With the eyes of the world trained on Syria and a possible retaliation strike by the United States for that country's use of chemical weapons on its citizenry, this year's 30 Days of Peace observance takes on more significance than ever before.
"Most of us are torn between the defense against the massacre of children that has occurred in Syria and the cause of peace," said Carol Skiba, an active member of the Alpena Peace Coalition that for seven straight years has planned a month-long calendar of activities that revolve around the need for peace locally, nationally and around the world.
The 30 Days of Peace initiative officially begins today on the anniversary of 9-11. In recognition of that, Rev. Bruce Michaud will serve as celebrant for a Peace Liturgy offered at noon at Trinity Episcopal Church. Alpena Mayor Matt Waligora will be there to offer an opening proclamation on behalf of the city and special music will be performed.
The core planning group for the Alpena Peace Coalition’s 30 Days of Peace initiative includes, seated from left, Sally Buza, Sylvia Owens, Sister Catherine Anderson and Jim DesRocher. Standing are Sister Mary Hughes, Carol Skiba, Rev. Tom Orth and Duffy Gorski. Not pictured are Rev. Bruce Michaud, Rev. Bob Case and Betsy Adamus.
On Friday, the movie "Brother Sun Sister Moon" will be shown at 6:30 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church. This production celebrates the life of St. Francis of Assisi, who brought a special message of peace to the world through his manner of reverencing and caring for all people, creatures and creation. A discussion will follow the movie.
Skiba said that the Rev. Tom Orth, another Alpena Peace Coalition supporter, suggested the movie title because St. Francis is considered such a messenger of peace.
An opening prayer service, sponsored by the local Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic and First Congregational United Church of Christ community known at LARCC, will be offered Sunday at 7 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church. Rev. Paul Lance, the newly appointed pastor at First Congregational, will give the message centered on passages in the Biblical books of Isaiah and Joel that reference turning swords into plough shares in times of peace and in times of trouble, turning the plough shares into swords.
"He will look at how this applies to us today," said Sister Mary Hughes, another key Alpena Peace Coalition member. She said the service will include music and recitation of both The Lord's Prayer and The Apostle's Creed, two prayers that are common in all of the local churches that make up LARCC.
On Sept. 16, the first of four contemplative services will be held on consecutive Mondays at noon at First Congregational Church. Created by Betsy Adamus in the tradition of the taize community in France, the services will be reflective and include soft music, readings on non-violence and periods of silence.
A second peace liturgy will be offered again at noon on Aug. 18 at Trinity Episcopal Church. Then an open Alpena Peace Coalition meeting will be held Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. at St. Anne's Parish Hall for a discussion of the current events in Syria and the need for non-violence. Everyone is welcome to attend.
"We are hoping that we can come to some kind of statement as a result of this meeting," Skiba said.
Another highlight in the 30 Days of Peace calendar is An Evening of Poetry, Readings, Blues and Jazz to be held Sept. 20 from 7-9 p.m. at Cabin Creek Coffee. Among those who will be sharing their talents are several winners in last year's student Peace Contest sponsored by the Alpena Peace Coalition. The students include Erika Johnson, who will read her peace-themed essay, and sisters Paige, Madison and Ashley Timmreck, who will perform together in song. An inspirational PowerPoint presentation by student Dakota Meyer also will be shown. Special music will provided by Dave Green.
While a number of the events takes place in local churches, Hughes said one of the meaningful aspects of the peace effort is that it brings together not only those of faith but also those who typically don't have a need for religion or church.
"One of the things we've been really able to do is bring in people whoa re really rooted in church and people who are against it or who have a hard time trusting in the whole idea of religion and church," Hughes said. "They are brought together for the cause of peace."