On Earth Peace Virtual Fall Board Meeting
Oct. 1-3, 2020
Melisa Leiter-Grandison and Irvin Heishman
Beverly Eikenberry, an OEP board member said, “I just want to express appreciation for… space that feels to me like Beloved Community. I had tears in my eyes,” following the powerful experience of closing worship led by board member Lucas Al-Zoughbi. Board members lingered online after the conclusion of two and half days of On Earth Peace (OEP) fall board meetings, reluctant to depart from one another. The level of trust and community that is developing among board members, its anti-racism, anti-oppression team, and staff is allowing for deep, vulnerable, safe sharing, and a growing capacity to explore hard and uncomfortable questions together. The result is an increasingly sacred experience of authentic community. The fall board meeting experience provided a taste of what On Earth Peace envisions: a world in Beloved Community liberated from oppression, violence, and war.
On Earth Peace is gaining clarity about its mission: to develop and walk with leaders and communities who work for justice and peace. A new initiative toward this end will support church youth groups. OEP is welcoming applications for a $500 Community Engagement Grant which includes training and support for youth who want to work for justice and peace. OEP’s internship program has grown to capacity given that it is well suited for online engagement and work. Nineteen OEP interns work from locations across the country and internationally and are gaining experience while serving in meaningful ways. One intern shared that this has been the most meaningful internship she has ever had. A number of interns joined the board meetings for a “meet and greet” and participated in a number of board discussions. Their enthusiasm and creativity contributed significantly to the discussions.
Board co-chair Melisa Leiter-Grandison led an important conversation during this meeting focused on how the board and staff understand the five values that undergird the work of On Earth Peace, especially when those values appear to be in conflict with values of constituents in the larger church or partner organizations. The values are: Jesus-centered spirituality, positive peace, anti-racism; anti-oppression, intergenerational leadership, and beloved community. An experience of conflict this past year was used as a case study to help prompt deep exploration of how these values are understood and embodied.
A second conversation led by staff focused on one of OEP’s four strategic priorities which is “through our agency responsibilities and opportunities, embolden the Church of the Brethren to become a living peace and justice denomination.” Staff led the board in a “mock debate” in which board members, staff, and interns were randomly assigned to defend opposing strategic positions. The exercise utilized a principle of Kingian Nonviolence teaching which seeks a synthesis of truths from both sides which then reveal potential new possibilities which cannot be seen when people are entrenched in opposing “polarized camps.” The conversation following the exercise yielded insights which will be part of ongoing conversation.
The Read Aloud Project was created by Priscilla Weddle and Marie Benner-Rhoades to provide homeschooling resources in peace and justice during the pandemic. For September, the project highlighted books about peace skills and Hispanic culture. We will continue to read children’s books about these topics through October. In November, the project will highlight books about Native American culture to celebrate Native American Heritage Month as well as books about voting and elections. If you are interested in recording a video for the project, please email Priscilla at [email protected]. Here are the books that were read for the project in September:
Elephant & Piggie: Should I Share My Ice Cream? By Mo Willems
Summary: Gerald buys ice cream one day and wonders if he should share it with his best friend Piggie. He goes back and forth on whether he should share his ice cream until he decides to share with Piggie. But, by the time Gerald comes to this decision, the ice cream has melted. He is very sad. Piggie shows up with ice cream and shares it with Gerald to make him feel better.
Reflective Question: How does sharing with your friends make you feel?Read more
With the 2020 presidential election coming up, I wanted to create a list of children’s books about voting and elections to help answer questions children might have about it. I picked out books that highlighted the election process and addressed the history of voting rights in the U.S. Here is the list of books:
Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter, Illustrated by Shane W. Evans
As Lillian, a one-hundred-year-old African American woman, makes a “long haul up a steep hill” to her polling place, she sees more than trees and sky—she sees her family’s history. She sees the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and her great-grandfather voting for the first time. She sees her parents trying to register to vote. And she sees herself marching in a protest from Selma to Montgomery.Read more
With the school year starting, I was curious about what books teachers were planning on using in their classrooms. So, I reached out to my sister Brittany and asked her to talk about her favorite children’s books to read in the classroom and why. It should be noted that the books she recommended are for grades 5 and 6. Here is a list of books she mentioned along with why she enjoys them:
Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
“This book is one of my favorites because it displays a young African American female as the main character. It places her in a position of power that she worked hard for. This is not always the norm in children’s books, so it felt good to see a positive story with a minority as the lead.”Read more
The Read Aloud Project was created by Priscilla Weddle and Marie Benner-Rhoades to provide homeschooling resources in peace and justice during the pandemic. For August, the project highlighted books about peace skills. In September, there will be activity sheets to go along with the videos. If you are interested in recording a video for the project, please email Priscilla at [email protected]. Here are the books that were read for the project in August:
Thank You, Omu! By Oge Mora
Summary: Everyone in the neighborhood dreams of a taste of Omu’s delicious stew! One by one, they follow their noses toward the scrumptious scent. And one by one, Omu offers a portion of her meal. Soon the pot is empty. Has she been so generous that she has nothing left for herself?
Reflective Question: Why do you think that sharing is important?