Written by Kharis Murphy, Communications Fellow
For over 40 years, On Earth Peace has nourished our connection with the Church of the Brethren. Last month OEP was proud to continue this legacy and be a force for peace, justice, and inclusion by participating in the Church of the Brethren’s first ever virtual Annual Conference. Staff members, fellows, interns (both current and alumni), and supporters presented and participated in conference events, including six insight sessions hosted by OEP and a Q & A session focused around the work of OEP as an agency of the Church of the Brethren. Through those sessions, OEP was able to reach almost 300 participants who attended the sessions and were able to support each other on their journeys towards being leaders in peace and justice.
In our insight sessions, On Earth Peace staff member Matt Guynn along with Kingian Nonviolence intern Clara McGilly and six speakers led discussions around each of the six Principles of Kingian Nonviolence and the way those principles interact with different areas of OEP’s activism. Principle 1, “Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people,” was discussed in the context of immigration. As Kathryn LaPointe, our presenter for that session, said “Nonviolence is not about what not to do. It is about what you are going to do about violence and injustice in our own hearts, our own homes, our neighborhoods, and society at large… Courage never feels like it at the time. Courage feels like taking the next step and the next step in loving your neighbor as yourself. Courage is not what we feel. Courage is what we do.”
As we moved into our second session discussing the principle that “the Beloved Community is the framework of the future,” participants focused attention on the role of the Church in fostering Beloved Community. As one participant shared in the chat, “When we come to understand other people's fears and to have our own fears understood, we break a lot of barriers. To do that requires a deep sense of unconditional love, resilience, and strength because it's really hard work.” The sense of commitment to community building and doing the necessary work of undoing oppression was palpable in the virtual room throughout the session.
One of the highlights of the sessions were the ways that attendees chose to be vulnerable and share their concerns and insights about the principles even beyond the content of the session. Some sessions saw lengthy discussions in the chat around the principles, including plenty of debate around what it means to “Attack forces of evil not persons doing evil.” Hearing the powerful stories of presenters from a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams who worked in Occupied Palestine to the chaplain who served the LGBTQ community during the AIDS crisis inspired and revitalized everyone who attended.
Throughout the sessions, the sense that everyone was committed to fighting for justice, peace, and liberation both within ourselves and our communities. As Pastor Kayla reminded us, "’In this world you will see injustice but take heart, I have overcome the world.’ Overcoming is linked to justice. We are more than conquerors, we can take hope and be inspired that while we may not see justice in our lifetime, we know that justice is coming.” Hosting these sessions strengthened the mission of OEP to be part of a living peace church that builds Beloved Community and will continue to be an intergenerational force for peace and justice.