The Peacemaking Task Force of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery actually had its beginning at the 192nd General Assembly (1980) of the Presbyterian Church, USA.
A report was given called “Peacemaking: The Believer’s Calling.” A call was issued to pastors, sessions, and congregations to emphasize peacemaking. It was established that a special offering would be taken up on World Communion Sunday in October to support national and international peacemaking initiatives.
“Peacemaking: The Believer’s Calling” was created to counteract the nuclear arms race and fears produced by diminishing energy resources. This document reminds us that “Peacemaking is the calling of the Christian Church, for Christ is our peace who has made us one through his body on the cross.” The 192nd General Assembly decreed that “Peacemaking: The Believer’s Calling” was to be reviewed for four years and then become a part of the ministry of the PCUSA.
The first hint of Peacemaking began at the Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery stated meeting of June, 1982. The Leadership Development Committee of presbytery felt there was a need to establish a Peacemaking Task Force with representatives coming from all committees of presbytery. The Leadership Development Committee realized that both local and global communities were to be addressed when it came to Peacemaking. The Leadership Development Committee wanted the Peacemaking Task Force to focus on such issues as conflict management with regard to congregations; to be aware of economic conditions of the upper Ohio Valley; to be aware of hunger at home and in the world; and with disarmament of nuclear weapons.
The first action of the Peacemaking Task Force was at the September, 1982, meeting of presbytery when Liz Truax, chair pro-tem of the Task Force, reported on JONAH (Joining Openings of the New Awareness of Hope). Also at that meeting, Task Force member Peter Fox reported on the Bethlehem Peace Pilgrimage. It will be in our area in October/November. He made a motion that presbytery endorse this Pilgrimage with prayers and whatever ways possible. His motion was seconded and passed.
The Peacemaking Task Force was going through growing pains and leadership changes in the mid-1980’s. Jackie Hutyera served as chair of the Task Force. In 1987, they sponsored a workshop entitled, “Presbyterians and Peacemaking: Are We Now Called to Resistance?” It was well attended.
At the first presbytery meeting of 1987, Borderlinks was discussed with regard to a project on Central American refugees. Also, the West Virginia side of the presbytery was urged to contact their governor to oppose a proposition to establish a nuclear waste dump storage place.
The Synod of the Trinity awarded their peacemaking prize to the First Presbyterian Church of Wellsburg, W. Va. Mariners Group for sending 300 pairs of eye glasses to Nicaragua.
The Peacemaking Task Force became part of the Church and Community and reported under that committee’s report.
At the September meeting of presbytery, the Church and Community committee asked the presbytery to support the resolution: “A Time to Work to Eliminate Racism.” Initially, it read: “The Synod of the Trinity makes the elimination of racism a top priority and designates 1988-2000 as a time to eliminate it and urges the presbytery to bring this resolution to the attention of its congregations.” The resolution was passed by presbytery.
The Peacemaking Subcommittee started up in 2013. The following report was passed at the November 19th Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery Meeting in that year.
Mission Outreach Committee Report
For the first time in a long time the Mission Outreach Committee is functioning at full capacity. We have been fulfilling the duties of ‘mission’ but outreach seemed to be lost.
The Peacemaking Committee consists of Ruth Ellen Bates, Bill Brown, Peter Fox, Dave Bruce, and Paul Todd. The Committee has been meeting monthly at the Warwood Presbyterian Church, and the following is a summary of what the committee has been doing and will continue to do in the future.
Initially the Committee Agreed on the Following:
- Peacemaking deals with much more than just working for harmony between groups in conflict. It covers poverty, hunger, racism, injustice, inequality, and concern for the environment.
- We would set as our goal the effort to work with the national Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and to follow through on matters which they set forth as urgent and vital.
- We would deal with matters unique to our location.
- We would meet regularly and as often as we could. We would encourage others to join us while inspiring churches to work on their own projects of peace.
- We would communicate information on our work throughout the presbytery via “Happenings.”
- We would use up-to-date means such as blogs to disseminate our work.
- We would use creative means to work for peace; examples of this are the use of music and art to promote a specific project.
- We are becoming informed and are now studying material from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PFF) on hunger and gun control. We support the Peacemaking Offering and encourage congregations to support it as well.
Our Current Projects Are:
- We are preparing an anthology of writings on peace, which will include prayers, essays, poems, and fiction.
- We are working with local musicians and asking them to perform in behalf of peace. An example of this is the service held recently at the Dallas Presbyterian Church. A special offering was taken and will go to a veterans’ project.
- We are constantly praying on behalf of peace and justice issues and are connecting with other groups working for peace. We are encouraging members to attend national peacemaking conferences and will continually look for ways to educate others on peacemaking matters.
What We Have Been Doing Since We Wrote the Above Report:
- We have regularly announced the Global Witness and Peace offering at presbytery meetings and have passed out material to churches interested in taking it up. We set up a table at our presbytery meetings to educate people on peace matters.
- We had a celebratory dinner for Bill Brown’s retirement; he is a longtime worker for peace. He will no longer be able to attend our meetings so he is a member emeritus.
