Jan 6, 2003 - Rocky Mountain News
Author(s): Jean Torkelson Rocky Mountain News

It's said there are no atheists in foxholes, but are foxholes anyplace for a believer to be, either?

To those with spiritual convictions, the question of participating in war is often morally vexing.

There's the anti-war stand of religious groups that include the Quakers and the National Council of Churches. Then there's the "just war" argument, codified more than 1,500 years ago by Augustine, Christianity's first great philosopher. It's supported today most publicly by the nation's largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptists.

But on Sunday, in a chill dusk, it was neither the morality nor the politics of war that drew together 100 Coloradans. Their goal was to connect with strangers across faith lines during a weird twilight time of neither peace nor war.

They did so with candles, and, presumably, car keys in hand. Before the night was over, they would zigzag across the metro area to regroup in three different worship centers.

"I wanted to be here because I believe peace isn't a political or a social issue, it's a spiritual issue," said Jon Roderick, a 54-year-old photographer, who stood in the crowded foyer of Congregation Rodef Shalom at 6 p.m.

Organized by eight clergy, the Interfaith Group, as they've named themselves, planned to travel to Mountain View Community Church in Aurora and conclude, by 9 p.m., at the Colorado Muslim Society mosque on Parker Road.

They said they had no political stand to make, except at the side of humanity. "It's a rather radical position," said Mountain View's pastor, Craig Peterson. "Our foremost goal is to get folks to realize we're on the same page and seeking the same connection with the holy."

Cut to last fall. War with Iraq seemed imminent. Eight clergy decided that, once it was declared, they would quickly gather the public together to pray, meditate and stand in solidarity. They were Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Bahai, Universalist and Buddhist. Diversity could best be expressed, they thought, by pausing at three worship centers in one evening. And they resolved to gather throughout 2003.

"One of the subthemes we want to impress on people is not to let the light go out - the light of peace, of community," said Rabbi Bernard Gerson of Rodef Shalom.

So they began Sunday with a candle, lit in the middle of a shadowy crowd on the steps of the synagogue. In silence, they walked indoors, calling it a symbol of moving from a public place to a sacred space where all were welcome.

Looking over the shivering crowd, Judy McKinley, a 50-year-old massage therapist, saw the future.

"I have this sense," she whispered, "this is going to grow bigger each time."

©Copyright 2003, Rocky Mountain News (USA)

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