Blessed are the peacemakers: 8 ways to calm the world down

Blessed are the peacemakers: 8 ways to calm the world down

Counter clockwise from upper lefthand corner: Susan Arnold, Bishop Richard Looney, Tatum Harvel, Terryl James, Charles Maynard, Abel Carrico.

A bitter election. A deadly virus. Unrelenting racism. Economic, environmental, and social crises.

Followers of the Prince of Peace, the world needs you. Your community needs your witness and calming presence.

In these anxious days, The Call asked readers to share how they model and live in peace -- or to name others who exude peace in ways that give us a glimpse of Christ.

Blessed are the peacemakers. May you find help and hope in their words, while lifting your eyes up to the hills where the Lord watches over you.

Below are reflections from eight peacemakers in Holston Conference: Rev. Brenda Carroll, Bishop Richard Looney, Kara Finger, Rev. Terryl James, Rev. Charles Maynard, Rev. Susan Arnold, Abel Carrico, and Tatum Harvel.


Rev. Brenda Carroll

A retired pastor and former district superintendent in Abingdon and Chattanooga, Brenda Carroll now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. Several readers named her as a peacemaker. She wrote a short meditation for us in response.

“In John’s Gospel account of post-resurrection appearances,” she said, “Jesus’ greeting was ‘Peace be with you.’ Into the room where hearts and minds were grieving, confused, disoriented, numbed by circumstances, afraid of threats out there in the world, Jesus spoke Peace. He breathed Peace.”

Carroll said she believes the Risen Christ still enters our spaces the same way. “As I understand the Christ, what I have received, I now give away. ‘The Peace of Christ be with you.’  If I breathe that blessing for each person, each group, each space I enter, I become a peacemaker,” she said. “Conversations change. Behaviors change. Hearts change.”

See Carroll’s complete meditation.


Bishop Richard Looney

“This is a very stressful time with the election, and all the hatred and division and the COVID, uncertainty in the church, and we’re holed up as well,” said Bishop Richard Looney.

He’s a retired bishop and a native of Holston Conference, living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is bishop in residence at First-Centenary United Methodist Church.

While he’s trying to stay safe by isolating during the pandemic, Looney said YouTube allows him a way to travel the world, to see the “beauty of creation” in places he’s never been. He enjoys concerts from orchestras as far away as Moscow and Vienna. He also worships through YouTube.

“It’s so peaceful to worship where I’ve served and see how wonderfully they’re doing it with virtual choirs and solos and ensembles,” he said.

Looney prepares a sermon each week for the community where he lives. “Just trying to find something comforting and helpful to say to people has been very fulfilling,” he said. This Sunday, he’ll preach from the first chapter in Revelation.

“So I remember the goodness of God in the past, and the presence of God in the present, and the promise of God for the future,” he said. “I’ve even had fun imagining what the next life will be, since I’m old and have a little time to think. It’s kind of exciting. Sort of like YouTube for me.”

Kara Finger

A mentor once asked Kara Finger: “What makes you angry? What burns you up? Because that’s where your passion lies.”

With that in mind, Finger says she understands why United Methodists may struggle with nailing down what it means to exemplify peace. “The United Methodist Church is such a leader for social justice. That’s where their passion lies. But we are also called to be peaceful and loving.”

As executive director of Wesley House Community Center in Knoxville, Tennessee, Finger says she and her staff have had to go extra miles in their daily call to share peace with children and senior citizens in their ministry. For example, Wesley House has expanded and adapted its after-school program to a temporary emergency child care and online learning center, keeping the doors open as much as 50 hours a week compared to 20 before the pandemic.

Through it all, Wesley House has leaned on John 15:12: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

“This time has been a year of exceptional understanding and flexibility,” Finger said. “We have all at times needed understanding and had to give understanding and care.”

One of the toughest times happened when Finger learned a worker tested positive for COVID-19 at 9:30 p.m. one evening. Early the next morning, Wesley House staff had to greet incoming parents and children by “turning them away and begging for their forgiveness.”

The families showed nothing but compassion and love in return, she said.


Rev. Terryl James

“Right now, the world I live in is offering trouble and fear in big cups,” said the Rev. Terryl James. “Fear grips the heart of any parent with children who are targeted for no apparent reason other than the color of their skin.”

