Which Sunday is Peace Sunday?

October 12, 2011 | God at work in the Church
By Rachel Bergen | National Correspondent

Peace has always been one of the defining factors of Anabaptist Mennonites, but each autumn peace is intentionally discussed and prayed for on specific Sundays.

In 1957, the Board of Christian Service of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada—now part of Mennonite Church Canada—designated the Sunday closest to Remembrance Day (Nov. 11) as “Conference Peace Sunday,” recommending that peace teaching should be emphasized in all churches on this day.

But not every congregation practises Peace Sunday in November any more. Some practise it on the Sunday closest to Sept. 21, declared by the United Nations to be the International Day of Prayer for Peace.

Mennonite World Conference urges Mennonites all over the world to intentionally make the September date a day for international focus and fellowship with the church worldwide, explains Dave Bergen, Mennonite Church Canada’s executive director of formation.

MC Canada has since designated two Sundays to bear the focus on peace. Individual congregations have the option of using Mennonite Central Committee worship resources for the November Peace Sunday and Mennonite World Conference or MC U.S.A. materials for the September Peace Sunday.

“In Canada, Nov. 11 is nationally focused on military remembrance, so the church designated this Peace Sunday,” Bergen says, “but Americans are focused a lot more on July 4 [Independence Day]. We want to affirm that in our formation as a global church . . . there are two [Peace Sundays]. One is a global standing in solidarity, the other in a local context.”

For Altona Mennonite Church, Man., practising Peace Sunday on the November date is meant to offer an alternative to remembering wars and Canada’s increasing militarization. According to Pastor Dan Kehler, the congregation includes some people with ties to the military. “Peace Sunday becomes fertile ground for discussing what we stand for, but also to ask questions about how Mennonites respond to violence,” Kehler says.

Altona Mennonite also invites artists in the congregation to submit art to the church around Peace Sunday along that theme. This year, the church hopes to expand the art gallery for the whole month of November and open the church during the week for the public to view the art.

First United Mennonite Church, Vancouver, B.C., practises Peace Sunday on both dates. According to Joe Heikman, associate pastor, this is because the church’s worship focus this fall is intentionally celebrating many of the “special” Sundays that are recognized by MC Canada.

In Kitchener, Ont., Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church observes Peace Sunday in November. Josie Winterfeld, the church’s missions, peace and justice worker, says that this year the Missions, Peace and Justice Committee is planning a five-Sunday series on the book of Nehemiah, into which Peace Sunday will be incorporated.

“I suppose Peace Sunday serves as an intentional reminder about who we are, who we are called to be, and what it means to be a peace church, just at a time when our culture enters into what often becomes a celebration of war and its heroes,” Winterfeld says.

Bergen says that, since “Canada is becoming more militarized, . . . there is an even greater urgency now to speak into this [situation] as an alternative, unified voice,” no matter which day churches celebrate Peace Sunday on.


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