The Torch is Passed

The Torch is Passed
by Bruce D. Ervin
“How are we going to train the next generation of peace makers?” That’s the question that Alton Beaver asked his colleagues at the Department of Church and Society 40 years ago. The Vietnam War was winding down and there was an opportunity to pause and plan for the future. Beaver’s question gave birth to DPF’s Summer Peace Intern Program. In the 40 summers during which interns have offered peace and justice education in Disciples’ camps and conferences, we have arguably raised up two generations of peace makers, and we’re working on a third!
I reflected on the passing the peace torch to a new generation this past August when I attended the memorial service of Barbara Fuller. My parents and Barb and Russ Fuller were students together at the University of Michigan, where they were mentored in the ways of peace and justice by Disciples campus minister H.L. Pickerell. “Pick” (as he was affectionately called) was in turn mentored by Peter Ainslie, who was mentored by J.W. Garvey, who was mentored by Alexander Campbell. So when I help to train our summer peace interns each spring (whose parents could easily have been in the camps where I served as DPF peace intern in 1975), I remind them that they are part of a direct and relatively short connection of peace makers going straight back to Campbell and Barton W. Stone, the pacifist founders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
The Fullers’ gentle strength and fierce determination to follow Jesus has had a profound impact on all who have been touched by their passion for peace. The mystical photo album that I keep close to my heart has pictures of Barbara protesting the Vietnam War in the streets, reading the names of the war dead at the Seattle General Assembly, leading trips to Vietnam after the war in the spirit of reconciliation, working for nuclear disarmament, and protesting more recent misguided military adventures in Iraq. She knew well how to keep alive the passion for peace and justice, and the many whom she mentored have been richly blessed by that passion incarnate within her.
Now more than ever it is important for us to keep alive Barbara’s passion for peace and justice. As yet another questionable military adventure is launched in Syria and Iraq, we must keep alive the passion for peace and justice. As income inequality grows to yet another obscenely high level, we must keep alive the passion for peace and justice. With the nation turning our troops into near idols as they prepare for combat, only to forget about them once they’ve returned home, we must keep alive the passion for peace and justice. I could tell you stories about homeless veterans in Bloomington, Indiana that would break your heart! I’m sure that many of us have similar stories.
It is especially important now to keep alive the passion for peace and justice. That passion has, for me, something of a human face. It is the face of Barbara Fuller. But even more so, it is the face of Jesus Christ. Their faces, and those of your mentors, are clearly reflected in the bright glow of that peace torch as we pass it to the next generation.
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