Honoring the light, a commitment to peace

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Last modified: Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Every year the Peace Light ecumenical service held at one of four churches in Peterborough is a little different, says the Rev. Lourey Savick of the Peterborough United Methodist Church, which will host the event this year. The gifts the pastors leading the service bring are unique, but the gift of hope remains constant.

“It’s a service that has the spirit of Christmas hope, but it’s not about red and green and children’s pageants,” Savick said. “A lot of people need that gift of peace in their lives, and this is a really good service for that.”

The Peace Light from Bethlehem campaign to spread the flame of a light that’s burned for 1,000 years in Jesus’ birthplace began in 1986 in Europe, as part of a charitable relief effort. It’s since spread throughout the world, with the help of Boy Scouts, including the Peterborough Boy Scouts.

This year’s service is set for the evening of Dec. 13 (the time is still to be announced), and will be led by Savick, Monsignor Gerry Belanger of Divine Mercy Parish, the Rev. Jamie Hamilton of All Saints’ Church and the Rev. Dr. Bob Marrone of the United Congregational Church. The Methodist Church choir will sing, and there may be a visual component to the service as Marrone is an artist, Savick noted.

Savick recalled that the first time she participated the service was held at St. Peter Church of Divine Mercy Parish, and she was one of three women pastors leading the service with Belanger, who had extended an invitation to the whole community of clergy. “We were all women except for Father Gerry, and this was happening in the Catholic church,” Savick said. “He was such a wonderful host.”

After the service, Savick said she was greeted warmly by Divine Mercy parishioners. “It was as if there was a dam in their hearts that had been released,” she said, referring to how people responded to the leadership of women in the service alongside Belanger. “And I felt so welcome as a woman new to the community. ... What a wonderful expression of the light of Bethlehem coming and bringing peace into our midst.”

In addition to meeting others who practice their faiths differently, Savick said, it’s a chance for people who have ties to more than one congregation to not have to choose. “It means our church family can all be in one place worshipping together,” she said.

And it goes beyond the many churches in the area invited to join in; the service is a symbol of the larger unity of churches throughout the world that hold the flame, beginning with the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Israel. “This light passes through so many hands before it gets here,” she said.

The meaning of the flame

Lauren Martin is one of the flame carriers. A member of Divine Mercy Parish in Peterborough and active in Scouting, Martin first brought the Peace Light to her church in 2012 for an ecumenical service.

“It’s not a passive thing to accept the flame. It’s a commitment to living peacefully in our world,” Martin said. “The power of this is real.”

Martin will collect the flame from a district executive of the Daniel Webster Council of the Boy Scouts who will be spreading it from the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, where it will arrive in the U.S. Martin will transfer the flame to the continuous flame that burns at Divine Mercy and then bring it to the Methodist Church the day of the service Dec. 13. The Peterborough Boy Scouts will provide an honor guard as people gather for the service. Some participants may bring the flame home with them or to their own churches.

“I think it’s a really important thing for young people. Even at a young age, they can make a difference in the world,” she said, noting that was the premise behind Scouting — to create world peace. “Each individual has to make a choice of how they are going to react to the circumstances of life.”

The Peace Light, for her, isn’t about religion. “It’s really about world peace,” she said. “Light and hope and community goes way beyond what we call our religion. It’s about humanity.”