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Peace Garden reflections

By Rev. Susan Eagle


A short while ago I was invited to attend a Peace Garden dedication because I had been one of the founding members of a Project Ploughshares group formed in the early 1980’s in London, Ontario. I willingly accepted. It was an opportunity to visit old friends in the social justice movement and it seemed like a special moment of renewal.

The Peace Garden was created as a response to community and world concerns over the build up of nuclear armaments and it gave expression to the need to offer an alternative to the tension and belligerence of the Cold War.

It was designed as a quiet place for people to walk or quietly sit and contemplate. That was thirty years ago.

This year, as we rededicated the space, I could not help but be struck by the way in which the site has been transformed.

The Take Back the Night women’s rally uses it to gather for their street march every September.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs memorial is held there every May Day.

Aboriginal elders planted a white pine peace tree on the first anniversary of the 1990 Oka crisis and today that tree stands proud and tall with weapons of war buried beneath it and the four colours of the earth decorating its trunk. Those colours now form the background of our United Church crest.

The labour community has dedicated a memorial sculpture entitled Good Hands which commemorates workers who have struggled to achieve workers’ rights, such as the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

And visitors to the garden are reminded that it is dedicated to the dream of a world in harmony with the Creator, all Peoples and the Earth, our only home.

In that microcosm of people and organizations who now share space in the Peace Garden I see a vision of what I believe we are called to be as church today.

It is welcoming space. It is restful space, but it is equally restless space as it offers not only a place for rest and renewal but a constant visual reminder of the many places where we have work still to be done to care for God’s earth.

It is open and transformative space for it invites new expressions of ways in which we need to work together and build harmony and community.

I came away feeling spiritually renewed and re-energized. But also challenged by the broad cross-section of the community that comes together in the Peace Garden to share ideas, dream a vision and work to make it a reality.

We need to build more church spaces that are life-giving and life-affirming places of renewal like the permanent Peace Garden in London and the temporary one we've had in our church hall for the past two Christmas seasons, thanks to the help of labyrinth expert Beth Fryer and Grace volunteers.

As we journey through 2015, may we be open to where the Spirit takes us as we share our space and renew our life together as the Grace church family.

Glimpse of Grace

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