The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


'We want peace for all people'

Ann Helmke, ELCA pastor and director, peaceCENTER of San Antonio

On Sept. 13, 2001, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists filled the sanctuary of the Mennonite church in San Antonio. Similar gatherings happened nationwide, of course, in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But this one was different: It had been planned for months.

Constructing the first Interfaith Habitat
Constructing the first Interfaith Habitat for Humanity house in 2003 is the project for volunteers from the peaceCENTER in San Antonio. Sikh, Jew, Christian, Muslim — people of these faiths work together every year to build another home.
The peaceCENTER of San Antonio was celebrating its move to offices at the church with a service of prayer for the continuing conflict in the Middle East, said Ann Helmke, ELCA pastor and, under call of the Southwestern Texas Synod, the center’s director.

“We’d brought a fig tree, literally a twig,” she said, to mark the event expected to be attended by several dozen members of the then 7-year-old organization. But several hundred people turned out. They heard the prayers of leaders of the various religions and listened to the music — unfamiliar to many. And some watered that twig.

By the next year, some of the people at that service, in meetings at the peaceCENTER, had decided to build peace and joined in construction of the first interreligious Habitat for Humanity house.

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March issue

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All are welcome