This month we bring you a spontaneous special issue on the recent "Heeding God’s Call: A Gathering on Peace," held in January at the Arch Street Meetinghouse in Philadelphia, and sponsored by the Historic Peace Churches (Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren). The first inkling that we might do such an issue came when Tom Swain, clerk of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, asked me during a weekend at Pendle Hill if the JOURNAL had planned to cover the gathering. My answer was "yes," but I wasn’t clear how much coverage we were prepared to do. As we considered this question back in the office, and thought about the two years of planning that had gone into this event—and its ecumenical outreach, with careful attempts to involve all branches of Friends, Mennonites, Brethren, and 45 other Christian denominations, plus Jewish and Muslim participant-observers—it became increasingly clear that something special was needed to give the proceedings adequate coverage.
It was just the right moment for us to take a leap of our own. Conversations have been going on for quite some time at the JOURNAL about ways to use our website in more innovative and immediate ways. The Peace Gathering gave us an opportunity to provide ongoing daily coverage through a special section of our website at https://www.friendsjournal.org/peace. The organizers of the gathering were wonderful about directing participants to post comments and reflections on our site, and we had the opportunity to send two of our interns to the gathering to provide additional coverage and photos for us.
The articles in this issue were offered as talks delivered to participants or as reflections about the gathering after it was completed. Typical of any special issue of the JOURNAL, we received far more material for possible publication in our pages than we had space to use. Most of the articles that did not find their way into this issue can be found posted on our web pages dedicated to the Peace Gathering.
Many aspects of this gathering were remarkably wonderful. The two-year process leading up to it was prayerful, and the organizers felt strongly that they wanted the entire event held in an atmosphere of prayer, which continued throughout the proceedings. The ecumenical framework they chose invited broad participation by many constituencies, and offered an opportunity to connect and network with fellow peace workers from many faith traditions. What an opportunity to build bonds of solidarity and to create networks that can carry the message of active peacemaking! Beyond ecumenism, the gathering was racially integrated, and—taking place close to the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.—drew deeply upon his life, work, and tremendous contributions to the history and practice of nonviolence. King, Gandhi, and Jesus were frequently discussed for the examples they gave to us of how to embody love in a transformational way.
I know that some folks were disappointed that this gathering was invitational—that gave an unfortunate exclusive feel to it that left some feeling left out or passed over. Having organized large gatherings myself, I am aware of the daunting task the organizers faced in trying to provide fair and equal representation of all the constituencies they wished to include. And, as one of the individuals whose schedule made it impossible to attend the sessions, I can recommend this special issue and our special web pages to you as a very good place to get a real flavor of what the Peace Gathering was about if you were unable to attend. There’s much of great value here, which can be absorbed more slowly, and perhaps, therefore, in some ways more deeply. I hope and pray we will see more such gatherings in the future, until all who wish to drink at this well are full to the brim.