- We are meeting monthly without any respite. At first, we met at the Warwood Presbyterian Church. Since then, for about a year, we have met at the presbytery office. Some members have done presentations of other religions and their views of peace at our meetings. We have done this to prepare for future dialogue with members of those faiths, such as Islam and Judaism.
- We held two Celtic Peacemaking Retreats. The first was at the First Westminster Church in Steubenville, Ohio. The major speaker was Rev. Frank Lewis who dealt with the history of peace in Celtic countries. This was well attended. The second Peacemaking Celtic Retreat was held at the Follansbee Presbyterian church. The theme was the life and work of St. Francis of Assisi. Dave Bruce did an excellent presentation on this.
- Jackie Hutyera donated books on world religions to the Upper Ohio Valley Resource Center.
- We connected with a member from the Wheeling YWCA’s shelter for women. She spoke to us over lunch and informed us on the work of the shelter. Our committee through some of its members contributed new sweepers to the shelter and Easter baskets to families staying there.
- Through Dave Bruce, we had a worker for the environment come to meet with us. She is well connected with persons and organizations of the Ohio Valley which work for the environment.
- For several months we studied a common sense approach to gun control, especially the video “Trigger,” which was made by the Presbyterian Disaster Relief. We bought this program and donated it the Resource Center of the presbytery. John Harris has helped a lot with this. John Harris has shown this video to three pre-presbytery meetings.
- We won a Dream Grant from the national level of the PCUSA. On our application, we said that we would use the grant for peacemaking and the arts, through the building of a website dedicated to this; we would use some of the money for workshops for peace and the arts, especially storytelling and music.
- We have started to use this grant through hiring a professional web designer to build a website for Peacemaking and the Arts. This website will be available for stories, music, and other forms of art such as drama, dance, painting, etc.
- We used part of the grant on September 17, 2016 to sponsor a storytelling workshop, at the Cove church in Weirton, led by Robin Moore, a professional storyteller who has won national awards. This workshop was unusually well attended.
- We will use some of the grant next year to sponsor a workshop on hymns of peace and the environment, with a focus on hymns familiar to us. We will sing them and learn to write new words to traditional music. We hope to have Rev. Carolyn Gillette who is widely known in this field, come to lead the workshop.
- We plan to sponsor a workshop on a common sense approach to guns next year.
- If possible, we will ask local writers, such as ones from West Virginia, to lead mini-workshops for us. These workshops will deal with some aspect of peacemaking and creativity.
- We have started to give a report on our activities at presbytery meetings.
- We have started to make local projects a regular part of our mission. Examples are to work with the homeless in Wheeling, with Peter Fox as our resource person; and to donate regularly to the shelter for women of the Wheeling YWCA. In 2013, vacuum cleaners and Easter baskets and food were given to the shelter.
- We are sponsoring a Writing Fiesta for Christmas with the theme of Giving the Gift of Peace. We have asked members of presbytery to contribute stories of fiction and nonfiction to the website.
- We have sent a member of our committee to a national meeting of the Presbyterians for Earth Care in 2015 at Montreal Conference Center in North Carolina.
Bill Brown is a member emeritus of our current committee. We no longer see him at out meetings, but he played a major role in the formation of our committee in 2013. Before that, he belonged to the first Peacemaking Task Force of our presbytery, the Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery.
As an elder Bill was active at the First Presbyterian Church of Wellsburg, West Virginia. After receiving the proper training, Bill served as lay pastor at a number of churches in our presbytery. Today he is serving Pleasant Hill Presbyterian Church. Due to health matters, Bill retired from active work on our committee.
He attended almost all of the meetings of our committee and played a role in preparing for our Celtic peacemaking retreats.
In May 2016, we held a special event to celebrate Bill’s dedication, service, and leadership in peacemaking matters.
This event took place at a restaurant near Wintersville. A large number attended from the presbytery and from Bill’s family.
Mention was made of Bill’s admiration of Harry Emerson Fosdick, an internationally known minister, writer, and workers for peace. Bill discovered that he himself had vacationed in Maine, not far from where Fosdick had spent his summers in writing.
Jackie Hutyera , like other members of our committee, has a connection with the first Peacemaking Task Force of our presbytery. In fact, she was chair. That background and experience hold her in good stead in our present committee.
Although living now in Ohio, Jackie spent her childhood in the rolling hills of the state of New York. Her parents helped her to grow in the love of the Lord in friendships, Sunday school, church, and church camps. Her mother worked in the church and in presbytery.
Jackie was blessed with early knowledge that eventually she would be a nurse and caregiver. Healing was her primary concern. Now Jackie is a naturopathic physician. She believes that this kind of work gives the Lord’s purpose to her steps.
Before that, Jackie studied nursing in Cleveland. These studies yielded enduring friendships. Jackie also practiced hospitality, public health, and visiting nursing. In Ohio, Jackie moved on to marriage and building a family with her loving husband, Andrew.
