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‘They tell us what peace looks like in other places’

Once again this fall, international Peacemakers will visit PC(USA) churches, both in person and online

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Carl Horton, coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, below, speaks to, from left, Lauren Rogers and Bryce Wiebe during Special Offerings’ Between Two Pulpits on Monday. (Screenshot)

LOUISVILLE — If necessity is the mother of invention, the pandemic is probably its poster child, calling on Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) programs and their leaders to remain creative and nimble.

The Rev. Carl Horton, coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, talked Monday during Special Offerings’ Between Two Pulpits podcast about ways Peacemaking has overcome travel restrictions and other challenges to bring the programs Presbyterians love — including both in-person and online visits by international Peacemakers — to life in the coming weeks. Click here to watch Horton’s Monday conversation with Bryce Wiebe, director of Special Offerings and the Presbyterian Giving Catalog, and Lauren Rogers, Special Offerings’ project manager for digital fundraising.

“It’s been fun to consider new ways to do the things we always do,” Horton said.

One of the most creative approaches has been in Peacemaking’s annual efforts to bring international Peacemakers to presbyteries and congregations each fall, a program that because of the pandemic was entirely online last year. This fall, Horton plans a hybrid offering of in-person visits, interviews and online “visits” targeted to particular mid councils. Wiebe liked what he was hearing.

“International Peacemakers peer into the life of the church and help us think about how we are showing up,” he said. “We also learn their discerning habits, that we can become better peacemakers as well.”

International Peacemakers have been paying visits since the inception of the Peacemaking Program in the early 1980s, Horton noted. “It’s one of the best things we do,” Horton said. “We feel like they are missionaries to the U.S. They tell us what peace looks like in other places.”

Last year, international Peacemakers from years past did interviews that went out online to churches and mid councils. View any of those interviews here. “We may continue to do that forever,” Horton told Rogers and Wiebe. “It was a great way to reconnect. Once an international Peacemaker, always an international Peacemaker.”

This year, six past international Peacemakers — from Cuba, Colombia, Syria, Madagascar, Haiti and South Sudan — have agreed to be interviewed as part of the fall offering. Those interviews are in the works, Horton said.

“We’re also doing in-person and virtual visits,” although “we don’t know what fall will look like,” Horton said. The Peacemaking program invited four Peacemakers who had been scheduled before the pandemic to make 2020 visits to instead come to the U.S. this year. Four have agreed, and two have already secured their visas, Horton said. Four others will do “real time visits virtually” before such gatherings as presbytery or clergy meetings, Presbyterian Women groups and the like, Horton said.

This year’s Season of Peace, which runs from Sept. 5 through Oct. 3, also will be marked with innovations. Traditionally, the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program has offered up daily reflections throughout the month-long pilgrimage designed to deepen the pursuit of peace for congregations, small groups, families and individuals.

“In COVID time, we’re looking for new ways to be peacemakers,” Horton said. Peacemaking’s Simon Doong interviewed people who create dance, pottery, music and other art forms, asking them questions “about how their art is an expression of their peacemaking commitment,” Horton said. Presbyterians participating in this year’s Season of Peace will have the chance to “watch and listen, read and reflect” their way through the annual pilgrimage, according to Horton.

At the end of every edition of Between Two Pulpits, Rogers asks the traditional question: What is your hope for the future of the Church?

Horton talked about an experience he’s shared over the last few weeks with Wiebe and dozens of others, as part of the Leadership Innovation Team studying, discussing and praying about the future structure of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

“I must say that process has given me a lot of hope, a sense there is a future for the Presbyterian Church,” Horton said. “It helped me see our future will be one where we are adaptable, agile and responsive. We are thinking about how we will do our work differently in the future, and I am excited about that.”

“I think the time has come for the Church to rethink itself and the way the denomination shows up in the world, and I think the Matthew 25 invitation is pretty expansive,” Horton said. “We have got to deal with racism and poverty.”

“The work that Peacemaking does will be integral to the issues of violence and racism, and congregations that are peacemaking congregations are vital congregations,” Horton said. “I have great hope for a vital, responsive, agile showing up in the world in ways that matter for the Church.”

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