19. Peacemaking companions

Ted Grimsrud—Purpose vol. 45, no. 3 (March 2012), p. 28.

I have found that over the years many of my most profound experiences of “spiritual companionship” have happened when I have been engaged in peacemaking work.

It seems like a combination of a shared passion to make the world better with shared faith convictions and with practical opportunities for action can make for significant friendship.

Maybe part of it, too, in my experience, is sharing a sense of how puny these efforts seem in relation to the problems we face—kind of “misery loves company,” or a solidarity in futility. But out of the feelings of inadequacy comes a sense also, when we walk with companions, that nonetheless something real and life affirming makes itself present.

Let me share one such experience. I joined with others in the early 1990s to make public witness in opposition to the Gulf War with Iraq. We formed a group that drew from four peace churches in Eugene/Springfield, Oregon. I pastored the local Mennonite congregation, and was joined on the steering committee by the Brethren pastor, and the chairs of the peace committees from two Friends congregations.

One of the Quakers was college communications professor named Bill. We became good friends. We discovered many commonalities. We shared an interview on a local radio station where we explained how our attempt to put together a consistently pacifist witness was distinctive in relation to more politically-focused opposition.

Bill had grown up Quaker but for many years had not been part of a meeting. Recently, he had returned to his faith and struggled (as I did) to bring together his Christian convictions with social concerns.

We talked at length about our struggles, and found the task of creating ways of witnessing against the war that would be consistent with our pacifism a stimulating project that drew us together.

Our final task was to organize a candlelight processional through downtown Eugene that culminated in a short worship service. Earlier in the day, the political opposition to the war had organized a protest rally. At the end of our event, Bill’s wife, who shared his politics but not his faith, spoke of how moved she was by the gentleness of our event along with its clarity in speaking against the war—in contrast to the unsettledness she felt after the earlier rally.

Bill and I were pleased—and grateful for the companionship we had shared.

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