By Conference Minister Diane Weible
I hope that most of our churches have at least heard the words “Just Peace Church” before. The Just Peace Church movement began over 30 years ago with a resolution at General Synod 15 that affirms the UCC to be a Just Peace Church “as the interrelation of friendship, justice, and common security from violence.” The beginning words of the Theological Reflection for the resolution states: “A Just Peace is grounded in God’s activity in creation. Creation shows the desire of God to sustain the world and not destroy. The creation anticipates what is to come: the history-long relationship between God and humanity and the coming vision of shalom.”
At our last General Synod, delegates recognized the 30th anniversary of this resolution by approving a resolution recognizing the special anniversary, affirming the UCC’s continued commitment to being a Just Peace Church and inviting our local churches to consider what it means to become a Just Peace Church or, if already a Just Peace Church, to reaffirm their commitment.
Last Sunday was Just Peace Sunday. A number of our churches recognized this important Sunday in our denomination including Fairfax Community Church, which voted in 2016 to become a Just Peace Church. (See photos below.)
The church’s pastor, Katharine Harts, said that the service was “artful and highly participatory” and at the end of her reflections she asked the congregation to shout out what they wanted to say “no” to. “I heard: No to war, no to separation of families, no to greed, no to fear, no to divisions, no to racial bigotry, no to destruction of our environment,” said Rev. Harts. She said she then asked the congregation to what do we say “yes” to? “I heard: yes to trusting the Creator, yes to protecting the animals and creation, yes to love, yes to clean air, yes to clean water, yes to empowering women, yes to justice, yes to joy.”
This, to me, is a beautiful representation of what so many of us do in worship every Sunday—we celebrate what God invites us to say “yes” to and we remember what it is that God encourages us to say “no” to. Being a Just Peace Church means we never forget that God needs us and calls us to be a people and a Church of peace. And sometimes that means saying yes and sometimes that means saying no. And always it means listening to the way God is speaking to us when it comes to justice and peace.
If you are interested in learning more about becoming a Just Peace Church, you can find many good resources on the UCC website. Feel free to reach out and ask me more about this as well. I am serving on the membership committee for the restructured UCC Just Peace Network. I would love to see all of our churches in this Conference become Just Peace Churches.