This is the first of a series of articles by Tom Harder on a year-long initiative by his church titled "Peace Journey 2009." Tom is co-pastor of Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church in Wichita, Kansas.
During this past year's congregational review (based on an analysis of our "Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats"), one of the opportunities to emerge was the opportunity "to boldly proclaim the gospel of peace." Among the strengths of our congregation is the Anabaptist-Mennonite faith tradition we have inherited, a tradition which understands "peace"-in its broad sense of not merely the absence of violence but of wholeness, well-being, and right relationships for all of creation-to be at the very heart of God's will for the world. Peace is an expression of the gospel that our world badly needs to hear. Given our congregation's many other strengths-our highly gifted membership, our maturity and resiliency, our strong reputation in the community-we have an opportunity, even a mandate, to "boldly proclaim" this gospel in our community and our world.
How shall we do so? The LAMC Church Council appointed a task force to explore the possibilities, and they returned to Council with a proposal for a year-long, congregation-wide initiative they are calling "Peace Journey 2009." The centerpiece of this initiative is a "commitment form" to be distributed once a quarter to all members and regular attenders during 2009. The form is comprised of two broad sections: "Nurturing Peace Inwardly" and "Proclaiming Peace Outwardly." Both sections are further comprised of a variety of actions steps, and participants are invited to commit themselves to (at least) one action step from each of the two sections. Participants will not be limited to the actions listed, but are free to propose their own; they will be encouraged to choose actions that are "doable" for them, yet that may stretch or challenge them in some way. Once a quarter, participants will be invited to bring their completed forms forward during Sunday morning worship, as an act of commitment and consecration. The form for the first quarter of 2009 was distributed on December 28; we brought these forward during the worship service on January 11.
"Peace Journey 2009" will also feature a variety of additional components. Beginning January 4, Sunday morning worship services throughout the year will include the ceremonial lighting of a "peace lamp" (available to Mennonite Church USA congregations free from Krista Martin at <http://peace.mennolink.org/emailkrista.html>; others may purchase at <http://peace.mennolink.org/resources/iraqlamp/buylamp.html>), and sharing of personal testimonies and experiences will be encouraged during the Work of the Church. Several peace-related events will be held throughout the year (including a regional seminar on the topic of world hunger, sponsored by MCC and to be held at our church on March 28-30).