We will be People of Peace: Standing in solidarity with those hated and displaced

“We will be people of peace, welcoming, offering hope and a place you can stand.”

These words echoed through my heart as I hunched over the Delta flight tray, scribbling away on the back of a thin napkin. Knowing we were going to be gathering, as a community, to host a solidarity vigil on behalf of those affected by the Quebec mosque shooting, as well as the many refugees currently displaced in the world, I felt a song rising up in me. A song for us. A song for our Valley.

PC: Ethan Greentree (Follow him on Instagram @_sirethan_)

And this week, we hosted that candlelight vigil of solidarity, standing as a community to declare who we are and who we will be. As the Erickson Covenant Church, we did not host this vigil as a Christian prayer service. Rather, we hosted our community, gathering as a mix of faiths or no faith at all, holding a variety of political perspectives, with an array of ideas and passions, and yet all unified in this one thing: as the Creston Valley, we will be a welcoming community of peace, open-hearted and hospitable, shunning violence and seeking understanding.

As Christians, we seek peace as an expression of Who we follow, the Prince of Peace, the One who laid his life down for all. As Jesus-followers, we are called to care for those who are displaced, to love those who are often seen as “enemies”, to welcome the stranger and mourn with those who mourn–to make room in our lives for others. And as the church of Jesus, we have been commissioned to be peace-makers, holding our own arms open, inviting people to consider the way of peace as the way of life.

PC: Ethan Greentree (Follow him on Instragram @_sirethan_)

On this chilly, snowy Tuesday, following the most epic snow day the Kootenays has experienced in many years, over 50 Creston Valley residents gathered to reflect, to pray, to listen and to sing. Chief Jason Louie of the Lower Kootenay Band told us an ancient, local story celebrating diversity as a strength; he also sang for us a victory song of his people. Linda Price, on behalf of the Creston Refugee Committee, shared about the good work of hospitality going on right here in our Valley, to make a home for refugees among us (we have welcomed multiple families over the years). And I closed our vigil, sharing words from a Muslim friend of mine in the wake of the Quebec shooting and hosting two times of silent prayer and reflection (one for the Muslim community; another for the refugees of the world). After offering a prayer to the Father of us all and in the name of Jesus, I sang the song posted below, written for our community. I leave you with that today. (The full lyrics are posted below).

People of Peace

Word and Lyrics: Tom Greentree, February 2017
For the Creston Valley: May we be people of peace.

 

People of Peace (Tom Greentree)
Verse 1
In a climate of fear and mistrust
Who will we be?
In a world that is so far from just
who will we be?
When the nations are boiling, no boundaries contain
and the ones who are hated, neglected and shamed

Who will we, who will we be?

Chorus:
We will be people of peace, people of peace
Welcoming, offering hope and a place you can stand
We will be people of peace, people of peace,
Holding our hearts open, doing whatever we can
 
Verse 2
In a Valley that’s known for abundance
Who will we be?
At a time when we’re tempted to silence
Who will we be?
When it’s easy to turn off the cries that we hear,
distracted by comfort and blinded by fear
Who will we, who will we be?

Christmas: It’s the most generous time of the year

Generosity is a beautiful thing.

And at Christmas, generosity shines brightly in the Creston Valley. Over the last few weeks, I’ve enjoyed a front-row seat to the stunning heart of my community as gifts were given, money was donated, time was offered and energy was expended, all in the name of sharing the joy of Christmas. Through the Creston Valley Ministerial Association Christmas Hamper program, over 400 families received a joyful boost of Christmas cheer–all of it bubbling up and overflowing from the generous hearts and hands of Creston’s amazing people, churches and businesses. And that’s not all–numerous other programs also received incredible generosity this time of year, alleviating burdens and elevating joy during a season that can be very difficult for many.

Wrapping gifts and offering soup — it’s all part of the Christmas Hamper tradition!

Seeing this generosity makes me thankful to be here, to be a member of this community and a pastor in this great valley. In a corner of the world known for its abundance, its people abundantly share.

At Christmas, generosity flows. Some might say it’s just a seasonal thing, when hearts are warmer than normal, or perhaps have grown a size or two throughout the year. Perhaps there’s something in the air during this time of little light, something that makes us want to give back–we who have received so much.

Young and old, everyone gets involved in spreading Christmas joy!

But I also think generosity comes more easily during a season when we celebrate the greatest act of generosity the world has ever known: when the Father sent his Son to make the world right again, overturning darkness with the dawning of light. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son”–not because he had to or was forced to or didn’t have any other choice, but because the Father, in his generous love, is a Giver, giving. Whether fully acknowledged or not, Christmas time is a celebration of the ultimate gift given, from the most generous being ever.

“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.” And into the world of darkness, generosity shone. And it continues to shine, year after year, day after day, season through cycling season.

An amazing army of ready volunteers fill the hampers each year.

So thank you, Creston. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for being people of abundance who share abundantly. And thank you for giving in a way that reflects the generosity of our Creator and our Giver. Christmas is a most generous time of year–may you both give generously and receive generosity in the true spirit of Christmas this year, and may we all know the ultimate gift given, on that silent night, for the peace of this world and the good of all humankind.