Organize for Peace

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Christmas Pack #14
Gifts of Peace

Organize for Peace:
How to Start a Peacemaking Group in Your Church

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Organize for Peace:
How to Start a Peacemaking Group in Your Church

by Heidi K. Roy


They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

Isaiah 52:7

Epiphany 1987. Four people enter the Willow Grove Naval Air Station outside Philadelphia. With hammers they damage a P-3 Orion anti-submarine nuclear-capable aircraft (with a role in Pentagon first-strike scenarios) and two military helicopters of the sort employed in third-world intervention. They celebrate the feast day of Christ's appearance by enacting Isaiah's prophecy that "swords will be beaten into plowshares." Since the first one in 1980, over one hundred people have participated in such "plowshares" actions, disarmament at once prayerful, symbolic, and concrete.

Bill Wylie Kellermann,
Seasons of Faith and Conscience, Orbis Books, 1991

During the Christmas season, we remember the Prince of Peace and the promise of "peace on earth, good will to all." At no other time of year is the message of peace more prevalent. But how does that message, that peace, translate into our actions and celebrations? How can we truly work for the peace proclaimed by the birth of Jesus?

Unfortunately, Christmas is often a chaotic time, when our calendars become more and more crowded and our patience runs down. Throughout the weeks of Advent, we are bombarded by advertisements and engulfed by expectations for the "perfect" Christmas. An increasing number of people must endure Christmas without a home, without food, without the means to fulfill their children's desires. For many, Christmas is anything but peaceful. Yet, if we listen carefully, we can hear whispered over the noise of Christmas a proclamation of angels - "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom God favors." That promise, that hope of peace on earth is the good news of Christmas.

Christmas is the time to greet the Prince of Peace. Through the birth and life of Jesus, we are offered a glimpse of the peaceable kingdom of God. As Christians, we are called to live out that vision through our attitudes and actions. Through Jesus Christ, we are called to lives of peace and reconciliation.

Some may venture to say, "The Cold War is over; nuclear annihilation is a concern of the past - this is a time of peace." But where is there peace? Within ourselves? In our families? In our troubled and violent cities? In Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan? Some said the Persian Gulf War healed the wounds of Vietnam, and that protests of war have become passé. Yet, we continue to search for peace in ourselves, in our families, in our communities, in our world. The end of the Cold War and the lessening threat of nuclear annihilation provides us a unique opportunity - perhaps a mandate - to live out a vision of peace and to make a faithful witness. For peacemaking is the work to which God calls us - to seek peaceful alternatives to war, to promote justice for all people, to reconcile enemies, to bridge gaps and to live and act nonviolently.

What can one person do? We can seek an inner peace by developing our spiritual lives. We can live out that peace through our attitudes and relationships. And we can join with others to work for a peaceable kingdom, proclaiming as the angels once did, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace!"

When we join with others, we can create a strong movement for peace, carrying God's vision into our persons, our homes, our communities and our world. This resource includes guidelines for joining with other people of faith to organize a peacemaking group in your church. It offers ideas for activities on a wide range of peace issues - militarism, war, racism, hunger, homelessness, conflict resolution, gun control, abuse in the family, and many more. Use these ideas as inspiration to organize for peace at Christmas and throughout the year.

Ten Steps to Organize a Peacemaking Group

1. RECOGNIZE YOUR DESIRE for a peaceful world. Peacemaking begins with a vision of one or two people. Find another person who you think might be interested in exploring peace issues with you.

2. CLARIFY THE VISION. Dream about possibilities. Take a few moments to envision peace with yourself . . . peace in your family . . . peace in your community and congregation . . . peace in the world. Perhaps something is happening in your community or world which is calling you to work for peace. Look through the newspaper. What stories of unrest are there? What stories of unrest do not appear in the media? What actions might bring about a more peaceful world? Decide to move ahead. Set a date for your first meeting.

3. MAKE AN ANNOUNCEMENT in your church newsletter asking people to join your group on a certain date. Call or visit people you think would be interested in joining your efforts. As few as two people or as many as fifteen can join to form a peacemaking group.

4. YOUR FIRST MEETING. Meet to share your vision. As a group, begin to explore your motivations to work for peace. Study the biblical call to peacemaking. Read aloud scripture passages which deal with peace and shalom. Discuss peacemaking issues, such as militarism, war, racism, conflict resolution, etc. Brainstorm about issues that are important to the group. Talk about what peace work individuals may already be involved in. Discuss possible group projects. Make plans to meet again on a day and time that will work for all.

