Waging Peace to be celebrated day before 9-11 at annual prayer breakfast

Interfaith group moves project forward with CD, annual breakfast

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- The choir's singing fills Broadmoor Baptist Church at the CommUNITY Concert hosted by Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge on May 5. The event featured a cantata by Robert Kyr with lyrics based on words submitted from people in the Baton Rouge area about their experiences with violence and desires for healing and peace.
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- The choir's singing fills Broadmoor Baptist Church at the CommUNITY Concert hosted by Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge on May 5. The event featured a cantata by Robert Kyr with lyrics based on words submitted from people in the Baton Rouge area about their experiences with violence and desires for healing and peace.

The Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge plans to “Wage Peace” the day before America remembers the violence and tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, at the federation’s annual prayer breakfast S2ept. 10 at Boudreaux’s downtown.

The federation will also celebrate the recent release of a CD recording of “Waging Peace,” a five-part, 40-minute cantata. The work was penned by hundreds of area residents who described their experiences with violence in poetry and prose at the request of renowned composer Robert Kyr, who attended the 2012 prayer breakfast.

Kyr compiled 400 pages of the submissions, edited them into a narrative, composed the music and blended it into the cantata. On May 5, the work’s world premier was performed by a 100-voice, multichurch choir at the 23rd annual CommUNITY Concert held at Broadmoor Baptist Church. More than 800 area residents attended. The CD, available for $15 each, is a recording of the concert.

But breakfasts, concerts and CDs are just the beginning of Waging Peace, according to the Rev. Robin McCullough-Bade, director of the Interfaith Federation and a Lutheran pastor. A comprehensive educational curriculum, based on the cantata, is freely available for any church, civic or school group at the federation’s website.

“We knew all along it was more than just a concert,” said McCullough-Bade. “If the work of Waging Peace ended with the concert we had missed the opportunity that was before us.

“We not only wanted to engage the community to dialogue about the violence in our area and our hope for peace, but also to find ways that each of us could become a peacemaker — that we could wage peace with the opportunities that we have,” McCullough-Bade said. “The music is inspiring, the words are so profound, and it was wonderful to watch the transformation of even those who were asked to perform — the music is not easy.”

Music has a role in healing from violence, Kyr says.

Kyr said before the May 5 concert that he believes that music can play “a very significant role” in the healing of violence.

“Music connects us deeply, internally, with what matters most to us,” he said. “It is a catalyst that allows people to participate in a journey of self-discovery that leads to a journey of community discovery.”

“I have to say it is the most moving and powerful first-person witness testimony of a community that I have ever read,” Kyr said. “The witness of the people of Baton Rouge of the violence in their lives, the effect on themselves and their loved ones, on friends, on the community in general was something that unless one has lived through that you don’t know that is going on right here in our country.”

Practical process

Kyr not only created an inspirational piece of music, McCullough-Bade said, he created a practical process to wage peace by wrapping each of the five movements around a particular theme: Listen, Understand, Forgive, Collaborate and Proclaim.

“Listen to the violence, name the violence around us,” McCullough-Bade said. “Understand that violence does not pay; the third movement of ‘Forgive’ — to me — is the whole key — to forgive. You can hear the ‘hearts of stone’ melting in the music.”

In the fourth movement, “Collaborate,” the two soloists that had been singing against each other now sing together in harmony. “They move beyond the pain to healing,” McCullough-Bade said, and lastly, “Proclaim — is to go out and be the peacemaker.”

A booklet of the words is included in the CD package, and McCullough-Bade added, “keep in mind — these are the words of our neighbors — our brothers, our sisters,” that describe their experiences with violence.

Peace, faith link

The breakfast’s keynote speaker is the Rev. Brenda Smith, program director for faith practices and missional leadership at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, headquartered in Chicago.

“My talk will be about how we live out our lives as people of peace and being peacemakers,” Smith said. “Whatever our faith tradition is, it calls upon us to reflect our faith in our words and our deeds, so I see that as being people who see the humanness in other people and love other people and don’t let fear begin your interaction with others.”