Preparing for first ‘Just Peace Sunday’
The United Church of Christ re-affirmed its commitment to being a Just Peace Church during General Synod 2015 in June, calling on congregations to observe Just Peace Sunday each year on the Sunday before International Day of Peace. As the first Just Peace Sunday, Sept. 20, approaches, advocates view this day as one way to live into the church’s call to raise awareness of justice issues and become better peacemakers in a world seemingly fractured by tension and violence.
“The United Church of Christ has for many years marked the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21, which remains an important connection to the wider international and ecumenical community,” said the Rev. Michael Neuroth, international policy advocate for UCC Justice and Witness Ministries. “However, for the UCC, which recently re-affirmed its commitment to being a Just Peace Church, calling for a Sunday dedicated to Just Peace is a way of affirming our unique vision for working for justice and peace at a time when war and violence strains so many of our communities and nations.”
To help UCC congregations and members observe the first Just Peace Sunday, members of the Just Peace Steering Committee have put together worship and study materials, and posted a craft project on the UCC website in preparation. There is also a handbook and video to provide more information on Just Peace.
“The craft project of a dove between praying hands is a powerful symbol reflecting the fragility of peace and the continued need for our active prayer and engagement,” Neuroth said. “Churches wanting to mark Just Peace Sunday can use these materials or develop their own way of expressing our prophetic hope that ‘peace is possible.’”
The UCC became the first Just Peace church 30 years ago in 1985, and since then other churches and ecumenical bodies, such as the World Council of Churches in 2013, have joined the Just Peace Movement. In the UCC, there are about 130 churches who have proclaimed themselves as Just Peace Churches, but any church can take part in Just Peace Sunday.
“This summer, many of our churches hosted peace camps for youth and were engaged with local and national advocacy efforts such as supporting the nuclear agreement with Iran,” Neuroth said. “Continued advocacy and engagement is needed on a wide variety of issues including Iran, Syria, Colombia, tightening gun laws, and a myriad of other issues.”
“Joining the UCC’s Justice and Peace Action Network is a great way to stay engaged on all of these concerns,” Neuroth said.
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