Peace Gets a Chance

Oct. 2-8, 2003
Peace Gets a Chance
By Deacon Tom Picciano/ SUN contributing writer
International Day of Peace was celebrated in Southern Tier

Endwell —- The Youth Choir at Christ the King Parish sang “We are Sowers of God’s Peace” to open a special prayer service on Sun., Sept. 21. The interfaith service was held on the United Nations International Day of Peace. People in 81 countries held prayer services, vigils and concerts to mark the day. The service in Endwell was one of just a handful scheduled for New York State. Worshipers heard a taped message by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and were then welcomed by Father Tom Hobbes, pastor of Christ the King Church. “We’ve come a long way, thankfully, in promoting peace in the world. Although we have a long way to go,” Father Hobbes said. He recalled his early days in the priesthood, meeting the Berrigan family of peace activists. He also reflected on the problems for peace in the Middle East now and in Ireland in the 1920s, which pitted “brother against brother.” “The peace of world has to start with peace in the hearts of every man, woman and child,” he said. “There are six billion or more of us around the world. So this International Day of Peace and nonviolence hopefully will catch on and spread. “

“Peace before us….Peace within us,” sang the Youth Choir. Their performance of a Navajo “Prayer for Peace” touched many in attendance, including at least one of the speakers. “I hardly know what I could add of significance to the pure sound of children singing in a prayer for peace,” said Rev. Susan Davis, pastor of the First United Methodist Church of Endicott. “It is my privilege to be here today to be part of this very important service which acknowledges the necessity for us to do everything that we can do make peace in this world,” she said.

In prayer, Rev. Davis spoke of “wonderful stuff” created by God that has been used for weapons. “In our own time, children, your precious children, become the victims of war. Left homeless or oppressed, emotionally maimed, disfigured by shrapnel and shell, orphaned and killed,” she said. Rev. Douglas A. Taylor of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Binghamton opened with a prayer which focused in part on the interfaith nature of the service. “We come together from different religious families. We see life from differing perspectives. We gather to worship as one in a spirit of peace. We gather as one people united in peace,” he said. Taylor tied his reflection to the opening hymn of the service. “I’m not sure we’re going to be the generation that sees the fruits of the work that we do in sowing peace. Were it simply enough for us to all say peace is what we want, we would have had it a while ago,” Taylor said.

Three members of the Upper Room, a group of 21 40+ year-olds from various parishes, also participated in the service. Marty Monforte and Sally Summa shared reflections from international writers. Ceil Lott read from Isaiah and Psalm 85. Christ the King Church’s religious education students prepared short reflections or pictures on peace. One large crayon drawing of people gathered with hands around a globe was on the front of the lectern. “I am so proud of them,” said John Gell, a parish religious education teacher. “And as you can see by some of the things that they have said about what peace means to them, I think you’ll feel the same as I do.”

Gell shared the thoughts of seventh grader Anthony Chase: “Peace works with problems and works them out with no violence. Without love there is not peace.” Alex Cook, a tenth grader, also shared his thoughts with the audience. “What peace means to me is to sit down with your friends and talk, joke, just have a good time and remembering all the good times you had with your friends and family,” said Cook. Stuart Naismith wore two hats for the service, and he brought both of them with him. In front of a baseball cap, as a member of Veterans for Peace, Naismith spoke of peace as the absence of war and malice. He also spoke of an absence of slaughter. “That’s an ugly word, isn’t it?” he asked. ”I ask you to join us in repudiating war, repudiating hatred and recognizing that of God which is in all men,” Naismith said.

Wearing a different hat at the podium, a black fedora, Naismith spoke of being a “friend” commonly known as a Quaker. He referred to an “inner light” and then asked the congregation to join in silent prayer. He asked all to reach out to those next to them when the prayer was over. “We feel that if we are silent long enough, holding our hearts open to God, that God will direct and guide us,” he said.

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