Tips for Witness Commissions and Congregational Peace Advocates

Where Justice and Righteousness

Many congregations have a person and/or committee responsible for peace witness, peace advocacy, or Decade to Overcome Violence ministries, who may look for help as they develop their programs. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Nurture your own spirit

  • Develop prayer and devotional disciplines that sustain you. Drink deeply of God's grace on a daily basis; remember that you are a beloved child of God. On this, all the rest will be built.

  • Learn the stories of scripture and allow God's Word to live inside you.

  • Reflect on how the scriptural vision of shalom inspires and prepares you to engage violence and oppression around you.

  • Be mindful of the places that violence and oppression touch your own life. Seek to understand its impact.

Learn and practice nonviolence

  • The nonviolence to which Jesus points (Mt 5:38-48, Mt 22:37-40)- the ability to reach for creative and bold responses in any situation - is not an inborn trait, but a skill to be learned and practiced. Learn and practice it!

  • Build your skills in interpersonal relationships (Mt 5:21-26; Mt 18:15-22).

  • Learn about the history and strategy of nonviolent struggle. You don't need to re-invent the wheel - build on what has been tried before! www.kingiannonviolence.info

Pay attention to what's happening around you

  • Learn the history and "her-story" of your area. Practice curiosity about how things came to be the way they are now. What are the forces that keep violence, injustice and poverty in place? Ask, What are the current issues of justice and dignity with which I/we can lend a hand?
  • Look for places where God's shalom is needed, or where the situation is ripe for the inbreaking of God's kingdom.
  • Pay attention to the places where a structural shift is needed. Think about how to change the conditions and bring deep healing and change, not just put band-aids on community problems.
  • Keep tabs on what's happening with the national and international movements for justice and peace, and share the news with your congregation.

Animate your congregation

  • Help your congregation to see opportunities for real change in your community and the world - not just what's wrong.
  • Encourage your congregation to identify as a church that wants to shift conditions of poverty and violence - not just address their impacts.
  • Consider the conditions in your community or the world that lead to today's problems of violence and injustice, and how to get involved at a level as close as possible to the root of the problem. Help your congregation discern the next steps for engaging that violence in the most powerful and spiritually-rooted way possible.
  • Join with efforts already occurring in your community or region. Who is already taking action on the issues you are concerned about? Gain strength and momentum by joining with other folks instead of beginning it all by yourself.
  • Check out the "Simple Suggestions for Congregations" page in the DOVPak (www.brethren.org/dov) for ways to inform and involve the whole congregation.

Build relationships with your district-level peace advocates

  • Call or meet in person on a monthly basis your district peace advocates or organizers.
  • Check in with your district peace representatives about ideas, obstacles, and successes. Let them be a sounding board and source of information.
  • Keep your district organizer informed of what's happening in your congregation.

Cross-pollinate

  • Several congregations might join together to plan an event, revival, or campaign on a social issue.

  • If your congregation is hosting an event or workshop addressing violence, invite the other congregations in the district to attend.

  • The Decade to Overcome Violence (2000-2010) movement is ecumenical and grass-roots oriented. There are probably congregations from other DOV denominations that are active in your area. Let them know you are interested in working with them on DOV-inspired activities. Visit www.overcomingviolence.org for more information.

Spread the word

  • Help develop the visibility of your congregation's ministries of violence reduction and justice-building.
  • Share stories and information about peace- and justice-building with other district congregations, and invite them to participate.
  • Submit news announcements for the congregational and district newsletter, and the local paper.

Take the next step

  • "Whatever you are doing is a great place to start. Just take the next step." -- Cliff Kindy
  • Whatever you are currently doing, how can you take things to the next level? Find others to do what you are doing, so you can move on to the next thing!

Matt Guynn, January 2007. Updated from 2004 version in CoB DOVPak by Matt Guynn and Rachel Peterson.