5. SECOND MEETING. At your next meeting, ask individuals to commit to developing their spiritual lives and the foundation of their personal calls to peacemaking. (See page 3 for ideas.) Develop a written covenant which all participants can sign. (See sample covenant on page 3.) Discuss peacemaking actions and decide on one project. Determine responsibilities based on the gifts and talents of people involved.

6. SHARE YOUR PLANS with the entire congregation. Discuss this with your pastor if s/he is not part of the group. Include a story in your church newsletter or make arrangements to speak at a church worship service or gathering. Answer questions openly and honestly. Be conscious of the ways projects might implicate the congregation as a whole.

7. THIRD MEETING. Meet with the group again to move forward on your project. Modify your plans if needed. Ask people to report on the issues for which they were responsible. Hold each other accountable. Meet again as needed.

8. PUBLICIZE YOUR WORK. Let people in your congregation and community know what you are doing. Place announcements in your church newsletter. Send out press releases to local media. Raise money to put up a billboard. Make banners and posters.

9. CELEBRATE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS. Spend time together as a group to celebrate your progress. Times of rejoicing together will promote enthusiasm and strengthen your group.

10. AS YOUR GROUP DEVELOPS, you will probably run into some difficulties. Seek other groups and resources which can help you work through any problems. See the list of organizations at the end of this resource. Many of the groups offer background information on peace issues, ideas for projects and names of speakers. Get on mailing lists of those organizations you think might be helpful.

Sample Covenant for Peacemaking

Recognizing God's call to peacemaking, we commit to:








Foster Inward Peacemaking with the Group

A strong spiritual foundation for peace is important in compelling and sustaining the people who make up your group. To be effective makers of peace, each individual must foster the vision of peace that exists within himself or herself.

Recognizing that outward actions of peacemaking must come from an inner calling to peace, members of World Peacemakers of The Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C. commit to an inward journey toward deeper understanding of their faith and motivations through Scripture study and prayer. The group studies the weekly lectionary readings and prays individually and together for each other, the group, and those with whom they disagree.

Here are some things you can do:

Incorporate Peace in Worship

Our churches are called to speak out on issues of peace. One effective way for peacemaking groups to promote God's vision of shalom is through worship. Through worship, the community of faith can publicly state that its values are not determined by government ideology or public opinion, but by the Prince of Peace.

Talk with your church's pastor or worship committee about including peace issues in worship services or special prayer services. Begin incorporating peace themes in worship during Advent and the Christmas season when the focus is on the Prince of Peace. You can then carry this vision of peace into worship throughout the year.

For example, following the Los Angeles riots which erupted after the first Rodney King beating trial, 75 members of Temple Israel of Hollywood joined members at Messiah Baptist Church in South Central L.A. in solidarity and prayer. They gathered to pray for peace and offer spiritual support to a troubled community.

You can promote peace through worship and prayer in many ways, such as:

Provide Educational Opportunities

In order to work for and live lives of peace, we must be educated in the ways of peace. When people are taught the skills of conflict resolution, they can make use of those skills and foster peace in their families. When people are educated on the causes of war and oppression, they can begin to define and promote peaceful alternatives. Educating people about everything from the teachings of a great peacemaker to the effects of war on the poor can do much to promote peace.

Decide on a topic you think people might be interested in. The topic could be one that addresses a conflict in the community, such as a racially-motivated incident or one that speaks to an inner need, such as the stresses of a busy life. Speak to people where they are. Approach people on an intellectual, spiritual and emotional level. You can start with an educational study within your group. You can provide an educational workshop for the entire congregation. You can invite people in the community or people of other faiths to come together to educate each other.

The Justice and Peace Advocates at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas (a mostly white congregation) have developed a partnership with members of an African-American missionary Baptist church nearby. The two groups gather to study racism and participate in sensitivity training to better understand themselves and others. They also attend each other's worship services periodically and gather for dinners and picnics.

Your group can promote peace education in many ways. Here are some ideas:

Plan Special Events in the Church

Special events in the church can spark people's interest, introduce them to issues and can encourage more in-depth study and action. Special events can also be the outcome of study or education. You can initiate an interest in peace issues by showing an appropriate film or video. A study of the effects of war toys on children can culminate with a war toy trade-in.

One group sponsored a war toy exchange where children were encouraged to trade in war toys for teddy bears. Another group planned a Peace Fair where children participated in cooperative games; adults gathered for group discussions; some people presented a play about peace; and everyone sang peace songs.

