Once upon a time, there were some discarded pieces of wood that were roughly fastened together to make a feeding trough for animals. Usually the trough was kept full of hay and straw, but for a short time in Palestine, it cradled a new born baby; cradled the stories of shepherds, of angels singing Glory to God and Peace on Earth. It cradled stories of a star and long journeys, Gold, Incense, Myrrh.
In our tradition stories seem to gather around babies, the struggles from barrenness to birth, the clustering of hope of new beginnings, the dangerous, mysterious, fragile journey from conception to birth. Think of the stories of Hagar and Sarah, of Hannah and Rachel, of Elizabeth and Mary. Stories gather where there is vulnerability and longing, power and abuse, war and miracles of peace. Stories live in the undeniable infallibility of the cry of suffering, hunger, need, despair and in the surprise and wonder that is joy and the safe haven at the end of long struggles and dangerous journeys. For there to be stories to tell, there needs to be hope for change, there needs to be a lot of love around.
Stories also seem to gather around wood. It was worked by a surrogate father and lined with cloth by a mother who, casting around in the darkness, settled on a wooden feeding trough, to cradle her first born son. Jesus, who marks out a pattern for our lives, learned of the grain, and the goodness of wood, but having abandoned his day job, sat in wooden boats, cursed a fig tree, and walked among olive groves and pointed to a mustard tree as he spoke to people of life in ways and with what they could readily understand. He ended his short life, as he had begun it, on wood, hung upon a tree in a place where trees, we may imagine, were clear felled, to make room for the erection of the crosses and the brutal public execution. He appears again, as the tree of life, with all the vitality of a garden in full growth, the sap rising again, the tree of life.
The stories about Jesus are our stories towards the IEPC: Stories of community peace, peace between women and men, domestic peace; economic peace; a woman stops bleeding, five thousand are fed, the Master listens to a Samaritan woman at a well. Stories of peace with the earth as a storm is calmed and fish return abundantly, stories of peace between peoples where an occupying solider can approach Jesus for help and healing, and where the context of Galilee and Jerusalem is always palpable. These are stories where there is a lot of life around, told in and from a particular context and as such, these stories become our own.
It wasn’t so much that Jesus told pretty little stories, even domestic stories, but that his stories seem to be suggesting that what is intangible is tangible – Glory to God and Peace on Earth. These stories show that there is a more excellent way of living; a way of non-violence and reconciliation, of overcoming prejudice and offering forgiveness. A costly way, indeed, but a way which is inviting, possible, just round the corner, or in the next street, with our neighbours and with those given into our care.
There is Good News in the stories and parables told by Jesus, news about a way of non-violence, a way of just peace. And it isn’t just the stories themselves which invite us in as attentive readers and listeners, in their remarkable way of telling and suggesting. The stories invite us to imagine ourselves in such stories, as forgiving fathers, and losers of coins, and runaway children, as attacked, injured and lying by the road, or chancing upon a stranger and being offered the possibility of relationship. In these stories we are in the world of possibility, a familiar world, one which parallels the stories we tell every day. ‘I couldn’t find my money, I turned the house upside down.’ ‘Have you heard, Sarah has had a baby – and after all these years and all that pain.’ ‘ I was just on my way to the market when I came across someone who was injured in a hit and run.’; ‘ I decided I’d make that call home, after all, its too long since we argued.’
Telling peace, means telling the stories of our ordinary lives which show that the work of love, of God and neighbour, is still alive within us. It means telling stories of small miracles of just peace; telling stories of lives changed and leaning into God’s kingdom of justice and peace.
Spiritual life and our work towards a just peace lives from the power of story telling and of story telling which weaves together word and flesh, speech and object, dream and the roughness of reality. Stories of justice and peace are as contextual and earth bound as they are affirming of a distant hope for forgiveness, reconciliation, the restoration of right relationships. Our stories hold together the tension, paradox even the impossibility of the song of the angels and the story of Christ’s death and resurrection; the story of Glory to God and Peace on Earth.
