Peace & Global Witness: Minute for Mission out of Batavia, New York

“Now may the Lord of peace … give you peace at all times in all ways.” — 2 Thessalonians 3:16

We live in a world that is constantly overwhelming us. Conflict arises in our families and communities. War is waged between nations and discussed in the marketplace. Instability threatens our jobs, savings or even our homes. Natural disasters strike a new place each week. Sickness, homelessness, starvation, abuse and mental illness plague our world. The list goes on.

In stark contrast to this conflict and brokenness all around us, we turn to hear the prayer of the Apostle Paul: May God grant us “peace at all times in all ways.” Peace in our families, in our work, in our worship, in our communities, in our world and in our minds. That peace is the peace of Christ.

The Peace & Global Witness Offering draws Presbyterians together and provides education and exposure to those who do peacemaking work well. It aims to form peacemakers who share and advocate for Christ’s peace in all places and spaces.

Last August (2017), following the aftermath of the violence and hate that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, two New York pastors decided something needed to be done. Rev. Dr. Roula Alkhouri of First Presbyterian Church, Batavia, New York and Rev. Jim Morasco from the Morganville New York United Church of Christ organized a peace vigil to promote the peace of Christ and pray for the deliverance of our nation. The event was hosted at the Young Women’s Christian Association of Batavia (YWCA).  More than 100 people attended to hear community members advocate for peace and justice and eliminating hate. Several speakers discussed the underlying racism evident in the events in Charlottesville and in the news so frequently these days.

The need for a safe space to dialogue about community disagreements became evident to Dr. Alkhouri and Rev. Morasco. From there, they set out to plan a forum to address this need. “People seem to have a need for an outlet to come together,” Morasco said. “If nothing else, this gives them the opportunity to express love.” The YWCA did not hesitate to partner with them immediately, seeing this as an opportunity to continue the work toward their goal of eliminating racism. Plans were made to host a forum on this subject in January 2018.

The First Presbyterian Church Outreach Team thought this was exactly the kind of work that could be supported by their portion of the Peace & Global Witness Offering. They designated their retained portion to promote peace and God’s love through the “Can We Talk?” forum, which was held on Jan. 18, 2018, with more than 50 people attending.

The work of teaching, sharing and empowering peacemaking and reconciliation works best when a diversity of approaches is taken. Twenty-five percent of the Offering will stay with our congregation to support ministries that proclaim Christ’s peace in our community. Another 25 percent joins with those of other congregations in our region to support peacemaking at a presbytery or synod level. And 50 percent supports the work for peace done by Presbyterians everywhere, including the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.

As Presbyterians, we proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace and the model of compassion, kindness, and grace for every community and individual in this world.

Let us Pray

O God, we come to you seeking peace and wholeness, not only for ourselves and not only for those we know, but for this world full of nations, communities and individuals burdened with brokenness, conflict, and despair. Yet despite this reality, we are inspired by your Spirit to have hope, for you have a plan for this broken world that ends in joy, peace and wholeness. Open our eyes to see where you are already mending and healing. Inspire us to move toward those places where your peace is present so we might be filled with peace and empowered to share that peace with others, in your name. And may our every act be modeled after the Prince of Peace, our Savior and great Teacher, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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