Organize Community Activities

Racism, violence, drugs, guns in schools, oppression of the poor and powerless - these issues and more affect most communities. Whether your church is located in a large city or small town, seek opportunities to foster peace in the community.

In response to the scheduling of a Ku Klux Klan rally in a local park, twenty Chicago area churches gathered in a local Catholic fellowship hall for an ecumenical prayer service to "celebrate differences." Scriptures were read and prayers were offered. Those present were encouraged to sign pledges to combat racism in the community. After the service, the group marched, escorted by Chicago police, to participate in alternative festivities in the park.

On the first anniversary of the Los Angeles riots, St. Stephen Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri hosted a summit of urban gang leaders. Over 100 African American and Latino gang leaders gathered with religious and civil rights leaders to secure a truce and help redirect gang members to work for lasting peace in their communities through nonviolent, creative problem solving.

Here are some things you can do:

Heidi K. Roy is the former editor of Alternatives.


The American Forum for Global Education, 45 John Street, Suite 908, New York, NY 10038; (212) 732-8606. Provides leadership, assistance and resources to the education community to ensure that global perspectives become important elements in education; provides workshops, conferences, a newsletter and other resources.

American Friends Service Committee, 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102; (215) 241-7000. Promotes peace, justice and compassion through humanitarian aid, economic development and education.

Amnesty International, 322 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10001; (800) 55AMNESTY. Works to free prisoners of conscience, ensure fair and prompt trials and end torture and executions throughout the world.

Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, 499 Patterson St., Memphis, TN 38111; (901) 324-7675. Network of Baptists concerned with peace and justice issues; offers posters, newsletters and resources (including useful ideas for organizing peacemaking groups).

Bread for the World, 802 Rhode Island Ave., NE, Washington, DC 20018; (202) 269-0200. Seeks peace through justice for the world's hungry people by lobbying our nation's decision makers; organizes annual Offering of Letters Program.

The Campaign for Progressive Toys and Games, Cumberland Center for Justice and Peace, P.O. Box 857, Sewanee, TN 37375; (615) 598-5369. Promotes nonviolent play; offers listing of mail order catalogues that distribute progressive toys and games.

The Carter Center's Conflict Resolution Program, P.O. Box 105515, Atlanta, GA 30307; (404) 331-3900. Monitors world conflicts and promotes peaceful negotiations; organizes network of 1,800 individuals and organizations; provides materials on world conflicts and conflict resolution.

Catholic Peace Fellowship, 339 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012; (212) 673-8990. Educational group devoted to furthering peace; sponsors speaking tours, organizes workshops, maintains film and tape library, and counsels conscientious objectors.

Center for Teaching International Relations (CTIR), University of Denver, 2201 S. Gaylord, Denver, CO 80208; (303) 871-3106. Seeks to improve understanding and teaching of international and intercultural relations; offers publications on multicultural studies, world cultures, global awareness, geography and current issues; makes arrangements for speakers on various topics.

Center on War and the Child, WAR/WATCH Foundation, P.O. Box 487, 35 Benton Street, Eureka Springs, AK 72632; (501) 253-8900. Focuses on the problem of the militarization of children, and the child as victim in civil and international conflict; provides Action Alerts, a quarterly publication, "WarChild Monitor International," and resources on war toys and other issues.

Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors, 2208 South Street, Philadelphia PA 19146; (215) 545-4626. Provides information and activity on conscientious objection, registration, the draft and military recruiting.

Children's Creative Response to Conflict, Box 271, Nyack, NY 10960. (914) 358-4601. A project of Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) aimed at helping children deal with conflict creatively; offers workshops and various resources.

Church World Service/CROP, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515; (219) 264-3102. Seeks to promote peace and justice and alleviate hunger and poverty worldwide; offers curriculum materials and other resources; provides material to organize community hunger "CROP" walks.

Clergy and Laity Concerned (CALC), National Office, 340 Mead Road, Decatur, GA 30030; (404) 377-1983. Provides resources, networking and events on various peace and justice issues. (Also check with your local CALC office.)

Commission for Racial Justice of the United Church of Christ, 475 Riverside Dr., New York, NY 10115; (212) 870-2077. Civil rights agency of the United Church of Christ that studies environment and racism.

Community for Creative Non-Violence, 425 Second Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001; (202) 393-1909. Speaks out on issues of peace; works toward peace in the community by providing food, housing, medical care and other services to those in need.

Conscientious Alliance for Peace (CAP), P.O. Box 2654, Auburn, AL 36831; (205) 887-8341. Sponsors programs, hosts speakers, holds vigils and marches and produces materials on nuclear weapons issues, opposition to U.S. sponsored wars in third world countries and concern about the death penalty and racism.

