As a pastor serving in a historic peace church denomination, I never thought a) I’d have a church-related meeting in a War Museum conference room, b) that I would sign a check made out to the National World War I Museum from Rainbow Mennonite Church, and c) that the church choir would be invited to sing a peace anthem at the museum.
What could possibly lead us to such action? For close to two years, I have worked alongside leaders from Quaker, Church of the Brethren, and Community of Christ backgrounds to prepare for the Muted Voices Symposium, happening this coming weekend (October 19-21) at the WWI Museum. This symposium, marking the 100th year anniversary of U.S. entrance into WWI, will remember the muted voices of conscience, dissent, resistance, and civil liberties in WWI through today. The full program can be found on line here.
No worries if you can’t make it to the symposium. Recordings of certain lectures and presentations will be available in the future, and Rainbow will host an exhibit that will premiere at the museum and then travel to Rainbow the week of October 22. For more information about the symposium and traveling exhibit, click here to read my editorial published in the KC Star on October 18.
Whether or not you attend events at the museum, I hope at some point everyone has a chance to reflect on the museum’s exterior north wall. There you will find The Great Frieze, a 148 feet by 18 feet carved stone frieze that depicts humanity’s movement from war to peace, which is never a linear journey.
The vignettes from left to right begin with the four horsemen of the apocalypse that represent the death and destruction of war, patriotism is represented next, with the following scene representing the wounded who are guided by a nurse. In the center of the frieze is Liberty, symbol of peace and understanding. She is flanked by soldiers putting down the implements of war and picking up the instruments of peace. To the right of Liberty are the words, “Let us strive on to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Micah 6:8 is also quoted.
You might also take note of the two Assyrian Spinxes that guard the south entrance of the lawn. Both are shielding their eyes from the horrors of war. Memory faces east toward the battlefields of Europe and Future faces West to the unknown, feared future of bloodshed.
One last note: On Sunday morning, October 22, from 8-8:30 am, a public Memorial Ceremony will take place at the Museum remembering the WWI conscientious objectors on all sides, offering up a special remembrance for the two Hutterites and the seven Mennonite CO’s who died at Fort Leavenworth, KS. A Hutterite choir of 47 young people will sing two songs. Additionally, a Hutterian brick will be installed in the Walk of Honor Non-military section near the front entrance of the museum. Join us if you can.