PPF Is A Tree: A Silly Analogy for Crucial Work of the Activist Council

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is like a tree. OK, I know, you’re probably groaning and thinking “not another bad analogy.” But let me explain. I have been thinking a lot recently about what PPF is “like.” It can be hard to give an elevator pitch that really accurately and succinctly describes all that we do (I imagine this is true of most organizations), because our very-active Activist Council currently does work in several different areas, and we have existed for over 70 years, so we have done much in the past as well.

But what makes up the core–the trunk, if you will–of our identity, life, and work over the past seven decades, has been a resistance to US militarism. That has not changed since 1944. Many projects and new areas of work have stemmed and branched off (yes, I know, just go with it) from that core commitment and have born fruit–some for a short time, others for longer.

In PPF, we can see many of the ways that these new directions of growth are happening in the fruit that our work bears, and we continue to cultivate new growth. But the thing about trees is that, when they’re healthy, they not only grow new branches, leaves, and fruit, but their root system can also continue to grow and spread under the earth, making the tree stronger and more able to absorb the nutrients for growth above the ground.

At the fall Activist Council Gathering that took place the last weekend of September at the Stony Point Center, members of the Activist Council gathered to set the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship vision for the next year. We gathered to tend to the fruit our our tree and cultivate new growth, but we also did some important “root work” while we were together.

As an organization who claims that nonviolence is both a methodology and a way of life, a way of both resisting US militarism and creating its alternative, we know that our roots must be deep in order for us to stay strong. We also know that racism is at the root of so much violence and militarism in our country, and so doing anti-racism work is doing anti-violence work. So we began our time together with eight hours of anti-racism work facilitated by Crossroads Antiracism Training (pictured above).

Under the leadership of Jessica Vasquez-Torres and Abbi Heimach-Snipes, we examined some of the ways that PPF perpetuates white supremacy and racist ways of being, speaking, and working. We looked at models of what a truly anti-racist organization would look like and discerned together where we are in that spectrum. That discernment helped us think about how we need to continue to grow our roots so that our PPF community will be stronger, more resilient, and so that our tree can get the nutrients it needs to bear better fruit in the world. This work is ongoing and at times difficult, as growth can be, but we are committed to doing internal anti-racism work as part of our calling to nonviolence.

We also spent time tending to the branches of our work that are bearing fruit in the world–Gun Violence Prevention, Middle East work, accompaniment in Colombia, supporting Peace Churches and Peace Communities, and working for creation justice.

We even spent time grafting on a new project to the tree of PPF. At this meeting, the Activist Council voted to include Fossil Free PCUSA as a project of PPF. We have worked together over the last two years, but there are so many important intersections between the work of divesting from fossil fuels and resisting US militarism and violence that we felt our work needed to be more deeply connected. To see more about this new relationship, and the good work of Fossil Free PCUSA, see our announcement and then help us share the good news on social media!

Yes, the tree analogy is probably a bit of a stretch, but I do think it holds some important ways for us to think about our identity and work together as being both growth in our roots and in our more visible work in the world. The root work helps us be prepared and healthier to engage in a world where the air can feel toxic and the winds strong. With strong roots and branches that we tend to, we can learn to bend when we need to bend, graft on new branches when the opportunity for healthy growth is there, and tend to and even prune our branches so that PPF can contribute to providing more oxygen, more life, in our world. And if you weren’t able to come or if you haven’t yet joined the Activist Council, you are always welcome. You can find out more here and see who is part of the Activist Council or email me (emily@presbypeacefellowship.org) to find out how you can be involved.