FCC Peace Committee – June 2017
Where do we go from here?
For the past several years our church has expressed an interest in “Walking our talk” with regard to the values that we espouse in our worship and what we feel we are called to do in the world to live out those values. We have been considering becoming a “Peace” or “Just Peace” church, with definitions borrowed from the National Synod of the UCC and other faith traditions such as the Society of Friends and the Mennonites.
Our original idea was to study several areas of Social Justice prioritized by our members and look at how being a “Peace” or “Just Peace” church would inform our actions toward these. We felt that this exercise would help us discern how we wanted to describe ourselves, what kind of a Peace Action Plan we would develop and how to communicate to others where we stand as a Beloved Community.
In March we asked for the congregation to tell us what social justice concerns weighed on their hearts most heavily. (Acknowledging that our commitment to caring for the Earth is already affirmed with the considerable work of the FCC Earth Care Committee and the Earth Care Advocates). Among the many possibilities, two major areas received significantly more mention than any others: 1) Strengthening our relationship with and support of the Latino Community and 2) Working for Economic Justice.
In the past few months dramatic developments in Washington D.C. made our initial plan of study seem out of step with the urgent times in which we find ourselves. With travel bans, threats of deportation of undocumented immigrants and the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the important issues FCC members had identified felt under siege.
People throughout Sonoma Valley have been gathering to figure out how to help each other. The North Bay Organizing Project (NBOP), affiliated with Gamaliel http://www.gamaliel.org *, was already active in Sonoma County working with members of the Latino Community and La Luz Center to help new community leaders organize around social justice and economic justice issues. FCC Sonoma got to know them while attending community meetings in response to increasing pressure on undocumented immigrants. The FCC Social Action Team and members of the Peace Committee have been participating in the NBOP Sonoma Table meetings in the valley and FCC, along with other local churches and groups, is now a full member of the organization. The Sonoma Table members are focusing on three major areas of concern that coincidentally are in agreement with the priorities of the FCC congregation: Economic justice in terms of housing equality, Immigration Issues, and Educational Equity – an issue of great concern expressed by the Latino Community. These areas carry with them specific actions (and trainings to prepare those interested) targeted to improving the conditions of people affected. (See the list on the following page.) We think that this is a good fit for our Peace efforts.
What we propose to do at this point is to deepen our relationship with NBOP and its members, and strengthen our ties with the groups, sharing with FCC members where there are opportunities to become involved.
*Gamaliel was founded in 1986 to train community and faith leaders to build political power and create organizations that unite people of diverse faiths and races.
Their mission: to empower ordinary people to effectively participate in the political, environmental, social and economic decisions affecting their lives. Gamaliel’s diverse members apply their faith and values to the pursuit of equal opportunity for all, shared abundance, and stronger, more prosperous communities.
In addition to community action, Rev. Curran Reichert and Rev. Alan Kelchner have completed a discussion group focusing on Anti-Racism and White Privilege. The six week discussion and readings provided an opportunity to examine the assumptions that shape our opinions about how the world works for us (and not for others). The series provided us with an opportunity to take a step back, balancing action with introspection. It was a powerful experience! Since space in the group was limited to ten participants, Alan and Curran are willing to host the series again for those who are interested.
And so we find ourselves focusing in on a few areas that coincide with our priorities and where there is active interest in our congregation. There are actions in which we can engage right now, coordinating with other churches and nonprofits to bring about change. We propose that for the coming months we do this work, letting the congregation know where they can most effectively apply their passion and energies.
I think we are talking about plunging in, with a considered plan and support from others. Then, after we have worked this way for a while, we can think about our progress as a community of faith in the world and we may know better what to call ourselves and how to define it.
Opportunities for Action:
• Strengthening our relationship with and support of the Latino Community
- Immigration Issues (With Sonoma Valley Action Coalition)
- Rapid Response, legal observer training for witnesses during ICE actions; accompaniment during deportation hearings; family support afterwards
- Legal support
- Family Preparation in the event of deportation
• Educational Equity – Partnering with El Verano School and their Family Resource Center to improve literacy levels.
• Economic Justice – Housing issues – with Sonoma Valley Action Coalition and the Methodist Church.
Without Justice, there is no Peace,
The peace committee is an ad hoc committee formed in 2012 to lead the congregation in examining whether to accept and display a Peace Pole. After several discussion sessions, the congregation voted to do this. The pole was provided by Sonoma Valley Peace and Justice. It is permanently installed between Burlingame Hall and West Spain Street. Click here for more info.
Those discussions showed ongoing interest in exploring other areas of peacemaking, and the committee was charged with leadership. The following year included presentations and discussions on war and conscientious objection, killer drones, the peace tax fund, living with just enough, economic justice, victim-offender reconciliation, gun violence, and peaceful disagreements within the church.
In 2014, the congregation agreed as one of its five-year goals to explore and decide whether to become a peace church or a just peace church. The peace committee will lead that process, though no date has been set.
Watch UCC’s JUST PEACE video here.
Contact Brian Smucker or Ellen LaBruce