Jordan B. Davis
Church Relations Officer
Sitting back behind the pulpit, I almost didn’t see it- a simple, glass candle on the communion table. As I flipped through the bulletin to make sure I knew what I needed to do for worship, I found this brief explanation-
THE PEACE CANDLE: The smaller, glass candle on the Communion table is a peace candle, and here is the candle’s story and meaning.
In 1986, a group of Americans attended a Russian Orthodox worship service. At the close of the service, an elderly woman pressed a three-ruble note into the hand of a Presbyterian pastor (only about $5 in American dollars, but a significant gift for this elderly woman). The woman asked him to buy a candle with it, and light that candle in his church as a symbol for peace. That Presbyterian pastor purchased a candle with the money, placed it on the Communion table in his sanctuary, and lit it during each worship service. Then the church bought other candles, in glass containers, and sent them to other churches with the request that they be lit during their worship services, as a symbol of our common hope for peace.
These peace candles have since spread across our world and across denominations. Our congregation received our peace candle on Sunday, November 16th, 2014. And, we have shared a candle with our sister church of El Redentor in Guatemala. Together with sisters and brothers in Guatemala and around the world, we light our candles every time we worship to remind us to pray for peace in our lives, in our communities, and in our world.
Before worship on Sunday morning, Rev. Steven Barnes told me about the work that First Presbyterian in Newton, NC does in the local community- everything from making sleep mats from grocery bags for the homeless (these dry faster and do not mildew) to hosting a free meal for the hungry every Sunday evening. This candle, sitting with the bread and the wine, brings the congregation together with one another and with congregations all around the world as they pray for peace every Sunday.
It is a seemingly simple ministry–praying for peace–but, in a world where walls continue to be built between communities—it is a ministry built on hope. I wonder how worship services around the world have been, and can be, influenced by placing this simple reminder at the front of the sanctuary urging the congregation to pray for peace?
The hymn, Pass It On, comes to mind as I think of the many congregations who have shared these candles and pray for peace every Sunday-“It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love once you experience it. You spread God’s love to everyone, you want to pass it on.” Today, as we continue to celebrate International Day of Peace (September 21), let us be that spark as we pray together and go into the world working for peace.
Does your congregation have a peace candle? Please share your story!