In preparing the for the Spiritual Life of the IEPC the WCC’s Spiritual Life Working Group has listened to stories from around the world, from the contexts of each member’s life and tradition as well as coming together in a range of places work and to listen to the stories of peace there. The new Advent publication from the group focuses on Telling Peace and seeks to bring story telling into the heart of our spiritual explorations. It builds on the stories of the Living Letters which have formed a part of the work of the DOV but also seeks to place such stories from visits offering solidarity and raising consciousness of ways to overcome violence.
Prof. Alison Phipps
Member of the Spiritual Life Working Group for the IEPC
Director of the Centre for Studies in Faith
Culture and Education at the University of Glasgow
Member of the Iona Community
As the Convocation is getting closer in time, the IEPC staff in Geneva is working on harvesting the findings of the consultative process that took place so far. With this in mind, the number of expert consultations will slowly decrease as we get into 2010, in order for staff to be able to bring together the core and substantial elements of these various consultations that took place since 2007.
In the meantime, a last expert consultation took place in 2009:
Nuclear Weapons, North East Asia and Beyond: Re-vitalizing the Ecumenical Movement (3-7 December 2009) in Hwacheon, South Korea. Nuclear weapons with their related technologies, production, deployment and use, are incompatible with the life of living beings. Yet they were developed, deployed and used by the United States in1945 to kill the people and destroy the life of living beings in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan. It was truly a fatal moment in the history of the earth. [Read more...]
Reasoning is the Caribbean name we have chosen for the series of workshops for sharing and learning at the IEPC. It will provide a space for reflection, formation and sharing of good practices, through concrete examples related to peacemaking and a special focus on youth. It is an opportunity to grow and to learn, to meet people from different regions and traditions to discern together how we can be agents of God’s transforming presence in the world for peace.
Reasoning will offer an opportunity to deepen insight on the IEPC themes, provide participants with valuable tools to take back to their home setting and put it into action. An appeal for workshop proposals is available on the IEPC website.
Those who whish to offer a workshop at the IEPC are encouraged to do so as soon as possible, but no later than 31 March 2010. Decisions will be made and notifications sent out by 31 May 2010. Please fill in and return the proposal form to the IEPC coordination office.
What happens with the Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace?
Initial Statement sent to churches December 2008
Feedback requested by end 2009
Feedback to Initial Statement
Existing church statements from past years
Reports from WCC Living Letters, Expert Consultations
Declaration submitted to WCC Central Committee February 2011
Declaration presented to IEPC Kingston for concretisation
The last Annual Focus of the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) in 2010 will be: Africa. The Focus will be launched at the DOV/IEPC/ECHOS meetings in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 23 - 30, 2010.
The Annual Focus aims at spreading the word of the DOV and the IEPC amongst churches on the continent, networking existing initiatives and encouraging new ones. Not least, the Annual Focus is a call to churches worldwide to join together in prayer for Africa and its struggles for life and for just peace.
we come to place before you the concerns of our lives
and the sufferings of the world.
In the midst of skepticism and doubt of your loving being,
kindle your light in the hearts of all people
to feel your presence,
to trust in your faithful covenant,
to have faith in your promises of salvation,
to believe in the coming of the Messiah, the Anointed One.
In your mercy, we pray:
In the midst of religious plurality,
which can cause suspicion and hatred within communities,
kindle your light in the hearts of all peoples
to honour each other as your children, born in your image,
to respect each other’s beliefs,
to end the use of religion to exercise political and social power,
to stop discrimination and division based on religion.
In your mercy, we pray:
In the midst of terrorist threats and wars in the name of religion,
kindle your light in the hearts of all peoples
to turn our weapons of death into instruments of life,
to seek truth, peace and justice,
to offer genuine forgiveness and love,
to work together in harmony as sisters and brothers
in caring for victims,
in comforting those in distress,
in consoling those who live in fear.