/what-we-do/peacebuilding/.
Mennonite Church USA, the largest Mennonite denomination in the United States, is comprised of 16 conferences, approximately 530 congregations and 62,000 members. An Anabaptist Christian denomination, MC USA is part of Mennonite World Conference, a global faith family that includes churches in 86 countries. It has offices in Elkhart, Indiana, and Newton, Kansas.
Look for interviews with Michelle Armster and Dona Park to be posted soon in our Menno Snapshots blog!
Tags: Church Peace Tax Fund, BringThePeace, Sue Park Hur, Dona Park, Michelle Armster, MCC, Bethel College, Blossom Hill Mennonite Church, Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church, ReconciliAsian.