By Stanley Campbell
The church hires peace activists to help bring the measure of God’s love to the world. At least that is what I’ve heard. When I was hired in 1985, the United Methodist Church was desperate for someone to do “peace work” in Rockford. Back then, I called myself “the only paid peace activist in Rockford.” I’ve discovered more peace activists in town, but I’m the only one, so far, that gets a paycheck, and that is a great blessing. And it is the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church that pays me.
The United Methodists are great activists. They have a long history of getting involved in social issues. In England, they supported workers’ rights and equality among the sexes. They also were active in trying to abolish the slave trade. In the United States, the church split between slaveholders and abolitionists.
During the 1920s and 1930s, the United Methodists worked on relieving poverty, supporting the suffrage movement and prohibition. OK, so they were not very successful about prohibition, but they helped highlight the addictive nature of alcohol and its consequences. When I was hired by Rockford Urban Ministries, I was following in the footsteps of a long line of United Methodist activists. That is why I am happy to welcome to Rockford the new United Methodist Peace Man.
The Rev. Michael Mann is the United Methodists’ Northern Illinois Conference associate director of Mission and Advocacy. He provides direction and leadership for missions and advocacy ministries throughout the conference, which extends from Chicago to the Mississippi.
The Rev. Mann will be hosted Saturday, Dec. 11, in the dining hall of the Court Street United Methodist Church, 215 N. Court St., in downtown Rockford, with a reception at 6:30 p.m., and he will speak at a program at 7 p.m. Both are free and open to the public
The Rev. Mann said: “I am humbled to have been chosen for this work. It is a great honor for me to be able to organize teams to do the work of mission, advocacy and witness. In my work, I have seen that God’s mission is part of who we are, not a small project we do. Together, we aim to see God’s mission accomplished through our work, our voice, and our witness.” Amen to that!
I hope you are able to attend, and to put some of the teachings of peace to work this holiday season.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the Dec. 1-7, 2010 issue