Twenty years ago, as delegates met in Louisville, Ky., for General Conference 1992, riots broke out in Los Angeles, in angry response to the acquittal of four police officers tried in the beating of Rodney King.
Delegates quickly mobilized the Shalom Initiative, a plan for congregations and communities to work together “to create a visible oasis of peace, health, wholeness, harmony and prosperity (shalom) with their community.” Today, several Shalom leaders gathered for a press conference to mark the 20th anniversary and to discuss the ongoing work of Communities of Shalom. There are currently 150 active Shalom sites in the U.S., Africa and Haiti, and more than 10,000 people worldwide have been trained to create Shalom Zones.
Bishop Joseph Sprague (retired) said that, since 1992, the Shalom initiative experienced a period of hiatus, but it’s back in business now. He described the work of a Shalom community in Columbus, Ohio, where collaboration between the public school system, police force, local university and others has created an afterschool program, a free medical clinic, a legal clinic and a community garden. Two young staff persons, ages 29 and 31, lead the initiative.
“The spirit is active out there if we have the guts to get our hands dirty,” Bishop Sprague said. “Shalom is on the loose.”