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Updated: Sep 28, 2023

Last week saw the church filled with hundreds of origami cranes as part of our Senbazuru installation. It was impossible to capture it all on camera, but it was a stunning display, and we were delighted to see so many folk engaging with it. As the installation officially draws to a close, we wanted to share a little of what we did and why we did it. And while some elements have been packed away, the cranes will still be in flight until this Sunday, when you can join us for our Harvest service.

Photos by Leigh Greenwood and Marc the Photographer

What was the installation about?

Japanese folklore says that a wish will be granted of a person folds one thousand paper cranes, known cellectively as a senbazuru. The crane then became a symbol of peace when twelve year old Sadako Sasaki began folding cranes as a wish for peace, after she was diagnosed with leukemia as a result of being exposed to radiation from the atmic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Our attempt to create a senbazuru was intended toexpress our own wish for peace, and hope to engage others in acts of peacemaking. We lost count along the way, but we think we made it past eight hundred, a reminder that peace is an ongoing effort.

Why create it at Stoneygate Baptist Church?

The church has a long history of association with pacifism and for a time was known as the peace church. It is believed that the church was founded in 1901 by a group who objected so strongly to the Boer War that it caused them to leave their former congregation, and the words ‘peace on earth’ have adorned the front wall of the sanctuary since 1924. On the organ there is a plaque commemorating Henry Adkins, who served as church organist after serving a prison sentence for conscientious objection during the First World War. The young men of the church signed a pledge not to go to war in the 1930s, although the church showed grace in disagreement by supporting those who did serve in the Second World War with aid parcels. The installation sought to honour and continue that history, as part of a wider ongoing commitment to justice.

Why do it now?

The idea came to our minister last Remembrance Sunday, following a prayer activity in which members of the congregation placed origami cranes on a world map, as they prayed for peace in places of conflict. Timing the installation to coincide with the International Day of Peace allowed us to join with a global movement of peacemakers, and there can be little doubt that such a movement is needed now as much as it ever has been.

Who made the cranes?

The cranes were made by members of the congregation, families at our Messy Church, guests at our wellbeing cafe, friends from other churches, and residents at local care homes. Visitors to the installation also made cranes and added them to the swoop, because peace is not just an ongoing effort, but also a shared enterprise.

What now?

We're not sure what will happen to the cranes yet, but they certainly won't be disappearing completely. And we hope that by creating this space to reflect on and commit to the things that make for peace, the installation will have a lasting impact. The installation was always intended to be more than a visual display, and there were opportunities to pray for places of conflict and write pledges to work for peace, as well as books on peacemaking to read and take away. We hope these will be like stones dropped into a pond, creating ripples which will grow larger than anyone may expect.

What can I do?

If you want to know more about the work of peace making, there are a number of organisations you can check out, including the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Peace Pledge Union, and JPIT. You might also like to read or listen to some reflections on peace which we have previously shared on our blog. Most importantly, you can make your own commitment to be a peacemaker, through everyday actions that bring peace to yourself and those around you, and through daring to dream that peace is possible and inviting others to share that dream with you.

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