By Charles Busch, Congregational Church of Lincoln City, Lincoln City, OR
Peace Village is an education program for teaching peace and nonviolence. Its roots are in the Central Pacific Conference UCC.
The first Peace Village was held 19 years ago at the Lincoln City Congregational UCC. It was created in response to a bullying incident at the local high school. “We decided,” said founder Rev. Charles Busch, “we needed to teach our children how to handle conflicts using peaceful means.”
The 5-day summer camp curriculum, titled Making a Village, has developed over the years. Today it features four core courses: Seeking Peace Within, Nonviolent Conflict Resolution, Media Literacy and Walk About (ecology). Students also create art, hike, and learn about peace heroes (e.g., Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Heschel, Badshaw Khan). From the beginning, the program has been interfaith. Students in Lincoln City sit at the feet of Native American Shaman Hasa Brown, Buddhist Dharma teacher Jerry Braza, and Rabbis, Imams and Christian ministers.
This experiment in peace education has grown and spread. This summer, more than a thousand students will attend the 22 Peace Villages in 10 states.
This summer, the Central Pacific Conference, Congregational UCC in Lincoln City will hold its 19th Village; First Congregational UCC in Eugene and First Congregational UCC in Boise will hold their 10th; Lake Oswego UCC, 7th; Smyrna UCC, 4th; Newport Peace Village (a partnership of eight churches), 3rd; Cedar Hills and Beaverton UCC, 2nd; North Valley Friends Church in Newberg, 2nd. Other churches that have hosted Villages —Milwaukee UCC, Park-Rose UCC, Hillsdale UCC—are adapting the curriculum for use in their existing educational programs.
Today, the largest Peace Village of more than 150 students is in its 7th year. Columbia Gorge Peace Village is hosted by the Hood River and White Salmon UCC churches. As with all Peace Villages, new classes are added to the program each year (e.g., ceramics, theatre, marimba, aikido, drumming, cooking).
Not all Villages are hosted by churches. The Peace Center at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, will hold its 12th Peace Village camp this summer. Cite Soleil Clinic, Port au Prince, Haiti, hosts Peace Village’s one international camp.
Last fall, the UCC’s Local Church Ministries honored the Peace Village program by naming the Congregational UCC in San Mateo, California, a “Center for Excellence.” The congregation was lifted up for the Peace Village interfaith collaboration with The Muslim Children’s Garden School and Peninsula Temple Beth El of San Mateo. The children who attended the camp report:
“You get to meet a lot of new friends. It’s awesome,” said Calvin Mader-Clark
“I learned that if you be nice to people, they’ll be nice to you,” said Malak Dahbour
“I learned that no one can be perfect, but you can make a difference,” said Addison Cornwall
It’s probably too late to create a Peace Village in your community for summer 2014, but you can visit a nearby camp in our Conference for a day and experience the joy of the children. Then start planning to host your own Village in 2015. You might order the Making a Village curriculum and introduce parts of it this fall in your church’s existing educational program.
For a listing of camps and photo gallery visit, www.peacevillageinc.org
Call Jen Wimpress, Peace Village, Inc.’s new camp coordinator, at 541-264-0614