...or how we spread CCP nonviolence training across our Episcopal Diocese
The Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem, PA has been blessed to work directly with Janet Chisholm, the designer of Creating a Culture of Peace, to offer nonviolence trainings in our diocese. She was based locally for four years at Kirkridge Retreat Center, coordinating Peace & Justice Programs, following her time at Fellowship of Reconciliation and as Episcopal Peace Fellowship (EPF) national chairperson. During her stay in our diocese, Janet also became a member, and later chair, of the Diocesan Peace Commission. She inspired several commission members to take Creating a Culture of Peace basic nonviolence training and also the facilitator training, so that they could offer CCP training throughout the diocese. In the past five years, CCP has offered seven 3-day basic trainings and five 4-day trainings of trainers for us. These efforts have included several that were diocesan-sponsored or for which there were diocesan scholarships. They occurred first at Kirkridge Retreat Center, then later and today in congregations in both the southern and northern parts of the diocese as lower-cost commuter trainings.
Diocesan funding has made scholarships available to participants. The Peace Commission obtains the funds by submitting a detailed budget application along with supporting documentation, by referencing national church resolutions, and by describing the impact of the training. We see ourselves as part of a national Episcopal Peace Fellowship and national church movement. In 2000, General Convention resolved “that the Episcopal Church…provide worship, study and action resources and opportunities throughout the Decade which promote the development of a culture of peace and nonviolence at all levels of society" and in 2003 “that curricula in nonviolence awareness and training be promoted for use in dioceses and congregations.”
With financial assistance from the diocese, the trainings have enjoyed greater diversity than would have been possible otherwise. Trainings have included teens and senior citizens, men and women, clergy and laity, as well racial and cultural diversity.
We have followed the advice from advertising professionals: “In order to get your message heard, you need to put it out there at least six different ways.” To that end, the Commission has promoted Creating a Culture of Peace trainings and benefits in a variety of ways:
· a display at Diocesan Convention, including photos from local trainings, testimonies from participants in CCP trainings, CCP handouts, and a continuously-running, computer slide show with accompanying quiet music;
· features and ads within the diocesan newspaper, Diocesan Life;
· notices in local papers’ religion pages;
· flyers, bulletin inserts, and bulletin notices sent electronically to parishes;
· bookmarks delivered in-person to key parishes in the area of trainings;
· talks and contacts by parish Peace Liaisons;
· notices in the newsletters of the major peace groups within our area;
· individual phone calls to parishes and individuals;
· and CCP “teaser” workshops at area churches and local colleges.
Project planning is the final component of the CCP Basic Training. Participants select issues of violence and injustice which most concern them. Then they work in teams to apply what they have learned during the training and develop strategic plans to implement real social change. These plans vary greatly, embracing issues like climate change, domestic violence, militarism, school racism, health care, teaching the nonviolent Jesus, and others. One recent project seeks to improve Muslim-Christian relations and has led to the Peace Commission’s submission of a Resolution for the upcoming Convention of the Diocese of Bethlehem.
A few participants in the CCP trainings have come from nearby dioceses and have been inspired to carry Creating a Culture of Peace training back into their own dioceses. One priest formerly from the Diocese of Bethlehem has been called to a parish in the Diocese of Central Pennsylvania and is planning on bringing trainings there. A Deacon from the Diocese of Pennsylvania is among the Facilitators of our diocesan trainings that have been seeking to incorporate participants from that diocese. A Lutheran Pastor from Central Pennsylvania who took one of the trainings is working with an Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of Vermont to further expand CCP. And, last but certainly not least, one participant from the Diocese of Long Island is now seeking Facilitator Certification so that he can bring the program there as part of their diocesan vision for congregational development.
I have heard many testimonies about the life-changing experience that is Creating a Culture of Peace training. It has been able to help more and more people feel that they do have the power to change things --- it has strengthened their skills --- it has diminished their feelings of despair and helplessness. Previously had I only considered the impact of CCP training in the personal realm. As I reflect now on the history of CCP training in our diocese, I know that the projects are changing our culture. And I am even more excited at the potential this program has for changing the Church! We can only imagine the extent to which God intends to use Creating a Culture of Peace and all who have been trained in it. May God bless all of us in the church who are working to transform our culture of violence into a culture of justice and peace.
I urge you to consider CCP training for congregations in YOUR region.
For future CCP trainings, refer to the ever-changing CCP website calendar. Currently scheduled are 3-day Basic Trainings in OR, PA, and MN; 4-day Facilitator Trainings on September 21-25 near Pittsburgh and on March 14-18 in Minneapolis; and Direct Action workshops in November at SOA Watch in GA.