Learning what it means to be neighbors — next door and around the world — is the theme of the 2009 Peacemaking Conference, scheduled for June 11–13, in Atlanta.

The peacemaking gathering is one of 10 conferences meeting jointly as part of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s first-ever Big Tent event.

“Participants in the Peacemaking Conference will be invited to envision ways to work for peace and seek justice as they follow Jesus in all the neighborhoods of their lives,” says Mark Koenig, coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.

“Jesus teaches us that being neighbors is not a matter of geographic location alone; it is a matter of our spiritual relationships,” Koenig says. “We will reflect on that understanding theologically, explore that understanding practically, and consider what it means to live that understanding daily.”

Mark Lomax, pastor of First Afrikan Presbyterian Church and interim dean of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Atlanta, will speak and help lead small-group discussions exploring what it means to be a neighbor.

“Peacemaking Tours” will take participants into Atlanta neighborhoods to witness a variety of peace and justice programs. Some participants may choose to learn about the work of the Carter Center in fighting disease, or to explore nonviolence and efforts to combat racism at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center. Others may take part in the “Urban Plunge” — a walking tour of inner-city sites providing services to Atlanta’s poor and homeless populations.

Still others may choose to learn about models of interfaith dialog, empowerment of women and ministry with international students.
Koenig says conference planners hope participants “will return home with a deeper understanding of how Jesus’ followers live as neighbors on our blocks, in our communities and around the world.”

For more information and registration materials, visit the Big Tent Web site. Hotel registration is separate.

Eva Stimson is editor of Presbyterians Today magazine. She will be covering the 2009 Peacemaking Conference for PNS.