Project members hope Ukraine resource is the first of many
by Layton Williams Berkes | Presbyterian News Service
The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program within the Presbyterian Mission Agency is collaborating with World Mission and global partners to develop a new resource focused on solidarity with Ukraine. The resource is called “A Sowing of Peace in Ukraine” and will feature multiple installments released individually.
The resource takes its name from scripture, specifically Zechariah 8:12, “For there shall be a sowing of peace; the vine shall yield its fruit, the ground shall give its produce, and the skies shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.”
The first installment is already available online and was compiled by Shannon Beck. It includes a candle-lighting litany, a body prayer, suggested music and an educational icon to encourage reflection. The resource also offers suggestions for action in response to the situation in Ukraine, including supporting relocation efforts and Ukrainian artists, as well as banning the use of cluster munitions.
According to the website, the project’s purpose is to “help Presbyterians better understand and respond to the contexts of conflict that span the globe today, some of which occupy the media’s spotlight, others that barely seem to get noticed.”
The Rev. Carl Horton, Coordinator for Mission within the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, said the idea initially came from a member of one of the PC(USA)’s peacemaking congregations.
“As the invasion became a war and did not swiftly come to an end … I got asked by a congregation if we had resources for this,” Horton said. According to Horton, the Peacemaking Program does have general resources around praying in times of war and things congregations can do to work for peace, but nothing specific to this context.
“In particular, around Ukraine, this person wanted to put together a prayer vigil … and I thought that is a great idea, number one, and number two, this could probably be beneficial to more than one congregation,” Horton said.
While the Peacemaking Program didn’t already have that kind of resource put together, Horton said that the program does have a history of providing resources on global contexts when peacemakers want to draw Presbyterians’ attention to particular situations and conflicts.
The initial request prompted Horton to wonder what other resources a congregation might need that didn’t already exist and which the Peacemaking Program could provide.
Realizing the benefit of collaborating with colleagues from World Mission, Horton reached out to Ellen Smith, a mission co-worker who serves as regional liaison for Eastern Europe. Beck was brought on to manage the project and “A Sowing of Peace in Ukraine” began to come together.
The resources are intended to be used by congregations, groups and individuals in a variety of ways. Each resource includes components for worship, education and action. In particular, the faith element sets these resources apart from many other peacemaking and solidarity resources on Ukraine, which come from secular sources. “A Sowing of Peace” may utilize well-known worship music or language, but these elements are combined with cultural information about Ukraine, helping users better understand how their own faith is connected to that context.
A second installment on Ukraine is already in development and is set to include an interview with Ukrainian faith leader Yuriy Lifanse as well as a Godly Play component. Godly Play is a teaching method rooted in Montessori principles which encourages people of all ages to better understand biblical stories through creative exploration. Horton said the inclusion of elements that appeal across the age spectrum was an intentional priority for this project.
While there are still several more installments of the Ukraine resource planned, Horton and other members of the project team have a more expansive vision. They hope to create future “A Sowing of Peace” resources focused on other places in the world experiencing conflict — particularly places where the PC(USA) has partners and relationships.
“Working with World Mission, I am envisioning future resources in the Sowing of Peace series,” Horton said, going on to specify that there could be a “Sowing of Peace in Cameroon” and a “Sowing of Peace in South Sudan,” among others. He mentioned that they’ve recently been working on a Central America study that could also yield a new “Sowing of Peace” resource.
Horton said this new project really resonates with Peacemaking’s purpose.
“That’s our work in the Peacemaking Program — to provide resources for congregations, and specifically our congregations that have signed the Commitment to Peacemaking, to broaden their peacemaking work beyond their neighborhood or their community … This is a natural next step for us.”
All the resources produced for “A Sowing of Peace” will be online, fully downloadable, and freely available to use. The introduction to the Ukraine resource succinctly proclaims the project’s hope and intention.
“When Presbyterians know more about a conflicted region of the world, we do more. We walk the path of Jesus as accompaniers. We pray. We march and advocate,” Horton said. “We partner with those working for a just peace.”
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