Candlelight and harmonies at a peace vigil

/ 16 March 2003

Tonight Eric, Alex, Nathaniel and I all went to a candlelight peace vigil on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. The vigil was part of a loose network of vigils organized around the globe (pictures available at’s site), that evolved — at least for us — from a brief e-mail plea, and a website that made finding gathering sites easy. As we walked from the UST campus over to the river in the dark, it was nighttime city quiet, and gradually I became aware of all sorts of people in small groups, all walking in the same direction.

We’ve had a couple of gorgeous days — low 60’s and sunny, which is really rare in mid-March in Minnesota — so it was not so unusual to see people out walking. But to see small groups all quietly walking in the same direction, gradually melding like small creeks into a larger river, was pretty neat. When we got to the bluff there were already a lot of people there holding lit candles, but they were a peaceful, quiet crowd. There was no one who appeared to be organizing, or directing traffic, but people all found spaces to stand in rough circles on the hillside. Eventually someone started singing, and the songs moved over the crowd in ripples. We sang all sorts of songs that I haven’t sung at a rally since my days with S.O.N.G.: “Peace is flowing like a river,” “Gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside,” “This little light of mine,” and so on. At one point we had a round of “Dona Nobis Pacem” going that was so gentle and so strong that I couldn’t sing, the tears were just rolling down my face.

The news from the Azores (where Bush, Blair and a few others met in “summit”) is not good. Tomorrow will be a “moment of truth,” says Bush. I can’t help thinking that even if he means that tomorrow or the next day he authorizes intense bombing, the real truth is that we are all connected together. Every bomb that drops rips someone from our family. Several commercial planes flew over our vigil this evening, and the sound of the jets made me ache as I imagined what similar sounds must evoke for people in Baghdad these days.

Alex asked me if people on those planes were holding a peace vigil at the same time as we were. I said I thought there were likely some people on these planes praying for peace. I told him that we can always pray for peace, that we can pray unceasingly for peace.

It was so dark tonight. There was a deep clear sky and an almost full moon. You couldn’t really see who was at this vigil, just the smudges of faces in the shine of the candles. Still, the light of the candles was such a powerful glow. All these neighbors! People with little kids, older folk, women singing, men singing, children wandering through the crowd. Something big is happening here, something that is not on the radar screen of the policy makers, something that is welling up from inside of people’s souls and spilling over into community.

Tonight, as I fall asleep, I want to hold the peaceful harmonies of this large crowd in my heart and pray that we can hear the chords of God that sing through us.