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Folding the Pain of the Past into Hope for the Future

Barbara Galbraith, Children and Youth Minister, FBC McMinnville, OR

Folding the Pain of the Past into Hope for the Future

It is said that anyone making a Senbazuru (one thousand origami cranes) will have a wish come true. In honor of the tenth anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, we at First Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore., created a Senbazuru, hung it from the rafters in our sanctuary in the days before 9/11/11 and, with this act, noted our wish (prayer) for peace.

Over the course of this past summer, as plans for the fall began to take shape around our staff and board tables, the anniversary of 9/11 was, of course, on all of our minds.  “Kick Off Sunday” (our version of “Rally Day”) fell on Sunday, September 11 and, like most churches, we wanted to do something to honor and remember that life-altering event in the life of our country and of our world.  As a progressive faith community committed to the cause of peace, however, we knew we needed to tailor whatever we did so as to reflect our values, ideals, and hopes. From these conversations, two questions kept emerging:  “How has our life been affected by the events of September 11, 2001?” and “What are our hopes for the future?”  As a people of the Gospel, we all agreed that our hope is for peace.  In those conversations, and in that simple word “peace”, a seed was planted that began to take root.

In a subsequent staff meeting, our office manager mentioned seeing an article on 1,000 peace cranes, and the suggestion was made that perhaps our congregation would want to do this in honor of September 11. Our seed was sprouting!  A volunteer was secured to head up the project. Origami paper was ordered. A “working display” was set up in our Gathering Room – a table where folks could come to fold cranes after worship, or pick up a “Peace Crane Kit” (ten pieces of origami paper, an instruction sheet and some historical information about peace cranes placed inside a large envelope) so that their family could fold at home. People flocked to the table. 

Additional kits, beyond the first 30, were put together. People of all ages were creating cranes. Our youth were helping our children with the intricate folds. Those for whom the art of origami came easy were generously helping those of us for whom the folding was anything but peaceful! Even the homeless couple currently sleeping on our porch would come into the building during the week, sit at the table, and fold the cranes. Bags, and bags, and bags of cranes began to appear in our office. A locally owned store hosted their own origami event and ended up with way more than they could use so their additional 200+ were donated to us.

One woman in our congregation created over 400 cranes, relishing in the solace she found in the quiet folding while caring for, and worrying over, her elderly, ill mother-in-law. Many, many people participated in this project, and many shared of the ways they found deep spiritual meaning in the making of the cranes. When the time came to hang them, close to 1,200 cranes had been created in love, “wishfulness”, and hope, and close to 1,200 prayers had been lifted up for peace.

We created our cranes to honor the memory of those who died on September 11, 2001 – to honor the first responders and military personnel lost that day, as well as those who serve today; to remember the innocent civilians who died that day and who continue to die in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere; and to lift up those who grieve all of these losses. We created our cranes in honor and in remembrance.  We also created our cranes in hope – hope of peace, and hope of a world free from hate, fear, and terror, but most of all, we created our cranes in hope – in the hope offered to us through Jesus, the Prince of Peace, whose love and grace is the way to hope, and to peace.

Author's note: In worship on Sunday, October 9th, our youth will lead us in a “Prayer for the Future”, on behalf of our children and youth, and our cranes will be blessed and dedicated to the cause of peace.  After worship, they will be lovingly boxed up and shipped to the World Friendship Center in Japan, where two of our congregants are volunteering for two years as the directors of this center for peace and justice.  They will then take the cranes and place them in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, where a statue of a Japanese girl, Sadako Sasaki stands, holding a golden crane bearing the inscription “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on earth.”


Barbara Galbraith is Children and Youth Minister at First Baptist Church of McMinnville, Ore., a BPFNA Partner Congregation.


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