2022 is a year of gatherings and reflection. The churches national, international and local are all beginning to meet in person after extended periods of online networking during the Covid pandemic. We have all experienced much turbulence over these last few years and so it’s a privilege to highlight Peace Sunday as a chance to gather, as one church or in ecumenical services, and reflect on what our individual and collective call to be a peacemaker could be.
Peace Sunday is a relatively new entry to the church calendar, yet its roots lie in a core question of the Christian message – what does it mean to follow the Prince of Peace in our daily lives? Its place in the calendar reminds us that the Prince of Peace doesn’t just appear at Christmas, His message is timeless and we need to respond. It links us with the United Nations International Day of Peace which falls on 21 September every year.
But what can you say about peace at the moment? To assist with your reflections a booklet of worship resources has been produced by the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR). FoR is an ecumenical movement of Christians committed to building peace, seeking justice and transforming the world with a message of nonviolence. It was founded in 1914 and since then has supported people to discover their calling as a peacemaker through campaigns, education and fellowship.
This year the theme we are encouraging churches to explore is ‘A Harvest of Peace’. We examine some of the links between climate change and peace through prayers and sermon notes. We offer resources to help churches integrate a message of peace into their harvest service, while also reminding us that peace in itself is a bounty for the world.
This material was produced while the war in Ukraine began. The Fellowship, alongside other peace groups, has coordinated weekly prayers for peace and you are welcome to join us every Friday at 7.30 pm. Simply register your interest. We encourage you to share news of this with your congregations and encourage their participation either on their own or by starting your own group to pray for peace with us.
Some of the material used in these prayers will be going on our Peace Sunday website alongside lectionary-focused notes reminding us of the cost of living crisis and the place of money in causing division and conflict in society.
All of this sits against a backdrop of the global communion of churches gathering in Germany for the World Council of Churches. The WCC was founded with a commitment to eradicating war and standing up for peace. To that end, the International FoR and other peace-minded movements are running a number of peace-focussed fringe events alongside the wider WCC programme. Therefore we also encourage you to include prayers for peace between churches and in the world among your Peace Sunday reflections.
All the resources created will be used in hundreds of churches and gatherings around the country. Previous years have seen Peace Sunday reflections in chapels, central halls, independent churches and even a Prison chapel. Over the last few years, different churches have streamed their peace Sunday service and we hope more will do so this year – maybe using the special recording of Graham Kendrick’s O Lord, the clouds are gathering’ which we commissioned with Matt Beckingham, Graham Kendrick and the National Methodist Choir of Great Britain.
However you choose to mark Peace Sunday, please do share it online and tag it with #PeaceSunday and FoR will share as many stories as we can. It’ll be a chance for us each to reflect on our calling and act as a chance to witness to the world that in times of war, the church dares to talk peace.