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Praying for Peace on the Pike

Society of Friends Seeks Another Answer to Conflict

War in Iraq is imminent, but at both ends of Georgetown Pike, pacifist churches are praying for peace.

Last week, a banner reading “Seek peace and pursue it” was hung on the simple white frame of the Langley Hill Meeting House, one of two pacifist congregations at either end of 13-mile long, historic Georgetown Pike.

Thousands of commuters will see it every day as they drive to Washington. It’s quite possible that national policy-makers will also read those five words on the banner; Secretary of State Colin Powell lives a few miles away from the Quaker church. Vice President Dick Cheney lived even closer before he moved to the official vice presidential residence in the District of Columbia.

John Surr, the clerk of the Langley Hill Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, said placing the banner grew out of a church “minute,” a statement of its members’ views on a particular topic.

“We meet for worship every Sunday. In the Quaker way of doing things, because we don’t have a minister, we get together once a month and decide, in unanimity, on all the issues that are before the meeting, Surr said.

“When we feel led by the divine spirit to declare something to ourselves and the world, we adopt a ‘minute.’ We sometimes come to real unity, which surprises us, amazes us, and delights us.

“We did in November on a minute meeting on how we feel about the war situation.”

Since then, he said, the Langley Meeting has sponsored a Tuesday evening “peace vigil” at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. The 5:30 p.m. gathering has attracted as few as 12 and as many as 60 people, Surr says.

The banner was made up for those vigils. But about a week ago, someone suggested that it be displayed on the church between the Tuesday peace vigils, Surr said.

“The message that we are trying to convey is a positive one about peace. It is not just the absence of war. It starts with each of us, and grows.

“We hope that everyone in society, but especially our leaders, takes that message to heart and applies the idea to the problems that confront us, including Iraq.”

“ALL WAR IS SIN,” said John S. Weyant, minister of the Dranesville Church of the Brethren in Great Falls. As Brethren, he said, “We seek non-violent ways of resolving conflict. We see war as contributing to conflict, rather than diminishing it.

Brethren churches in the area have been holding Sunday evening meetings where high school students have studied peace as an alternative to war, and nonviolent ways of resolving conflict, Weyant said. Between 25 and 30 students have been attending.

“My prayer for the [national] leadership is that we would seek peace, rather than war,” Weyant said. “It just breeds anger and resentment. I can’t see that anything good is going to come out of this. It grieves my heart greatly to think that this is the road we have chosen to follow,” he said. “It is wrong-headed.

The Church of the Brethren is a congregation that lives by a German expression meaning “the quiet in the land,” Weyant says.

“We strive to live among people in a quiet and respectful way, allowing our lifestyle to proclaim the Gospel for us,” he said.

“We see that lifestyle as including all the attributes of Christ, including a nonviolent way of dealing with problems in our society.”

His church also supports the World Council of Churches initiative to make this “the decade to overcome violence,” Weyant said. “I love to sit and talk of this.”

Additional sessions on peace for senior high school students are scheduled on Feb. 16 at the Midland Church of the Brethren, 10434 Old Carolina Road, and on Feb. 23 at the Manassas Church of the Brethren, 147 Nokesville Road, off Rt. 28 in Manassas.

AT THE LUTHERAN CHURCH of the Redeemer in McLean last Sunday, Pastor George Evans did an exposition sermon on the 40th chapter of Isaiah, he said.

“It’s not safe for religious leaders to dance around the issue that as best we know, the evidence is clear that Saddam Hussein is truly an evil man,” Evans said. “His actions speak for themselves. [But] There are many evil people.

“The question is how, now, do we deal with this evil person? We have seen in past times, when people were silent in the face of evil, evil triumphed for a time until God sorted it out. History is filled with those examples.

“You cannot be quiet in the face of evil,” said Evans, a former officer in the Navy.

“Peace must be closely connected to justice. Peace must always preserve life. You do the things that are needful to preserve life.

That is the judgment which, as a nation, the president and [his] advisors, as well as other nations are wrestling with.

“We must all participate. In a free society, it is not the president who goes to war. It is our sons and daughters. We go to war.

“That is the question: Is this needful to preserve life, and insure justice, in a peaceful world?”

“I trust our people to have the ability to make up their own minds,” Evans said. “The desire is always for peace.”