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     Heeding God’s Call: A Gathering on Peace 
Participants in the Gathering Peace celebrate jubilantly inside the Arch Street Meeting House in Philadelphia, Pa.Normally, the Meeting Room of the Arch Street Meeting House in historic Old Philadelphia is a place of quiet meditation. But during the weekend of January 13-17, 2009, an ecumenical gathering of Christians from North America, called Heeding God's Call: A Gathering for Peace, took place there that rocked the rafters in this stately old building. The three "historic peace churches"–Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren–sponsored the Gathering and invited representatives of virtually every other Christian denomination and Christian peace fellowship in the country to take part. Delegates from over 40 Christian traditions, as well as Unitarians gave this Gathering a significant interfaith dimension, which had been planned by an Interfaith Task Group comprised of Muslims, Jews and Christians from the Philadelphia area. An important part of this interfaith concept was the joining of 15-20 Muslim and Jewish participant-observers, though the primary speakers and workshop leaders at this peace conference focused on Jesus’ message of peace and nonviolence.

Francis Brown, a weighty friend from Downingtown Friends Meeting and a long-time worker for peace throughout the world, originated the idea for the Gathering for Peace. During the Gathering, there was so much wonderful music in the Arch Street Meeting House that he was forced to exclaim, "This room will never be the same."

The primary purpose of this Gathering on Peace was to strengthen Friends witness and work for peace in the world by inspiring hope, raising voices, and taking action, much as the Society of Friends has done in the past, especially through the work of the American Friends Service Committee. This wasn’t just another peace conference. Although there were plenty of exciting speakers, panels and workshops, the intention was that these should be no more than inputs or "spices" in the "stew" that participants from many religions will co-create together with each other and with God.

Francis Brown of Downingtown Friends Meeting, the originator and force behind the Gathering for Peace, sits in quiet meditation among other participants from a variety of religious groups.The Peace Conference Planning Committee assembled a full, programmed worship service each morning, faith/experience-sharing groups each afternoon, and a closing prayer service each evening. They’ve also held a World Café on Thursday evening to engage the full group in a dialogue process to discern where the Spirit leads us, and spent Friday in "focus groups" which came together around topics identified by delegates. On Saturday, conference participants joined with nearly 40 local Partner Faith Communities, and hundreds of others drawn in by the media–some came on busses from around Pennsylvania–for a day of prayer, education and action focused on issues of violence in our own communities This included a public witness focused specifically on faith-based action to prevent the handgun violence that has plagued Philadelphia and so many other cities in the United States.

In addition to the speakers and preachers listed, Rev. Dr. Matthew Johnson, Director of Every Church a Peace Church spoke on Thursday morning, and a number of exciting panelists did so on Wednesday and Thursday morning. 

Read the original proposal for the Gathering on Peace that originated with our Meeting.

For more information, visit the Gathering on Peace Web site.


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