Peace as a Core Value for Peace Community Church

As we move toward the future at Peace Community Church, one of the things we are doing is exploring and defining the core values of the congregation. It was suggested to us by our Area Minister, Rev. Alan Newton, that since we changed the name of the congregation 15 years ago, examining those three words in our name might be a good place to start when it comes to our core values. So for three Sundays in January 2015 we are doing just that. Here are the questions we asked for ‘Peace’ week.

What does it mean to you to have the word ‘peace’ in the name of the church? Is that important to you?

Do you see this congregation as having a commitment to peace?

Should it have a commitment to peace?

Does a commitment to peace focus our mission or distract us from other things we should be doing?

Some people are drawn to our congregation because of our commitment to peacemaking. But that turns some people away. Are we hurting ourselves and the long term future of the congregation by focusing too much on peace? Does it make us too political?

Do we talk too much about peace, involve ourselves in too many issues related to peace?

Should our understanding of peace be widened? If so how?

Does peace fit with community and church?

We had a great discussion during and after worship. We also had input from some folk from the PCC Scattered people which you can find below. Two of the book titles that came up in our discussion were “I’d Rather Teach Peace” by Coleman McCarthy, and “The Politics of Jesus” by John Howder Yoder.

From Anita Peebles…

Peace and church are both political, and I think it’s really good to have a church that is open about what it’s about. Instead of discussing peace and being open and affirming inside the walls in hushed voices, PCC lets everyone know…that’s what we’re supposed to do, I think. There are not so many churches out there that have peacemaking as one of their values and top priorities, so I think it’s important to let people know that’s what we do so we can draw in people who are looking for a congregation like that and feel safe bringing up political things in church.
I think PCC has a wide definition of peace already. From interpersonal to mental health issues to racial issues to the environment to Israel/Palestine…we talk about all these things and think critically about them. People who preach aren’t telling you what to think about these issues, either, but suggesting some new reflection points that have shaped the way they themselves have thought about these issues.
I think peacemaking is something Christians or “Jesus followers” and the church are called to do, so I don’t think it distracts from other things. Yes, everyone’s calendar is really hectic with vigils and marches and meetings and subgroups and committees, but that’s because we are all engaged in what peacemaking means to us…and that is so special. That Linda and Roger are making a home for Jonathan sometimes and that’s their way of peacemaking. That you and Mary are working with ECO and attend college convocations and work with ORSL, and that’s a way you are engaged in peacemaking. That Al writes letters to the editor and hosts events at Kendal and stands on the corner each Saturday, that’s his way of peacemaking. That Peggy plays music for shut ins and people who are ill, and that’s her way of peacemaking. That Franklin is always so genuinely open and friendly at his job at the IGA, and that’s his way of peacemaking. Everyone has their thing they do, and I hope they all see it as equally important in the work of making the world a better and safer and more beautiful and community oriented place. We can’t all be serving directly in war zones and places of unrest in the world, but those of us that can, do. We can’t all be teaching preschool environmental education, but those of us that can, do. We can’t all be living in a co-op or raising sheep or organizing for UniteHere, but those of us that can, do.

Love all of you at PCC.

From Kate Mooneyhah…

Peace seems on my mind a lot these days, with the Black Lives Matter movement, and the increasing militarization of local policing. Yellow Springs is an ideal location to meditate on peace – there is a weekly “peace protest” every Saturday downtown – a number of dedicated seniors holding up signs promoting peace! Plus the community is active in peaceful protests over the John Crawford shooting. I love the mix of religion and peace. I can’t say how it works for you, since I am not there. I wish every church had a passion for peace, in the world and in every day live. Every week at the Cathollic Church I go to (for my Catholic kids) we offer each other the sign of peace. I look forward to reading what other think.

From Jessie Downs…

What does it mean to you to have the word ‘peace’ in the name of the church? Is that important to you?
The fact that “peace” is in PCC’s name means a lot of things to me, but the first thing that comes to mind is that it sets the church apart from other churches. A lot of people have a negative view of “the church” (and often especially of “Baptist” or any signature “American” churches), but by saying that PCC is a “Peace Church,” I think it tells people that it is a place that is not about fire and brimstone, not about violent exclusion, not about a war-mongering Jesus. It speaks to me of the Quakers and similar groups who have a legacy of working for peace in this country, but it also almost suggests a new kind of church all together. It’s important to me because it labels the church as “counter-cultural.”
I also think that it sets up a high standard for what the atmosphere of the church is to be like – truly PEACE-ful. It speaks of a gentle people with a gentle practice.