James is pastor of Washington Hills United Methodist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and a person named as a peaceful presence by a reader of The Call.

“Prayer and the Word of God give me the peace I need to go about my daily activities,” James said. “I cannot live with a spirit of bitterness, a chip on my shoulder or aggressive meanness toward people who do not look like me.”

In a meditation she wrote for us, James cites several Bible verses that give her strength and comfort. She also shares the centering and go-to words of Saint Francis of Assisi’s Peace Prayer: “Lord make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring love.”

Read James’ complete meditation.


Rev. Charles Maynard

“Peace (Shalom) is not the absence of conflict but a confidence in God that imbues us with wholeness, completeness. Shalom is the sleep of a baby in her mother’s arms,” said the Rev. Charles Maynard.

He is well known as a storyteller, author, and hiker. He currently serves as pastor of generosity and traditional worship at Cokesbury United Methodist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Maynard sometimes leads people on mountain walks to help them experience God’s peace. “I try to help them hear the sounds of an autumn breeze rustling through colorful leaves. To listen to the two distinct sounds a waterfall makes. To enjoy the flute-like song of a veery.”

Maynard wrote a meditation that briefly walks us through the peace he’s gleaned from experience and scripture.

Read Maynard’s complete meditation.


Rev. Susan Arnold

The Rev. Susan Arnold grew up in a home that was “tumultuous,” yet her mother always modeled peace and hope for the child who would grow up to be pastor at Blountville United Methodist Church in Blountville, Tennessee.

“She was never negative even when there was plenty of reason to be negative,” says Arnold. “My mom focused on hope even when it was hard. ‘How can we get to a better place today, even if we can’t change the situation?’”

Arnold said she wasn’t always the peace-filled person that several readers said they see. Her relationship with God, deepened through prayer, “has watered and nurtured and helped it to grow.”

When she feels that “unease in my gut,” when a situation such as the pandemic seems out of control, Arnold said she steps back and prays, for example, “God, we don’t know how to be the church right now. Would you show us?”

Answers and actions have often come to Arnold when she says to God, “I don’t know,” asks hard questions, then listens. She was recently led to offer a prayer service to a community in turmoil, for instance, when an abused child was missing for weeks.

“God’s presence speaks peace and hope to me,” she said. “What people see is that aroma of being with God and asking those questions.”


Abel Carrico

Before Abel Carrico was director of Christian life at Holston Home for Children, he was a student at Hiwassee College from Brazil. He also served as an Iris Global missionary in Mozambique.

Today, he works with troubled children and leads a growing church built by Holston Home. When people come to him for help, he says, “99 percent of the time I am going to give them an answer they don’t want to hear.”

Carrico believes peace is hard to come by these days because people do not honor and respect each other. “I want people to know I honor and respect them, even though I stand very strong where I believe.” In fact, the first thing Carrico says before sharing his beliefs or disagreement is to say, “First, I want you to know I am for you.”

“How you do it and say it makes all the difference,” Carrico says. “There has to be a belief that even when I’m not agreeing with you, I’m not trying to win.”

Carrico says he learned about steps toward living in peace while in Mozambique, when he and his colleagues arrived in new villages. The first thing they did was sit down with the village chief and say, “Teach us something about your beautiful people.”

Carrico says he took that experience back to Hiwassee and asked himself, “How can I translate that to America and where I am called to be?”


Tatum Harvel

She’s a member of First United Methodist Church of Pennington Gap, Virginia, and a former member of the Conference Council on Youth Ministries. Tatum Harvel shared her thoughts after temporarily being sent home by Emory & Henry College, where she’s a freshman and where several students recently tested positive for COVID-19.

Harvel said she has focused on John 14:27 since it was part of a recent Bible study: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

“Jesus says that before he goes to the cross,” Harvel said. “That’s the type of reassurance we have to lean on.”

Accepting God’s peace and sharing it with others is a daily decision, she said. “We have to live into that calling.” We wake each day to pray and trust in his plan, to make “little decisions” that follow through on what God calls us to do, whether that’s reaching out to a lonely person or forgiving someone who interrupts our own peace.

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Holston Conference includes 853 United Methodist congregations in East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, and North Georgia.


Annette Spence

Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.