Ritual for a Lifelong Peacemaker
Rev. Richard A. Koenig
… in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (NRSV)
Reflection: Scattered around the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution in southwestern New York State are more than 20 “Peace Poles.” During the summer season, outside the Hall of Missions and across the brick walk from the Hall of Philosophy, people gather daily at one of these Peace Poles at 8:55 a.m. for a five-minute prayer service for peace.
Prayers for peace — made daily — in five minutes of ritual: not much time in which to transform a world filled with violent conflict! And yet I think of Bob.
Every summer while at Chautauqua, even into his early nineties, Bob faithfully left the breakfast table to make the walk to participate, adding his presence, his prayers to that daily Peace Prayer. That consistent act, that ritual, was a microcosm of Bob’s whole life, and it continues to remind me of the power that this kind of consistency can bring in driving our individual commitment to peace.
In his role as a high-level denominational executive in the United Church of Christ, Bob had spent his whole life on the front lines, working for peace. Bob worked for civil rights and the anti-war movement in the 1960s, developed Christian Education materials in support of the Women’s Liberation movement, inclusive language and LGBT rights. He traveled to South Africa during the time of apartheid and was fully engaged in the national conversations around peace and justice issues well into the early part of this century. He continued to march against the death penalty for decades past retirement.
Bob was a gentle, thoughtful man, who believed in confronting the principalities and powers of his time nonviolently, with humility, grace, love and a persistence grounded in a theological acceptance of God’s “peace that passes all understanding” and in the knowledge that peace is intimately entwined with the divine call to “let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” Bob understood that our “righteousness” before God is about seeking “right relationship” with the Divine Presence, a relationship that brings peace as we also seek justice in a broken world. His whole life was a testimony to that truth. Bob embodied the gospel in his personal, familial, communal and public life in a way that had far-reaching and profound impacts on the lives of those around him, and beyond.
The search for peace is not a “one-time” or momentary thing. Every generation must learn anew how to live lives rooted in the gospel message of the Prince of Peace. It is in a lifelong journey of discipleship that we come to know the justice and peace of God.
Practice for Peacemakers: Take five minutes today to reflect and pray on the needs for peacemaking action in your community and in the world. Take five minutes tomorrow and do the same. As you continue throughout this month-long study, consider whether prayer and ritual may help to empower you to do more in the work for justice and peace.
Prayer: Ever-present God, in our prayers and supplications, renew us for the tasks of peacemaking. Give us the strength, courage and consistency to live into the peace that passes all understanding, our whole lives through. Amen.
The Rev. Richard A. Koenig serves as pastor of North Congregational Church of Woodbury, CT, in the United Church of Christ.
This year’s Season of Peace Resources are designed to help participants explore practices for building peace on every scale. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Throughout the 29 days of the 2020 Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
Week 1 September 6–12: Peace Within
Week 2 September 13–19: Peace in Relationships
Week 3 September 20–26: Peace in Community
Week 4 September 27–October 3: Peace in the World
Final Day October 4: Holistic Peacemaking