SPRING, 2002: Volume 7, Issue 1
Peace Teams as a Corporate Ministry By Val Liveoak
In this article, I hope to begin a dialogue with our readers and supporters about the distinct aspects of FPT and to highlight some of the things we’ve learned, are rediscovering about Quaker practice, or can offer to the peace team movement and to peace workers in general. Friends Peace Teams labors to bring the Quaker tradition of ministers traveling together to the field of peace work. How many Quakers consider their peace work to be a ministry? How many of their Meetings recognize or support this ministry?
Like many Quakers, I have done peace work individually or in ecumenical or mixed groups. In much of this work, I didn’t have the benefits of the corporate discernment process which grounds the work in the leadings of the Spirit. Even Friends who represent their Meetings in work, who have Minutes of support or who receive nurture from their Meeting for their work, may feel that their passion is not of much effect or importance to the Meeting.
By emphasizing corporate rather than the individual leading, FPT seeks to assist Friends in finding a spiritual center in a working group. FPT has restated the model of a pair (or group) of ministers working to bring their message to others as a kind of a team process. (Using the secular word, “team”, may obscure the spiritual power of the process and the model, but it also makes the model accessible to non-Friends.)
Friends have a tradition of offering traveling ministers a companion, called an “elder”, not only for help in logistical arrangements, but also to worship together and to have a deeper experience of God’s presence and leadings. While travel in the ministry is quite different today than in the 17th century, enabling ministers to be accompanied by another member of the Meeting serves the same purpose of nurturing the spiritual seed, preventing isolation, connecting the Meeting to the work of its ministers and providing an opportunity for discernment.
Friends who can keep a clear and lively sense of God’s presence can help the work of a peace team to remain centered. They can live “in that life and power that takes away the occasion for all war.” They can even ground the group process in Love and Unity when it veers into contention, anger or impatience. I think that nonviolent action needs that center and grounding. More and more it is clear to me that we need to be peace and not just seek to make it.
Whether physically accompanied or not, Friends who work with their Meetings using the peace team model extend the benefits of their ministry beyond the people with whom the minister works. Indeed, the benefits to the Meeting itself are often at least as obvious as the effects of the minister’s project. There is a lively connection to a people and place that is in crisis, and where its very need may make God’s presence more manifest. The miracles of mercy in the midst of violence, of sharing in the midst of need, of “that of God” appearing in unexpected people—these may be more easily recognized in difficult situations. And if the Meeting is accompanying the minister, they witness them as well.
I am aware that some Quaker ministers traveled unaccompanied. John Woolman did on his trip to England. I believe that when his Meeting confirmed his leading for the trip, it undertook not only to release him from his responsibilities at home, but also to uphold him in prayer. In the same fashion, Friends whose leadings are to join peace teams as individuals are encouraged by FPT to receive spiritual, financial and logistical support from their home Meeting. FPT has developed processes for organizing this support, and has resources for assisting Meetings in their tasks. We go so far as to consider the support group at home a peace team too, and we offer support and resources for these teams as well. Quakers are famous for their traditional peace witness and I believe that creating spiritually centered peace teams in the field and within our Meetings is best way to keep the ministry alive..
Some Queries for Meetings with Peace Teams by Rosa Packard