Educators for Social Responsibility, 23 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138; (617) 492-1764. Creates, disseminates and evaluates new ways of teaching and learning that help young people participate in shaping a better world; provides resources and speakers and leads workshops.

Essential Peacemaking/Women and Men, c/o Earthstewards Network, P.O. Box 10697, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110; (206) 842-7986. Offers workshops that help develop a healing dialogue and better communication both within and between the sexes.

Fellowship of Reconciliation, Box 271, 523 N. Broadway, Nyack, NY 10960; (914) 358-4601. An interfaith pacifist organization that carries on programs and educational projects concerned with domestic and international peace and justice, nonviolent alternatives to conflict and the rights of conscience; offers "Fellowship" magazine, cards and other resources; provides a list of affiliated religious peace fellowships.

Foundation for Global Community (formerly Beyond War), 222 High Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301-1097; (415) 328-7756. Educational movement dedicated to building a world that functions for the benefit of all life; organizes presentations, seminars and discussion groups to address personal, regional and global topics; produces a bi-monthly publication, "Timeline."

Institute for Peace and Justice, 4144 Lindell Blvd., #124, St. Louis, MO 63108; (314) 533-4445. Provides resources, services and support to individuals, schools and churches on peace education and social justice; organizes Parenting for Peace and Justice network.

Mennonite Central Committee, U.S. Peace and Justice Ministries, 21 South 12th Street, P.O. Box 500, Akron, PA 17501-0500; (717)859-1151. Facilitates discussion of difficult issues and encourages positive transformation of conflicts which face individuals, congregations and the larger community; develops resources and training opportunities for mediation and group problem solving; monitors legislation and policy developments; provides market for craftspeople of developing nations through Self-Help Crafts program.

Middle East Research and Information Project, 1500 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 119, Washington, DC 20005; (202) 223-3677. Educates public about the contemporary Middle East, including U.S. policy, human rights and social justice issues; publishes a theme-oriented magazine entitled, "Middle East Report."

Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, P.O. Box 11428, Memphis, TN 38111-0428; (901) 452-6997. Interfaith organization developed for research, education, information exchange and non-violent, community-based action.

National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1509 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036-1426; (800) 424-2460. Provides good multicultural resources, videos and posters; holds annual conference for early childhood professionals, parents and policymakers.

National Campaign for a Peace Tax Fund, 2121 Decatur Place, NW, Washington, DC 20008; (202) 483-3751. Works to pass U.S. Peace Tax Fund Bill which would allow people to divert the portion of the income taxes now spent on military to peace efforts.

National Coalition on Television Violence, P.O. Box 2157, Champaign, IL 61825; (217) 384-1920. Speaks out against violence in the media; sponsors boycotts of violent television programs and films as well as advertisers of those programs; offers guidelines to monitor violence and provides other reports; publishes bi-monthly newsletter.

National Council of Churches Peace with Justice, 777 UN Plaza, 12th floor, New York, NY 10017; (212) 682-3633. Sponsors the Peace With Justice Week in mid-October; provides worship materials, organizing information and issue sheets.

National Peace Foundation, 1835 K Street, NW, Suite 610, Washington, DC 20006; (202) 223-1770. Develops educational programs to promote public understanding of the need for a National Peace Academy; offers conflict resolution training in areas around the world as well as in urban schools; publishes "Peace Reporter."

Nonviolence International, P.O. Box 39127, Washington, DC 20016; (202) 745-0701. Coordinates and promotes effective action on a national and local level and amplifies the voices for peace all over the world.

Pax Christi USA, 348 East 10th Street, Erie, PA 16503-1110; (814) 453-4955. International Catholic peace movement that promotes gospel nonviolence, peacemaking, disarmament, works of justice and disarming the heart; offers resources, memberships, newsletter and networking.

Peace Action (formerly SANE/FREEZE, Campaign for Global Security), 1819 H Street, NW, Suite 640, Washington, DC 20006-3606; (202) 862-9740. Grassroots peace organization committed to building a more peaceful, just and sane world; works for deep military cuts while supporting efforts to help communities and companies grow less dependent on Pentagon dollars; offers congressional voting records, briefing papers, fact sheets, grassroots organizing packet and other resources.

Peace Development Fund, 44 North Prospect Street, P.O. Box 270, Amherst, MA 01004; (413) 256-8306. Funds community-based peace projects that educate the public on the dangers of the arms race, on the economic and social issues related to military spending and on the peaceful resolution of conflict; publishes a newsletter, "The Exchange Project" and leads workshops on organizational development.

