2016 Lenten Peace Workshop Series
This material from this series was modified and published as Peacemaking: A Community Workbook. This resource is for people willing to discuss the problems of hidden violence and denial of complicity in our community. The book is ideal for individuals or groups and has a companion online resource with videos and discussion questions. You can order a copy through Small Change Publishing or borrow one from the Cedar Park Library.
Led by Matt Balcarras
Feb. 14 – March 20, 2016
Cedar Park Youth Room
For the six Sundays of Lent, while we rhythmically return to our preparation and anticipation for Easter Sunday, you are invited to come to a series of adult education workshops to consider the nature of peacemaking, the seen and unseen conflict in our lives, the role that story-telling plays in justifying violence, and the radical ways we might need to live in order to sustain peace in our relationships, our community and our world. You are welcome to simply show up to the first meeting, or you can also read in advance some of the material that has been gathered to help frame our discussion. If you recall Matt Balcarras’ sermon during Advent on Peacemaking, this series is meant to be the fleshing out and critiquing of many of those ideas and principles.
The following six paragraphs offer a brief glimpse into the ideas that will be explored in each of the six weeks. Additional material and a list of other helpful resources will also be available in advance of each of the sessions.
Feel free to email Matt about anything related to the workshops.
1. Peacemaking and truth-telling
Internal narratives (stories) drive how we interpret our experiences and shape our moral judgments. Violence is justified on the basis of both historical and personal narratives that describe people and events in terms that support condemning moral evaluations. The stories that we tell about conflict are not immutable, however, and we can subvert violence-justifying narratives by resisting coercive silence and learning to hear alternative stories. The upending of dominant and pervasive narratives is difficult though and requires at least two key practices. 1) Adopting an attitude of epistemic humility: recognizing that our ways of identifying what is true might be flawed. 2) Radical listening: being able to hear alternative accounts of events, both historical and personal. Being able to tell the truth about our personal moral culpability in un-healthy modes of conflict resolution, and being able to tell the truth about the justification of large-scale violence begins in learning to listen, as Jesus did, humbly and without judgment.
2. The unseen violence in our story
We live our lives in stories that overlap with many other stories. Many parts of the story we tell ourselves of how we came to be who we are, where we are, leaves out important truths. Peace with ourselves and others is only possible when we begin to hear the story of those we are complicit in hurting, hurt that has often occurred without our direct knowledge. Sometimes we fight against hearing these stories because we are afraid. We do not know what to do about our limited ability to fix others and ourselves. We fear that to see the true extent of brokenness (our own and others) will overwhelm us. We would rather have false control than vulnerability we cannot contain.
Background Reading 2
3. Peacemaking as protest: visible and vocal witness to injustice
Hearing the story of the oppressed compels truth-loving followers of Jesus to speak out. Public voicing of hidden violence is a key practice of non-violent resistance. Christian Peacemaker Teams and others model for us the Christ-like practice of speaking truth: unpopular, sometimes incendiary – sometimes boring, regular old truth. However, peacemaking as protest is more important than we might initially realize and is therefore likely to draw negative reactions from people close to us as well as from the powerful interests that benefit from the status quo.
Background Reading 3
4. Protest: imagining an alternative community
Reading the bible with Jesus can attach our roots as a community to the already existing ecosystem of people that speak out uncomfortable truths and offer pictures of alternative realities. This is the ancient tradition of prophetic imagination. Listening to Jesus, the old testament prophets, and others we can get ideas about how to live lives that work against systems that justify and benefit from violence. In many ways, as we do the difficult work of giving voice to peaceful modes of living, we can be lead by artists, who have historically played a central role in providing images, visual and otherwise, of alternative imaginative realities.
Background Reading 4
5. Peacemaking as placemaking: building local and organic spaces where people can live in peace
Just as violent modes of living have certain rhythms: exploitation of the vulnerable, repackaging of exploitation as consumer freedom, warfare as security for peaceful people – non-violent modes of living have other rhythms, that when practiced in communities attached to specific places creates space where people can come and experience a taste of God’s shalom. Many of the life-rhythms of peacemaking are known to us: availability to those who need us and to God, vulnerability with others and ourselves about our own limitations, consuming with awareness of our impact, generosity, forgiveness for those who demand of us more than we can offer. But our ability to live with these rhythms is often undermined by our commitments to good-seeming things, that while not evil, limit the time and energy available to re-orient ourselves in peacemaking ways. It might turn out that to be peacemaking people we need to give up some of our current comforts and ways of living in order to be free to be truthful, to protest, and to grow gardens of peace.
Background Reading 5
6. Peacemaking at Cedar Park Church in Ladner, BC.
Being people of peace will cost us something. At the very least it will cost us our emotional comfort as we take the risky step of learning to listen. Learning to listen means that as we probe the unspoken or unheard stories among us, we will be exposed to hurt. So we gather to ask and to hear with the conviction that without truth, there can be no peace, but we also know that we gather as one body around the broken body that provides healing for all.
- What are the stories of this church body?
- Where are they incomplete? Is everything fine?
- In what ways have people been wounded in the history of this body in this place?
- Do we owe it to anyone to formally acknowledge wrongs we are complicit in?
- Considering that people who attend churches are statistically just as likely to be depressed and divorced as non-attenders, in what ways do we perpetuate unhealthy modes of conflict resolution between ourselves in the church and in our families?
- Is it really possible that we might reconsider how we live as middle class white people in order to live more radically as peacemakers, pursuing rhythms and practices that undermine violence and build peaceful communities?
Below are a number of recommended resources.
Sermon on Peacemaking
Where do we find hope for peace in a world plagued by violence? Referencing historical and present day examples of non-violent activism, Matt and Deanna Balcarras share about the Jesus tradition of non-violent peacemaking.
Christian Peacemaker Teams
Partnering with nonviolent movements around the world, CPT seeks to embody an inclusive, ecumenical and diverse community of God’s love. CPT places teams at the invitation of local peacemaking communities that are confronting situations of lethal conflict. These teams seek to follow God’s Spirit as it works through local peacemakers who risk injury and death by waging nonviolent direct action to confront systems of violence and oppression.