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Congregational peace training materials soon to be released

   
 

Sidebar: Pilot congregations comment on Second Mile

by Tony Krabill

ELKHART, Ind. (MC USA) – Last year, 20 Church of the Brethren and Mennonite congregations sampled the Second Mile congregational peace-training curriculum. Here is some feedback from those who participated:

"The study [of Second Mile] has generated good discussion, new ideas, and valuable storytelling around the theme of what it means to be a peacemaker in all areas of life."

Nancy Sollenberger Heishman, co-pastor
First Church of the Brethren
Harrisburg, Pa.

"Lao people learn that if someone does something to you, you are supposed to fight back. But we learned with Second Mile that there is something different [than that] in the teaching of Jesus and in Mennonite peace theology."

Kuaying Teng, co-pastor
Lao Christian Fellowship
St. Catharines, Ont.

"We have one adult Sunday school class and the numbers usually fluctuate; but when we studied Second Mile, attendance was better than usual. We also have ethnic and non-ethnic Mennonites in our congregation, so this provided a way to talk about the historical aspects of peace, as well as some of the challenges of the Anabaptist lifestyle – something we don’t often find ourselves talking about."

Sherwyn Smeltzer
Immanuel Mennonite Church
Harrisonburg, Va.

"The quarter ended and our group wanted to keep going! The lessons on war, peace and financial issues were the most popular. It was very practical for a city congregation. With crime in the city, questions about war and peace are ever-present things in our neighborhood."

Linda Baker
Living Water Community Church
Chicago, Ill.

"I currently serve on the church’s peace committee and feel the material takes a hard look at many of the issues a Christian must investigate in order to follow a path of peace. Our group felt the leaflet format was a helpful and fresh approach to curriculum material. The history segments were especially helpful."

Wendell Eller, associate pastor for visitation and peace committee member
Bridgewater Church of the Brethren
Bridgewater, Va.

"We found the variety of teaching methods and suggestions to be helpful as well as the peace-related categories of subjects offered within the curriculum. We think it is important to study peace on a more holistic approach than simply as opposition to violence or involvement in the military."

Jim Good, adult Sunday school superintendent
First Mennonite Church
Richmond, Va.

"Second Mile: A Peace Journey for Congregations" is sponsored by the Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada, and Mennonite Central Committee’s U.S. and Canadian offices.

The first pathway in the Second Mile series, The Land that I Will Show You will be available Aug. 16 from Faith & Life Resources, a division of Mennonite Publishing House, 1-800-743-2484, or http://www.mph.org. A 40-page leader’s guidebook is also available free of charge by visiting http://www.gosecondmile.org.

 

ELKHART, Ind. and WINNIPEG, Manitoba (MC USA/MC Canada)—A new resource will soon be available to help congregations take fresh steps toward sharing Christ’s way of peace. "Second Mile: A Peace Journey for Congregations" is slated for release by the Faith and Life Resources division of Mennonite Publishing House in mid-August.

Second Mile is as an educational tool for congregations who want to proclaim Christ’s peace in a broken world. It refers to Jesus’ invitation to his followers if asked to carry a soldier’s goods one mile – to also go the second mile. The project is sponsored by the Church of the Brethren (COB), Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Central Committee’s U.S. and Canadian offices.

"We wanted this to be more than just a Sunday school curriculum where people agree that this is what they believe and then go home and eat pot roast," said Doug Krehbiel, the former Commission on Home Ministries (CHM) director of peace and justice who initially led the steering committee that first worked on the project.

"The great thing about [Second Mile] is that it’s not a curriculum, it’s a change process. It’s a journey, not a destination." He currently directs the Mission Network’s community relations team with his wife, Jude. The duo also serves as the agency’s mission minstrels.

"It’s not that all the material is brand new" said Titus Peachey, coordinating the Second Mile steering committee and director of peace education for MCC U.S. "But it’s put together in a way that leads groups to study, act, and reflect on what they are learning. The materials encourage us to follow Christ’s way of peace with our feet, not only with our heads."

The idea for Second Mile originated in the early 1990s with a chat between Lois Barrett, former executive secretary of the General Conference Mennonite Church’s Commission on Home Ministries; Marilyn Miller, then CHM director for outreach ministries; and Linda Gehman Peachey, who was co-director for peace and justice ministries for MCC U.S. at the time.

They discussed the need to develop resources for peace training similar to the LIFE (Living In Faithful Evangelism) process involving many Mennonite congregations. As LIFE focused on engaging congregations in evangelism, so the church needed to train its members to be active peacemakers.

"We felt there was a need for a more intentional training process for peacemakers," Gehman Peachey said.

Eventually, a steering committee was formed with representatives from On Earth Peace (Church of the Brethren), CHM, the (at that time) Conference of Mennonites in Canada, MCC U.S. and MCC Canada, the Mennonite Church office for peace and justice, Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries and the African-American Mennonite Association.

This group proposed a structure for the materials and a vision statement, plus the Second Mile name. The group also designed a Second Mile logo.

The resources are divided into four "pathways" – which are groupings of 20 pamphlets mapping out a different peace journey. Each lesson is designed to engage participants in study, action, reflection and worship in an area of peace and justice. Each pathway includes an introductory pamphlet and one or two pamphlets on conflict transformation and spirituality of peace.

"This format is quite different from the traditional design of adult studies," said Carol Penner, Second Mile project editor. "The pamphlets make the lessons more accessible and interesting. They also allow congregations the flexibility to pick and choose which topics to discuss from each pathway."

There’s a holistic nature to the material, said Kim Stuckey, program coordinator for peacemaker formation with On Earth Peace.

"It’s not just something to be used in a class, but it can be used for congregational study and worship," she said. "And there are tools for action so that you can do peacemaking and not just talk about it."

Topics include church and family relationships, restorative justice, creation care, responses to racism and sexism, lives of service and peacemaking.

"The hardest part was narrowing down all the important peace and justice issues into the four pathways," Krehbiel said.

Canadian and American women and men representing different denominational traditions, racial and ethnic backgrounds, cultures and geographical contexts wrote the Second Mile resources. About 20 COB and Mennonite congregations have sampled the materials.

Justina Heese, executive secretary of MC Canada Formation said, "Mennonite Church Canada looks forward to having this resource inform all areas of our program- witness, worship, formation, multi-cultural ministries as well as the peace and justice ministry". Heese also said that staff members Elsie Rempel (director of Christian education and nurture) and Arlyn Friesen Epp (director of peace and justice) will be using Second Mile materials in the context of their respective positions.

Pathway A: The Land that I Will Show You will be available Aug. 16 from Faith & Life Resources, a division of MPH, 1-800-743-2484, or http://www.mph.org. A free 40-page Leader’s Guidebook is also available by visiting http://www.gosecondmile.org.