My neighbor George is into the Memorial Day observance — especially how it is celebrated in Carroll County. He pointed out that back in 1868 Mary Shellman had the idea of organizing our first local Decoration Day observance where a parade of children laid flowers on the graves of soldiers.

As we prepare to celebrate another Memorial Day, maybe we need to go farther or deeper than a parade or decorating graves. As I pointed out to George, we are living in an "in-your-face confrontational society." Some of us are downright nasty to people we disagree with and even at times we try to hurt others who have a different ideology or theology. Hearts and minds need to be changed so we can live in diversity but also in peace.


In this regard, Holy Scriptures calls for humans to live together in harmony. The future peaceable kingdom of Isaiah calls for "the wolf to live with the lamb" (NRSV 11:6) and in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus reminds us to pray "your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). Empowered by the Holy Spirit we are called — even commanded — to make it happen. The Letter of James is very forthright in reminding us to "be doers of the word and not merely hearers who deceive themselves." (1:22)

A passage from Abraham Lincoln's 1863 Gettysburg Address might give us a clue. He not only reminded us to remember those who made sacrifices but also added "it is rather for us to be here dedicated to the task remaining before us..." I assume the "us" is me and you!

To help accomplish this "dedication to the task remaining before us," maybe our county commissioners could propose a Carroll County day — or weekend or even a week — committed to "A Time of Reconciliation." It could be based on the song "Let There Be Peace On Earth and Let It Begin With Me."

The occasion could feature the opportunity to participate in discussion groups, as community members are invited to gather together at a venue with several large rooms.

In one room we could have Congressional leaders from both dominant parties engage in a panel discussion about how people with diverse political views can work constructively to build up and not tear down — one another or the governing process itself.

A second room could house two young people who were involved in the recent Baltimore riots. One could have actually participated in the riots and the other had refrained from rioting despite strong feelings. One could share how years of pent-up frustrations could lead to burning and looting. The other could address the choice not to become involved in destructive acts, even in the face of years of pent-up frustrations. Together they could talk about their hopes — and our hopes — for the future.

In a third room, focusing on religion, people from different faith backgrounds could share their views on who is going to heaven and who is going to hell. They could read from their religious documents to prove their point. We could even invite religious people who are are convinced their beliefs are the only way, and if you do not believe in their religious pathway to heaven they have a divine right to kill you. Or maybe through prayer and openness of heart, we will find common ground.

When the presentations are over, we would need some form of evaluation. Are we any different than when we started the discussion groups? Did we move from destructive to constructive approaches to our differences? As the Apostle Paul urged, "therefore encourage one another and build up each other..." (I Thessalonians 5:11).

You may want to suggest another room with other topics. I simply ask that you think on these things and let the dialogue continue as we approach another Memorial Day.

The Rev. Dr. Wm. Louis "Lou" Piel is pastor of Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Finksburg and can be reached at julo1@verizon.net.