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Peace cranes for Pentecost

Churches near and far help 40-member church reach its goal of 1,000 origami birds

  • Rev. Beth Simmons

  • The Community Church of Francestown is decorated with more than 1,000 paper cranes, a symbol of peace, for Pentecost Sunday on May 15.  Staff Photo by Priscilla Morril

  • The Community Church of Francestown is decorated with more than 1,000 paper cranes, a symbol of peace, for Pentecost Sunday on May 15.  By Priscilla Morrill


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Peace is the central focus of the small Community Church of Francestown, and they’ve spent the last five months imbuing their prayers for peace and good thoughts in more than 1,000 origami cranes that now decorate the sanctuary. And what their 40 members weren’t able to do on their own became a beacon call for churches as far away as Indiana.

Begun early in the year, the challenge to make 1,000 peace cranes before Pentecost Sunday, which this year fell on May 15, seemed nearly impossible at times, Rev. Beth Simmons recalled. But with the help of the Francestown community and a number of church congregations across the country the goal was easily achieved, and the boxes of cranes are still pouring in, she said, even after Pentecost. The total number of cranes collected is 2,000 and counting.

“We were worried we weren’t going to make it, but now we’ve gone way over our goal. It raises the spirits of the church,” Simmons said. “We’re a little tiny church in a little tiny town.”

The idea for peace cranes started after WWII with a young Japanese girl who fell ill from radiation following the Hiroshima bombing, Simmons noted.

The church chose their challenge to fall around Pentecost as a way to raise spirits during what is often a lull in the Christian calendar. “It’s not a holiday outside of church, so people forget about it,” Simmons said. It also happens to be Simmons’ favorite religious day in the Christian religion.

Pentecost is the birthday of the Christian church, Simmons said, when the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus’ followers following Jesus’ death and resurrection. “Wind and flame are big symbols for that day,” Simmons said. “It’s that more present and active part [of the divine] that can still move through us and inspire us.”

Members of the church worked on the cranes in meetings, at home, and some took them to school and the library. They even reached out to other churches via Facebook. “We got cranes from Kalamazoo, Michigan,” she said, “all over the country. ... It reminds us that we’re not in this alone.”

The church has been struggling financially recently, Simmons noted, but the sale of the parsonage will help keep the church going and offer the opportunity to do more ministry. Simmons said she and her family will live in Bennington, instead.

“If we can do this, we can do anything,” Simmons said about the crane challenge. “We can do big things even as a little church.”

What’s to come

The church will be holding its annual Peace Camp in August for kids -- this year focusing on food, farming and gleaning.

Church members will also be weighing whether to make official the church’s membership in the United Church of Christ, with which it’s long been affiliated, Simmons said,.

Peace will continue to be part of the church’s ministry, too. “Peace is not just the absence of war,” Simmons said. “It’s justice and freedom from oppression and freedom of fear. ... It really can manifest in so many ways.”