Peter Fox is a gentle man who has been a worker for peace and justice all of his life. He hails from the northern panhandle of West Virginia and received his primary, secondary, and college education there. Upon graduation, he married his beloved Joy.
In addition to their two biological children, Peter and Joy have offered hospitality to numerous children and adults who have needed care. Often they offer meals not only to the persons staying with them but also to guests who stop by for a brief visit.
Peter served on the first peacemaking committee of our presbytery. He has been a member of our peacemaking subcommittee since its inception in 2013. He has graciously taken minutes at many of our meetings and has worked hard for our Celtic peacemaking retreats by inviting other participants to them and by bringing generous amounts of food.
At our presbytery meetings, Peter has sat to answer questions at our peacemaking table and has made many paper cranes of peace to pass out to meeting attendees.
At the Dallas Community Presbyterian Church, Peter has been an elder for many years. As a retired school science teacher, he has taught in the adult church school class and at vacation church school.
Peter spends a great deal of time in his ministry to the homeless in the Wheeling area. Most days of the week, he gathers food to take to them. Hundreds have benefitted from this ministry. Much of Peter’s work takes place behind the scenes. Like magic, he appears where he is needed.
David Bruce is a long-time worker for peace. Like Peter, Jackie, and Bill, he served on our original Peacemaking Task Force. He has worked for peace and the environment at the synod level, which for us is the Synod of the Trinity.
David grew up in the northern panhandle of West Virginia. Among the schools he attended was Linsley Institute. He graduated from West Liberty State University with a history major. In response to a call to the ministry, he attended McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.
One area of knowledge which attracted Dave was the relationship of theology to cinema. After seminary, he served as student pastor of the Dallas Community Presbyterian Church. Later, he went on to become pastor of the war wood Presbyterian Church.
Among Dave’s gifts is his ability to write. He has written a wonderful story for our website.
Last year, he did a presentation for our Peacemaking Celtic Retreat. He did an extraordinary amount of work for this. He caused us to see that Francis of Assisi is more in line with contemporary thinking on peace and the environment than we had realized.
To our group, he offered fascinating material on an array of subjects at our meetings, such as the role of peace in contemporary religions. He invited persons to our meetings to speak on the environment in the Wheeling area. In addition, he has permitted us to use his church for our meetings and has taken minutes at our meetings.
John Edward Harris
John Edward Harris joined our committee in 2014 and has become a welcome and valuable asset. He has served in a number of different presbyteries, but he is originally from the northern panhandle of West Virginia. He grew up in the First Presbyterian Church of Wellsburg.
John was introduced to and became committed to Peacemaking at the 1980 UPUSA General Assembly in Detroit, when he was the Youth Advisory Delegate (YAD) from Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery. That was the General Assembly that adopt “Peacemaking: The Believer’s Calling.”
Because of the impression “Peacemaking: The Believer’s Calling” made on him, John became active in the PCF or Peace Student Fellowship at Princeton Seminary while he was a student there. During the ten years he was a member of Shenandoah Presbytery (1991 to 2001), he served on the presbytery’s Peacemaking Committee and eventually chaired the Committee.
During that time, he also served on the Synod of the Mid-Atlantic’s Peacemaking Partnership which was focusing on Combating Racism and our nation’s growing economic inequality. He also attended a few PCUSA Peacemaking Conferences and U.N.’s seminars. More than thirty-five years later, he is still devoted to Peacemaking and been serving on Peacemaking Subcommittee. His current interests include ending the culture of gun violence, addressing our country’s growing economic inequality, racism, and the stewardship of creation.
Ruth Bates is the chair of the Peacemaking Subcommittee. As a child, she was deeply influenced by the shalom-filled life of Jesus, particularly his deep sense of forgiveness. Her father, a minister, inspired her to read “Letters and Papers from Prison” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the phenomenal theologian and pastor. Her mother introduced her to the lives and writings of great Christian mystics who also worked in the area of peace – – Kagawa, Thomas Merton, Rufus Jones, and Simone Weil.
Her family and home church reached out to immigrants from around the world. She grew up hearing French, German, and other languages spoken in her home. She saw her family search to find homes and jobs for families new to the United States. These experiences influenced her in her study of languages, of French, Italian, German, and Spanish, and in her working in Canada, Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, and Spanish-speaking areas of our country. Today, she continues to study and use languages as a way to get to know the cultures and countries of immigrants of Asian, South American, and African backgrounds. She engages in multi-vocations of writing, music, storytelling, teaching, and parish ministry.
More recently, she is concentrating on the role of Christlike forgiveness, to reconcile persons who are at disharmony with others. The Resurrection of Jesus keeps on bringing about dramatic changes. She is looking for ways to reach out to prisoners, and victims of trafficking and violence and to find solutions to problems of water, land stewardship, cruelty to animals, poverty, and racism. She is using her background in writing, music, teaching, languages, and storytelling to use curriculum, articles, stories, novels, and plays to bring peace into the world. She believes that courage, imagination, hope and compassion are needed for us to take steps to peace locally, nationally, and nationally. She would like to see more communities of peacemaking and prayer form around the world.