Fifty people from nine states gathered at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver the first weekend in August to learn new ways to make peace. “Journey Into Peace,” an event co-sponsored by Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) Colorado, Colorado Jubilee Ministry and the cathedral, centered around a series of workshops on Saturday, Aug. 7, that invited participants to think like “the other,” and to begin to creatively but non-violently disarm those with whom they have disagreements.
“I’m not here to share a lecture on non-violence. This is to produce thinking,” said Janet Chisholm, the senior trainer, founder and executive director of Creating a Culture of Peace (CCP), one of the presenters at the event. The weekend’s activities were an abbreviated version of the standard CCP training, which includes 20 hours worth of workshops, usually scheduled over three to four days. “We live in a culture that is violent,” said Chisholm, a former national chairwoman of EPF. “But we say there is another way. It’s active non-violence. And we have all learned ways to make peace. Ordinary people can do active non-violence every single day.”
In another exercise, participants imagined themselves to be two opposing sides at a peace rally. Half were designated “hasslers,” whose job was to get in the face of the peace marchers and escalate tensions. The other half were designated “peace makers,” who were to try a variety of techniques to defuse the hasslers’ ire.
“For me, that was very powerful,” said Lynn Huber, the outgoing convener of the EPF Colorado chapter and chairwoman of the committee that planned the weekend. “More so when I was being the hassler than the hassled. I got in touch with the fact that if I don’t have any other way to attack, and I’m determined to attack, then I attack personally, and I hate the capacity I see in myself for that.”
Janis Galvin traveled all the way from Massachusetts to take part in the event. She did so because she could find nothing like it being offered closer to home, and a weekend in Colorado in mid-summer seemed enticing. “It’s been wonderful,” she said. “I’m glad I came. I think I can take a lot of this back to Massachusetts with me, and share it in my parish.” While most participants came from Colorado, others came from New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Arkansas and Utah. Chisholm came from Minnesota, and co-presenter Steve Shanks is a deacon in Alabama.
“In terms of looking at how we will move forward, we were given skills and very practical tools for engaging in non-violent witness,” Davidson said. We now have a responsibility, having gained those skills, to look for opportunities where we may be able to emphasize those gifts in a more significant way, as a chapter and as individuals. When you’re given a gift, God expects us to use it. That will be the true measure of the importance of this training – how we exercise that gift.”
Davidson said he expects the full 20-hour CCP training will soon be offered in Colorado. The offering taken up at the Friday evening worship service was designated as a fund to provide scholarships for those who would like to take part in such a training.