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Origami cranes are part of a prayer center to capture prayers for peace

Roger Hudson, Jayce Keeling and Mike Donovan share the story of prayer center.

Jayce Keeling, Mike Donovan and Roger Hudson helped organize, fold and install more than 1,300 white origami cranes surrounding 85 red cranes in one skylight tower of the sanctuary at Covenant United Methodist Church. 

It is now a prayer center called “Peace and Remembering the Fallen.” It is an ongoing prayer for peace, and for the end of violence and mass shootings.

A basket held another 300 cranes donated since it was installed.

The church’s worship team came up with the idea at its August meeting, said Jayce, chair of the team.

“We wanted to have a witness about mass shootings and an ongoing prayer to cease the violence,” said Jayce, a member for 31 years.

While it’s within the church, she sees it as a service for the community.

Patti Osebold, an origami artist and member of the congregation for 30 of its 36 years, is Japanese American.  For years, she has folded tiny origami crane earrings.

Mike, a member for 25 years, retired after 30 years as an engineer with Boeing in Seattle and Spokane.  He and his family moved to Spokane in 1990.

Roger started as pastor four months ago, moving to Covenant after serving three years as pastor of Wilbur Uniting Church, a combined ministry of the Lutheran and Presbyterian churches there. 

In his first month at Covenant, he visited church members Chuck and Linda Anderson at their ad agency, Helveticka, where a crane with an 18-inch wing span—folded by Patti—hangs in the entry. 

1,300 white cranes and 85 red cranes fill church’s tower.

“To be a peace thing, we needed 1,000 cranes,” Jayce said, telling the story of how classmates folded 1,000 cranes as a get-well wish for Sadako, a Japanese girl who suffered from leukemia after being exposed to atomic fallout at Hiroshima.  She died at age 12. 

As they prepared the display, they told that story.

After the worship team proposed the prayer center, Roger identified 85 mass shootings since 1982.

“Each red crane represents a shooting.  The 1,000+ cranes represent our prayers for peace and our grief for victims of violence,” said Jayce.

In June, Patti had a stroke so she said “with God’s grace” folding cranes became part of her recovery. She folded cranes and taught others to fold them.  The women’s group folded cranes one evening, and about 40 of the 160 people engaged in the congregation helped fold cranes—some folding more than 100.

Patti helped fold and string about 300 on fish wire.  Jayce, who folded 80 cranes, and Diane Ketcham and Jackie Richardson, who also folded many cranes, helped string them on fish wire.

Roger suggested that people pray as they folded each crane.

One woman said she would read the newspaper in the morning, fold a crane and pray about issues and people in the news.

Mike created a wooden frame with six spokes at the top. A member brought a lift from his building supply company so Mike could hang the frame from cross wires in the tower. Strings of cranes hang from it on swivel hooks.  His goal was to create a sense of upward movement so the cranes rise like the prayers toward heaven.

Roger and Mike folded the red cranes. Roger wrote on both sides of the cranes’ triangle backs the number killed and the number wounded—5/5. On one side of the tail, he wrote the date and on the other side, the place.

He also found information on the kind of gun, the shooter’s name and motivation, he said, noting that all the shooters were male.

One group who folded cranes worried that making the cranes red, like blood, was too stark. The worship team discussed it and considered blue for mourning, but once they saw “the beauty and visual impact of the red cranes,” they decided red should be used, Jayce said.

“We realized we couldn’t soft pedal the shootings,” Jayce said.

“Pastorally, I struggle with what to say to people when something so tragic happens.  It’s hard to put into words what we feel,” Roger said.  “This is a visual prayer, leaving open the opportunity for people to find their own way to articulate their sadness, aware there will be more shootings.”

When there is a new shooting, the worship team is considering holding a Taizé style prayer service with candles, silence and communion.

“The cranes are beautiful at night with light on them and the sanctuary dark,” said Mike.

For him, it’s an inspiration when he and others do not know how to deal with trauma, sadness and hurt that seem beyond control.

“The white and red cranes help me let it go,” he said.  “They do not change the reality.  We need to surrender our pain and sorrow to God, even though we think we should fix a problem or control it.”

“When people don’t know what to do, they can pray to God,” Roger said. “We need to let go of burdens that cause guilt or anger.  The visual prayer helps us give it to God. We hope the Spirit is moving each time we see the display or add a red crane.”

Jayce said it’s letting go, but not letting go of responsibility.  It’s about helping people deal with what they can’t control.

It is an ongoing prayer for solutions.  She added that it is “a prayer for the end of this, so we can lay down our feelings of helplessness and are not paralyzed by grief. Then we can start to see what we can do.”

Part of that, Mike said, is to “turn it over to God.”

“Then watch out,” said Jayce.  “It can inspire those who pray into action, to find solutions to address the deep-seated issues that cause mass killings.”

Two red cranes have yellow ribbons hanging around their necks. Those represent two mass killings—one was the killing of 10 Amish girls at West Nickel Mines School in Lancaster County, Pa., and the other was the killing of nine people in a Bible study at Mother Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, S.C.

In both cases, survivors forgave soon after the killings.

Representatives of the Amish community went to the house of the killer’s parents saying, “You are not our enemies.  We grieve your loss.”  Their son killed himself.  The Amish were at his funeral.  When his mother had stage four cancer, they built a house for the family, and one mother cared for their younger child.

“They practiced decisional forgiveness,” said Roger.  “They acted out their forgiveness, rather than grieving and later forgiving. Scripture says to forgive 70 times seven. Their forgiving speaks of Christ’s hope.”

“They reflected what happened on the cross and the triumph of love that transforms,” Jayce said.

The AME church drew attention because of the speed with which some members expressed forgiveness to the 21-year-old shooter, believing love overtakes hate.

“We are on a journey to learn how God’s spirit redeems the world’s darkness.  Who knows where it will lead,” said Roger, telling of a Mennonite man who goes around Colorado, asking people to turn in their guns and forging them into “plowshares,” melting the metal to make picks, shovels and other garden tools.

“I’d like to know why they owned guns and what led them to give them up,” said Jayce.

To share stories of peace and redemption, the group is setting up a Facebook page.

Jayce grew up in Seattle, attending Presbyterian, United Methodist and Lutheran churches.  She started a degree in teaching at the University of Washington and finished it in 1979 through Fort Wright College while living in Omak.  Her husband’s job in juvenile rehabilitation brought them to Spokane, where she finished a master’s degree at Whitworth in 1983.  She taught gifted children for 27 years in Spokane. She and her husband, Marty, are both retired.

Mike, who has gone to El Salvador as part of Covenant’s sister church since the late 1980s, said members’ visits have created an awareness of justice and mercy, as well as of what violence does to the innocent and the perpetrators.

Roger, the son of a Methodist Church of Southern Africa pastor, moved to Dallas, Texas, when his father studied at Perkins School of Theology.  Roger earned a bachelor’s in business in 1982 at the University of Texas and a master of divinity at Perkins in 1986.  He, his wife Carla, and their two sons lived in South Africa from 1989 to 2004, working to end apartheid and seeing many die in violent clashes.  He returned to be pastor of the Community UMC in Leavenworth and at Manito UMC in Spokane. 

“Coming from South Africa, I was surprised there was so much gun violence here,” he said. “As followers of the Prince of Peace, we need to equip young people to be peacemakers.”

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