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January 4-10, 2006

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Symphony of Peace Week

Photograph Courtesy Gregg Montgomery
Shrouded: Area activists plan to plant crosses signifying the loss of those soldiers whose deaths we never see.

Praying for Peace

'Symphony' of events slated to support troops

By Patricia Lynn Henley

When Cindy Sheehan made her stand in Crawford, Texas, in August, determined to catch vacationing President Bush's attention, she drew national and international notice. As a mother whose son died in Iraq, she generated an awareness of the human cost of the war. Her actions continue to spread ripples nationwide. One of the reverberations is "Symphony of Peace Week" in the town of Sonoma, starting Jan. 8 with a blessing of crosses and a march to Sonoma's City Hall, and finishing Jan. 15 with "Support Our Troops Sunday," a multidenominational service in the Sonoma Plaza.

"For this war to end, the churches have to get involved. I really believe that," says Elizabeth Stinson, executive director of the Sonoma County Peace and Justice Center and one of many who joined Sheehan in Crawford. "The ministers and the congregations have to step forward. Religion has been co-opted in many parts of the country."

The week is being organized by Mike Smith, who was galvanized by visiting Crawford and participating in the Bring Home the Troops bus tour. Five local ministers will lead the Jan. 15 service, followed by speakers from throughout the Bay Area and as far away as Texas.

Smith describes the event as "a symphony for peace, with different movements. The first movement is a spiritual service of support for all our troops—those who have fallen and those who are in the hospital." The second "movement" will be testimony by activists who want to bring the troops home. The final phase is a potluck dinner followed by a musical meditation.

Sonoma Developmental Center employee Gregg Montgomery and friends spent the holidays turning plywood into 200 white crosses. They also built three Jewish Stars of David and three Muslim crescent-and-star symbols. "We're trying to represent everyone in this war," Montgomery explains. "It's not just about the U.S. soldiers. It's really about the human cost of the war."

On Jan. 15 the crosses will be on the lawn in front of City Hall. A bugler will blow taps, a bell will be rung 20 times to represent the more than 2,000 U.S. troops who have died in Iraq. "Regardless of how you feel about the war, this is a day of memorial and remembrance," Montgomery says, "It's a time to come together, because this country is so divided right now."

Symphony of Peace Week activities start Sunday, Jan. 8, at 11am with the blessing of the crosses at St. Leo's Catholic Church, 601 W. Auga Caliente Blvd. For more details, contact Mike Smith at 707.299.0866.

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