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Innovation Stories

Peace Right Here

Spreading the message of peacemaking
by Timothy Bowman | July 8, 2021

Meet the Innovator

Paul Gorrell is the founder of Peace Right Here, a nonprofit that focuses on recovering and reshaping imaginations so people have alternatives to violence.  

Innovation Inspiration

Paul identifies the problem of the pervasiveness of violence in various forms and how its destructive nature impacts each area of relationship. From physical to emotional violence and other lesser realized versions, we all live with violence. Paul strives to show others that there are different ways of living out our lives to break the cycle of violence. He shows different perspectives found throughout the world and from other leaders as we work toward peace. Paul says they are, “trying to appropriate an imagination of peace where people can live with one another in vibrant and healthy ways.”

When Paul started Peace Right Here it was because he had started to see Jesus as a peacemaker. He grew up in the church but never realized that Jesus was one of the greatest champions of history. Paul shared a story of having his best moment and worst moment within the span of a few hours. One day while at graduate school in Los Angeles he was walking home with a neighbor and was surrounded by a street gang. In that moment he responded in a peaceful and compassionate way and diffused the situation. Later that night, Paul recalls talking to another neighbor about the eventand the harsh way he described the gang members. He felt truly ashamed of his characterization in that moment. He said that he felt “pierced in the heart” and that the Spirit was telling him that there was no difference between him and the gang members. 

From this experience, he said that the Holy Spirit gave him eyes to see his own violence in the situation and the common humanity that threads through us all. Afterwards, he began engaging in peacemaking practices in his neighborhood, starting with a storytelling event during Advent. Every week of Advent a gang member shared their own story and prayed a prayer. Through Peace Right Here, Paul has been able to spread the message of peacemaking through lecturing at Yale University on forgiveness, teaching a Practicing Peace course at Baylor University, serving homeless teens, and even leading training events abroad to help stem domestic violence in Kenya.

Key Practices

In their practice, Peace Right Here focuses on four areas of relationship: God, ourselves, others, and creation. Paul has been heavily influenced by Dorothy Bass’ work on Christian community in which she describes many different practices of Christian community. He has taken many of these practices and adapted them into what he terms the 12 Practices of Peace: Lament, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Hospitality, Storytelling, Imagination, Discernment, Promising, Celebration, Giving, Healing, and Rest. One person described these practices as the building blocks of life and life together. Many of these practices intersect at various points in our lives and they allow us to reach out and explore the lives of people around us and help us all make meaning. Paul has also worked with artists to help bring forward images to help spark imagination and ideas around the practices.This year Peace Right Here has started highlighting a new practice every month on their website, peacerighthere.org

Takeaways

Paul wants to help us all expand our view of peacemaking. He said that “peacemaking is seen very narrowly, and we have thin understandings of what is violent.” Through Peace Right Here, he hopes that we can understand both violence and peace more “thickly” and better articulate all the different kinds of violence that we experience in our lives. This in turn, helps us expand our understanding of peacemaking and all the different ways we can be peacemakers. From his experience he has learned that there are a lot of people interested in peacemaking and there are many imaginative ways of pursuing peacemaking as well.

Prayer

God of peace, you said, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Bless the work of Peace Right Here and all peacemakers around the world. Give us eyes to see the violence that we inflict on others and give us hearts for peace. Expand our imaginations to include all the ways we can be peacemakers as we follow the radical example of Jesus. Amen.

About the Author

Timothy Bowman is an ELCA pastor currently serving in the Southeastern Minnesota Synod along with his wife, Allyson. Most recently serving as Associate Pastor at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Mankato, MN, he is now serving Grace Lutheran Church in Nerstrand, MN, and also serves as a board member of Crossroads Campus Ministry at Minnesota State Mankato.  Tim has an MDiv (Luther Seminary) and a BA (Bethel University). As part of the Seeds Project Tim is partnering with Luther Seminary’s Faith+Lead platform as a Digital Journalist working to share the stories of identified Innovators on Faith+Lead.

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