Presbyterians Today

SEP-OCT 2016

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18 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay Matata was surprised by the bold gesture, and he listened to their appeal. While he did not agree to lay down his arms, the women vowed to persist in their work for peace. They paid three more visits to Matata and his officers, and in November 2014 Matata turned himself over the Congolese army. The women, having heard when Matata planned to sur- render, gathered that day for prayer and worship not far from his hiding place. Matata took advantage of the Congolese government's standing offer to give senior army positions to demobilized rebel leaders. Several of Matata's militia members also gave themselves up to the Congolese army. The concessions offered hope amid armed conflict that continues to rage in the eastern part of the country even though the civil war officially ended in 2003. More than 5 million people have been killed, and terror threatens to strike communities at any moment. Gang rapes are common and so is the conscription of child soldiers. Such atrocities prompted the women to put aside fear for the sake of peace. "To come before weapons, you always have to be fearful," Androsi says. "It wasn't easy, but I prayed in my heart, saying, 'Lord, give me courage so I am able to take this on.'" Presbyterians stand in support of courageous people around the world and across the United States who faithfully work for peace and reconciliation. Many are involved in ministries that are sustained through gifts to the Peace & Global Witness Offering. Fifty percent of the offering goes to the national church, 25 percent is retained by congrega- tions for local ministries, and 25 percent goes to presbytery ministries. While the offering can be taken at any time, most congregations receive it on World Communion Sunday, which is observed annually on the first Sunday in October. On World Communion Sunday, Congolese Christians will celebrate their unity with believers across the globe, and, as they do every Sunday, they will pray for peace in their country. Some of Matata's soldiers are still armed and fighting, and there are many more rebel groups struggling for control of land and Congo's vast mineral wealth. Brutal murders and other acts of terror continue. Yet the Protestant women of Ituri and others maintain their pursuit of peace. One of the Protestant Women's priorities is to convince the rebels who once served under Matata to cease hostilities. "The women are still in action," Androsi says. "We haven't yet quit our visits" to the rebels' hiding place. Bridging racial divides Thousands of miles from Congo, two Denver congregations are healing a breach devoid of the malice and violence that afflict Congo, but they consider it a lamentable chasm they want to repair. Central Presbyterian, a pre- dominantly white congregation, and Peoples Presbyterian, a predomi- nantly African American congrega- tion, are bridging a racial divide by opening their hearts to God through joint worship and by extending hands of friendship to one another. They began the effort on Martin Luther King Day this year. Central members traveled the 2.3 miles that separate the two congregations to worship with Peoples. The following Sunday, Peoples visited Central. "There was this mutual feeling that this is amazing," says Louise Westfall, Central's pastor. "I can only attribute it to the Spirit." Relationships formed quickly between members of the two con- gregations. After the joint worship service at Central, the host of a Central women's group invited the women of Peoples to join them in her home. Eight women from Peoples attended. Not long afterward planning began on a joint women's retreat, and Peoples hosted a vacation Bible school with children from both churches attending. Two additional joint worship services were held last spring, and more are anticipated. "In past times, we had pulpit exchanges, but this is something much more than a pulpit exchange," says Westfall. "It's a desire to be together." Theresa Varnado, a ruling elder at Peoples, is enthusiastic about the increasing level of understanding between the two congregations and the exchange of ideas about ministry. "Sometimes the ideas we share just among our own members get a little stale," she says. "When you spend time together in conversation and doing joint activities, we learn new ideas from them we have never tried before, and they learn new ideas from us they have never tried before." The growing relationship between Central and Peoples has led Westfall to take steps to develop interracial relationships in her social circles. She says that "until we break down social barriers, until we count among our friends people of color, we are going to remain separate." Soulful Sunday The joint worship services that set in motion the relationship between Central and Peoples were part of a Colorado Council of Churches initia- tive called Soulful Sunday. "Soulful Sunday began as an acknowledgment that the body of Christ is broken in many ways," says Adrian Miller, executive director of the Colorado Council of Churches. He notes that in the United States one of the most enduring sources of this brokenness is race. The hope, he says, is for congregations to move beyond worshiping together and build relationships. Soulful Sunday is one way Denver Presbytery promotes inclusiveness. Tom Sheffield, pres- bytery pastor, admits that simply

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