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The Many Ways We Seek Peace

Updates from several Partner Congregations

Our Partner Congregations do an amazing job of seeking peace in many forms in many ways. Of late, we’ve been especially moved by these efforts to make prayers for peace specific and meaningful.

Our partners, the Baptist Peacemakers of Rhode Island, participated in an interfaith memorial for victims of gun violence which included the blessing of a quilt made from clothing of five Rhode Islanders slain by guns. The service was intended as a memorial for those lost to gun violence and a consolation to their loved ones.

The Memorial Quilt was created as part of the Mothers’ Dream Quilt Project of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It is being made available to members of the Rhode Island Religious Coalition for display in services of prayer and concern for gun violence. It will represent Rhode Island in the National Quilt Exhibit and go on tour with quilts from every state.

Our partners at Calvary Baptist in Washington, DC linked memory to action in a “Prayers for Peace” service that included a remembrance of  the 35th anniversary of the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero and education about about the current struggle in El Salvador to prevent the privatization of the nation’s water supply.

The Riverside Church of New York City held a Lenten service similar to the Seven Last Words of Jesus traditionally preached on Good Friday linking state-sponsored execution of Jesus with recent state violence in the US. Called Seven Last Words: Strange Fruit Speaks, the service focused on the final words uttered by seven black people slain by police, security personnel, or vigilantes. The preaching "texts" for sermons came from Eric Garner ("I Can't Breathe); Renisha McBride ("I Want to Go Home"), and Michael Brown ("Don't Shoot!"), among others.  

 In announcing the service, the church wrote:

This epidemic of racialized state violence has a long history in this country, from slavery and lynchings, to Jim Crow and mass incarceration. As theologian James Cone writes in his book The Cross and the Lynching Tree, "every time a white mob lynched a black person, they lynched Jesus." The state-sponsored execution of Jesus can be directly linked, both theologically and politically, to the execution of black bodies in America. What is our response to the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tarika Wilson, Oscar Grant, Renisha McBride, and Trayvon Martin, just to name a few? Silence is not an option because silence in the face of suffering and injustice is sin.

How are we to express our righteous indignation? How can we respond, with integrity, to racialized violence? As Jesus calls on us to remember his death, so are we to remember the deaths of those "crucified" in our midst. The voices of the executed are crying from the ground, calling us as disciples of Jesus to remember them and advocate for justice. How may we do this?

The Church is in desperate need of a political theology that speaks to our theological convictions as well as articulates our political commitments. We pray that this service will be one step in that direction. And the voluntary offering collected during the service will be donated to local organizations working to end police brutality and other forms of state violence.

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