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Diocesan Life.February

Creating a Culture of Peace

The Training Energized Clergy and Laity
By Addison Bross

Creating a Culture of Peace

For three days last fall (November 7-9) a group of Episcopalians from this Diocese came together at Kirkridge Retreat Center near Bangor to take up the challenging work of learning to make peace.  With the help of two trained facilitators they moved beyond the faulty notions about peacemaking that commonly hold us back from embracing Jesus’ promise that peacemakers will get blest (Matthew 5:9).  Over the weekend their experience with a program called “Creating a Culture of Peace” bore out Jesus’ realistic admonition – that to take on this task they must be not just “innocent as doves,” but also “cunning as serpents” (Matthew 10: 16).  They must, that is, stratetgize.

After a series of discussions, role-taking exercises, and practice in responding to simulated verbal violence, participants came to see that better methods for peacemaking than a sincere intention to “be nice” have been devised. Drawing on their own life-experiences, they studied (among other things) the connection between distinct violent acts and the huge violence-system that commonly surrounds us. They considered whether refusing to use force really does mean being weak and cowardly, or whether the nonviolent resistance of (for example) Rosa Parks did indeed call for courage and strategy and ultimately brought change.  They pondered the sequence of apparent failures and small, incremental successes through which long-term nonviolent campaigns pass.  In simulation exercises they practiced preserving respect for the adversary as a child of God.  They discovered that the necessary combination of innocence and divine (reptilian?) cunning that Jesus recommended can, despite our doubts and fears, be attained.

At the end, each of three groups of participants developed a plan of action for confronting a specific situation requiring change.  One project is to create an umbrella organization for groups in various parts of Pennsylvania now working to re-establish rail commuter service that should make potential job opportunities more accessible for the jobless.  Another make widely accessible a video that teaches parents the child-rearing practices required for young children’s brains to grow the needed structures for understanding moral responsibility.  A third will promote in the Diocese the opportunities for peacemaking presented by the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.

"[I now see that] Jesus was a role model for active nonviolence," wrote a participant in evaluating the program.  Another wrote:  “[This training program] equips one further for imitating the way of Christ.”

Funded by the Diocese, the event was sponsored by the Diocesan Peace Commission.  Facilitators were Janet Chisholm (who designed the program), Kirkridge’s Coordinator for Peace and Justice programs, a vestry member at Christ Church, Stroudsburg, and Addison Bross, a member of Grace Church, Allentown, founder of Lehigh University’s peace studies program. 

The 13 participants were from Grace Church,Allentown; Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem; Christ Church, Stroudsburg; St. Joseph’s, Pen Argyl; St. Mary’s, Wind Gap: St. Mary’s, Reading; and Trinity, Mount Pocono.  Barbara Gessner of Trinity, Mount Pocono, has since taken the required training to become a CCP facilitator, bringing to five the number of facilitators now available within our Diocese (Barbara, Janet, the two Brosses, and Fran Hlavacek), all prepared to offer the training.

To arrange Creating a Culture of Peace Training, contact a Peace Commission member:
•    Janet Chisholm, Christ Church, Stroudsburg, 845-641-3648,
•    Mary Louise and Addison Bross  Grace, Allentown, 610-758-3331,
•    Tom Lloyd, Cathedral Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem, 610-861-0189
•    Fran Hlavacek  Good Shepherd & St. John Evangelist, Milford, 570-296-5264,
•    Rev. Donald Knapp (retired), St. Anne’s, Trexlertown, 610-530-8330,
•    Rev. T. Scott Allen, St. Andrew’s, Allentown. 610-865-3603,

The Peace Commission can also suggest readings for individuals or study-groups and give brief interactive workshops or presentations on peace, nonviolence and conflict-resolution at adult forums or in other venues.


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