From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Angel honors work of Episcopal Peace Fellowhip
17 Dec 1999 10:21:30
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Episcopal News Service
Angel honors work of Episcopal Peace Fellowhip
by David Skidmore and Meigan Thiel
(ENS) Chicago, birthplace of the nuclear age, is now host to
a peace plaza guarded by a nine-foot-tall bronze angel.
The Angel of Peace sculpture, by New Hampshire artist
William Kieffer, was dedicated at the Episcopal Church Center
plaza November 11, Veterans Day, in an observance marking the
60th anniversary of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. An ecumenical
prayer service, which preceded the dedication, brought together 200
peace activists and religious representatives at St. James
Cathedral for prayer, song and reflections on peacemaking.
"We have an angel evidently on the property now, signaling
the uneasy status of the churches before the prospect of world
disaster," said Daniel Berrigan, Jesuit priest, poet, and peace
activist, in his reflection on Psalm 46, which served as the
inspiration for Kieffer's creation. The angel, he said, is
"telling us in very simple, biblical terms of God's hope for the
world," that human misery and "this misuse of the world in
service of death is not God's will."
The angel is also a reminder, said Berrigan, "of our
humanity in an inhumane time." While society has taken a detour
from its calling to be a force for justice, the church has
remained a steadfast witness for human rights, he said.
"So I take the angel as a profoundly anti-cultural figure,
reminding us of our anti-cultural status before God and one
another," said Berrigan. Psalm 46, which paints a picture of God
radically different from the image in Kings, Chronicles and other
Old Testament books, is "a little jewel," he said, that transmits
a message "perilously and wonderfully close to the message of
Justice was also highlighted in the reflection of the Rev.
Gregory Dell, the Chicago North Side pastor who was suspended by
the United Methodist Church last year for presiding at a
commitment ceremony of a same-sex couple.
"Peace without justice," said Dell "is empty tranquility and
is not worthy to be called peace."
Dell, who now heads In All Things Charity-the non-profit
organization working for inclusion of gays and lesbians in church
life, said all religious communities, through "polite
intolerance," share responsibility for the violence committed
against gays and lesbians.
"Issues around sexual orientation bring great pain and
difficulty for many within the religious community," he said.
Justice is possible for all persons "if we can in fact extend
charity toward one another even in the midst of our pain and
indifference. Let there be peace not only on the earth," he said
"but within our religious communities."
Also offering reflections were Lauren Brown of SHALVA, a
Jewish organization working to prevent domestic violence;
Virginia Albaneso, executive director of Chicago's Peace Museum;
Patricia Simpson Turner, chair of the Diocese of Chicago's
Commission to End Racism; Bill Davis of Vietnam Veterans Against
the War; and Amer Smajkic, a member of the Bosnian Refugee Center
The liturgy included songs and hymns by a diocesan
children's choir and St. James Cathedral, and a liturgical dance
performed to the song "Hiroshima" by Chicagoan Jim Croegaert.
William Davidson, retired Bishop of West Kansas and a life-
long member of Episcopal Peace Fellowship, noted that the
organization has grown from "a little group of like-minded people
to gain identity and recognition within the church." Paul
Colbert, Episcopal lay minister and member of EPF's National
Executive Council from Las Vegas, spoke movingly of the EPF's
embodiment of Anglican incarnational theology.
"Being together with others of like minds refreshes us. We
are God's arms and legs in the world. We work as if it depends on
us and pray knowing it depends on God, for 'it is God who makes
war to cease in all the world'," said Davidson, quoting verse 10
of Psalm 46.
The bronze angel, a gift from Kieffer to the EPF, was
installed on the plaza in September, and kept under wrap until
the dedication. The six-foot statue, positioned on a three-foot
concrete base, stands with its arms outstretched in supplication;
at its feet are a shield and broken bow and spear.
At a discussion following the dedication, Kieffer said he
aimed for a dynamic tension in the angel's posture. "Placed too
far forward, the angel appears to take off. Placed too far back,
the angel appears to be landing. Installed on perfect balance,
the ambiguity is preserved. The angel touches earth with perfect
agility. I hope you all will take that spirit of agility into
your peace work."
William Persell, Chicago's new bishop, noted having children
and "old peacemakers like Dan Berrigan" together provided a
wonderful opportunity for a connection between generations. "It
is a great honor for St. James Cathedral to have been chosen," he
added. "It is a wonderful message to the world from the cathedral
that we must be serious in our efforts for peace and justice."
Deacon Sunny Lopez, convener of the Chicago EPF and a member
of the EPF's National Executive Council credited Persell's
support and enthusiasm as a major factor in the council's
decision awarding the sculpture to Chicago. A little over a year
ago Mary Miller, executive secretary of the EPF, asked the group
to enter into discernment about placing the gift of the peace
angel sculpture. In addition to Persell's support, Chicago was
chosen for the symbolic value of placing the Peace Angel in the
city where the atomic bomb was developed, the existence of a
strong local EPF chapter, and a strong inter-faith peace
"To some, this probably seems like deck chairs on the
Titanic," said Miller. "But if those of us with hope don't give
and share, no one else will have hope. If hope can't come from
the Church, then where will it come from?"
David Skidmore is director of communications for the Diocese of
Chicago, and editor of Anglican Advance. Meigan Thiel is a
candidate for priesthood in the Diocese of Chicago.
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