In response to violence, war and conflict in the United States and around the world, members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will explore their call to be peacemakers at 'Equipping for Peacemaking', an April 27-29 training event hosted by the ELCA.
"The recent shootings at Virginia Tech are a grim reminder of the need for more training and skills in peacemaking," said Glen Gersmehl, Seattle, lead trainer for the event and director of Lutheran Peace Fellowship.
"What is more, for the past year Iraqi civilians have suffered the equivalent of three Virginia Tech massacres every day, week after week. And the toll is even larger from the hidden violence of world hunger. Indeed, the world cries out for Christians with skills and commitment to Jesus' way of shalom - justice, peace, wholeness and healing. That's what this training is all about," explained Gersmehl.
The content of the training will explore interpersonal conflict, family violence and conflict in the congregation, as well as community peacemaking, racial and economic justice, and international issues. Participants will learn how to become peacemakers through an activity-based leadership development approach that involves leading sessions, sharing observations and ideas, and learning how to encourage peacemaking activities in congregations and synods of the ELCA.
Those taking part will receive a manual on peace education activities, worship and take part in a "peace bazaar" - an opportunity for participants and staff of the ELCA churchwide organization to talk about peace-related work taking place across the church.
"If you think about it, where else have you had an opportunity to learn about peacemaking? It's not an issue folks talk about. It you look at the media, peacemaking is not (highlighted) but violence is," said Jean Morehouse, Fort Meade, SD, network coordinator for Equipping for Peacemaking.
"Violence is what's glamorized and reported. How different would it be - our world, our life - if what we were fascinated with is peacemaking? This is what we're called to do as Christians. We are called to be peacemakers," she said.
"Violence has been an age old problem," said Morehouse. "I think that as a church we are called to be peacemakers in the name of Jesus Christ. This training offers people an opportunity to learn more about peacemaking and our call to be peacemakers. It will give participants some practical skills to take back to their congregations, communities and their own families for daily living," she said.
A central aim of the training includes clarifying some cultural myths and misconceptions about peacemaking, such as that peacemaking is "passive, weak or less effective than violence." Another aim is for Lutheran peacemakers to encourage one another in the skill of helping others to move from "fear and apathy to empowerment and hope."
Prior to the training, participants are asked to consider offering a workshop on peacemaking when they return home, sparking educational activities; working with or forming committees on advocacy or peace and justice in their church, synod and community; and inviting people to participate in the Equipping for Peacemaking network.
Information about the Equipping for Peacemaking network can be found at http://www.ELCA.org/nonviolence