The Peace Museum, 350 West Ontario Street, Chicago, IL 60610; (312) 440-1860. Gallery, resource center and workshop that provides resources and exhibits art on issues of war and peace.

Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), 1000 16th Street, NW, Suite 810, Washington, DC 20036; (202) 785-3777. Organization of health professionals and other concerned citizens committed to preventing nuclear war and helping the public redefine its national security priorities; publishes PSR Quarterly and other materials.

Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, 100 Witherspoon St., Louisville, KY 40202; (502) 569-5784. Produces and provides resources on peace issues for individuals and church groups.

Project Ploughshares, Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, Conrad Grebel College, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G6, Canada; (519) 888-6541. Provides information on disarmament, arms control, Canadian defense and security alternatives; offers workshops, advocacy and a quarterly publication, "Ploughshares Monitor."

Quest for Peace, Quixote Center, P.O. Box 5206, Hyattsville, MD 20782; (301) 699-0042. Seeks to build peace and friendship between U.S. citizens and the people of Nicaragua; organizes local groups to collect and ship food, clothing and medicine to Nicaragua.

Riverside Church Disarmament Program, 490 Riverside Drive, New York, NY 10027; (212) 222-5900. Publishes study materials; makes speakers available; holds annual peace conferences.

Rural Southern Voice for Peace, 1898 Hannah Branch Rd., Burnsville, NC 28714; (704) 675-5933. Provides organizing assistance, networking and training among groups working nonviolently for social change; leads grassroots Listening Programs nationally and internationally.

SERRV Self-Help Handcrafts, P.O. Box 365, New Windsor, MD 21776; (800) 423-0071. Provides a fair-market for the producers of crafts in over 40 countries; offers a catalogue from which groups can buy crafts for a craft fair

Sojourners Community, 2401 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009; (202) 328-8842. Diverse, ecumenical community of faith that offers a monthly magazine and other resources on organizing for justice, wholeness, healing and peace.

Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington Avenue, Montgomery, AL 36104; (205) 264-0286. Produces "Teaching Tolerance," a magazine with articles about teaching programs aimed at fostering racial tolerance, the civil rights movement, as well as an idea exchange and resource listing.

Student Peace Initiative (SPI), P.O. Box 1134, Chapel Hill, NC 27514; (919) 968-4250. Coalition of student groups which designs educational presentations on issues of peace and war and delivers them to college and high school audiences.

Union of Concerned Scientists, 26 Church Street, Cambridge, MA 02238; (617) 547-5552. Dedicated to advancing responsible public policies in areas where technology plays a critical role; offers materials on stewardship of the environment, renewable energy technologies; and works to curtail weapons proliferation.

United Methodist Church Office for the UN, 777 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017; (212) 682-3633. Provides articles, seminars and networking related to United Nations issues.

The War and Peace Foundation, 32 Union Square East, New York, NY 10003; (212) 777-6626. Promotes world peace through education and advocacy; publishes the "War & Peace Digest" and other resources.

War Resisters League, 339 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10012; (212) 228-0450. Nonviolent social change organization that provides resources on pacifism, war toys, war tax resistance, racism, militarism, etc.; organizes demonstrations and training programs for local groups.

Wilmington College Peace Resource Center, Pyle Center, Box 1183, Wilmington, OH 45177; (513) 382-5338. Offers books, posters and audio-visuals on peace issues, including human rights, global education and economic justice; publishes quarterly newsletter on peace-related activities.

Witness for Peace, 2201 P. Street, NW, Room 109, Washington, DC 20037; (202) 797-1160. Organizes faith-based community of U.S. citizens who stand with the Central American people by acting in continuous non-violent resistance to U.S. covert or overt intervention in their countries; sponsors delegations to Central America.

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, 1213 Race Street, Philadelphia, PA 19107; (215) 563-7110. Deals with peace and social/economic justice, human rights and family concerns.

World Peacemakers, 2025 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20036; (202) 265-7582. Ecumenical ministry of the Church of the Saviour organized to work and pray for world peace; writes and distributes several handbooks, study guides, World Peace papers and other materials; hosts retreats and workshops; works in partnership with peace leaders of various denominations and national peace organizations.

For information about groups that work for peace and justice, check your local library or contact your denominational or diocesan headquarters. Or use Ecosia.org, the search engine that plants trees.

Make copies of this resource under the Creative Commons attribution, not-for-profit license.

Page updated 11 Sept. 2013

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