Do you see this congregation as having a commitment to peace?
I think back to how members of the church go out to the street corner on a regular basis holding signs saying something along the lines of “Honk for Peace.” That takes a lot of commitment in my mind. Things like that, as well as PCC’s consistent alliance with student initiatives for peace, whether peace vigils or peaceful protest, etc, makes PCC a committed part of the Oberlin atmosphere.
I also think that the social justice issues that PCC is passionate about often have to do with peace. What is difficult here is obviously that social justice has to do with more than peace. I remember here a quote from Al Carroll (I think, or maybe Steve?) about putting the FIST back in PaciFIST. I think that notion is important, but the FIST doesn’t negate the “PaciFIST,” you know? It just means that PCC looks at Peace in a complex manner.

Should it have a commitment to peace?
“Should” questions are difficult. I had to ask Doug for input on this one. What he said is that what the church “should” do is whatever the members of the congregation are passionate about. So I guess that at the moment the answer here would be “yes.”

Does a commitment to peace focus our mission or distract us from other things we should be doing?
See above and below.

Some people are drawn to our congregation because of our commitment to peacemaking. But that turns some people away. Are we hurting ourselves and the long term future of the congregation by focusing too much on peace? Does it make us too political?
I honestly think that PCC’s involvement with politics is one of the main reasons why it is so attractive to “Obie”-types. Yet, at the same time, the church is very much a spiritual place. It never does politics without the Bible, without contemplation, ceremony, fellowship. I do think that this is partly because of the Mary and Steve tag-team, and so if we are thinking of a time when PCC gets “passed on” to new leadership, there might be concern for communicating this need to balance out the political with other things. This said, I don’t think that the “peace” part is strictly political, as it also speaks to spiritual peace.

Do we talk too much about peace, involve ourselves in too many issues related to peace?
I personally don’t think so.

Should our understanding of peace be widened? If so how?
I think it’s good to talk about “peace” and think deeply about it, as we are doing in this exercise. However, it’s also good to have commitment to peace. The fact that the church is so committed to its ideals without being close-minded is REALLY important to me.

Does peace fit with community and church?
It’s interesting to think about how the three words of the title are supposed to be read. Is it the Church of the “Peace Community?” Is it kind of like an advertisement/ list – “Peace. Community. Church.” Is it a “Community Church” that focuses on “Peace?” Is it a “Peace Church” that focuses on “Community?” I would say “yes” to any of these readings, but these are things to think about. I think that my usual reading is “Peace – Community Church.” So it’s a spiritual place for the community but then peace is the signifier that tells you that this is not just a fluffy comfortable place. It’s about something much deeper.

This is from Bob Cothran…

Hi folks,

Sorry to be so invisible and apparently disconnected currently. Two or three more weeks to go.

But I have been following email updates and I wanted to chip in my perception of the word “Peace” in the church’s name, while it was still a current issue.

The name of the church was one of the things that first prompted Rosalyn and me to come and visit when we first came to Oberlin five years ago. The sense in which I took the word “Peace” then is still what I understand it to mean in this connection.

The famous quote, “There is no way to peace; peace is the way” (which I’ve generally seen credited to A..J..Muste although it’s often attributed to Ghandi) captures the root sense of the word in a wonderfully elegant and profound way I think, even though at first glance it sounds a little pat. People often speak of “the way to peace” when they’re talking about cessation of hostilities, about how to quit fighting. To say that there is no way to peace makes clear that you’re not speaking of ending a war — there are ways to do that — but rather of universal harmony, of shalom, of the interconnectedness of everything in perfect balance, which, of course, is The Way.

That’s what I understood the word to refer to in the name of PCC (and still do of course): a central element involved in the convening of a group of people joined together to search for and follow The Way.

Bob

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