CAMP Rehoboth’s Peace Pole
In 1955 Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller wrote the song, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” Each morning I watch the town of Rehoboth Beach awaken. Whether it is the Beach Patrol fetching breakfast from Lori’s, couples riding bikes together, or dads pushing a little one in their stroller, the mornings are peaceful. The office phones are not yet ringing and as each staff person enters CAMP Rehoboth, we greet each other with a simple, “good morning.” As part of my new morning ritual, I read the Peace Pole on the corner of CAMP Rehoboth. It simply states, in four languages, “May Peace Be in Our Communities.”
The Peace Pole at CAMP Rehoboth became more significant on October 7 this year as the carnage of the Hamas terrorist attack streamed across our televisions, phones, and computer screens. Curious, I googled “list of ongoing wars in the world” and my heart sank. There are 32 countries in the world where conflict is currently taking place. The amount of trauma and suffering is immense. The CAMP Rehoboth Peace Pole was beckoning me, “do something!”
CAMP Rehoboth Board Vice President Leslie Ledogar connected me with Don Peterson, who serves on the Peace Week Delaware state-wide board. Don provided me with the following insights and information, “The first Peace Pole Dedication ceremony in Sussex County took place on September 21, 2016 (International Peace Day) at CAMP Rehoboth. This was the centerpiece of our Peace Week Delaware celebration in Sussex County. Peace Week Delaware is an independent organization that was a spin off from Pacem in Terris in Wilmington.
Peace Week Delaware was primarily a New Castle County event until 2016, when, for the first time, all three counties had events.
“The dedication ceremony at CAMP Rehoboth was an interfaith effort that included speakers from the Seaside Jewish Community, the Islamic Society of Central Delaware, Epworth UMC, Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware, Metropolitan Community Church, Trinity Faith Christian Center, and Insight Meditation Community of Lewes. Doug Yetter provided music (Epworth) along with students from Christy Taylor Music. Since then, Peace Poles are now in Lewes, Georgetown, and Seaford. Peace Week Delaware is still ongoing, but like so many things it is slowly recovering from COVID.”
CAMP Rehoboth became the site for a peace pole because a few in the city felt it was too political for a government building in Rehoboth Beach to host a peace pole. Steve Elkins said, “Yes, put it here.” This was a yes to “let there be peace on earth and let it begin with us,” the LGBTQ+ community and those who love, support, and respect us.
The founders of CAMP Rehoboth understood and still understand that you build peace in our community and the world by doing things that are now a part of CAMP’s life and culture. We start with ourselves; we strive to be patient and present with each other. Doing so helps to moderate feelings of anger and other strong emotions that may arise. Understanding anger can help to gain more insight into complex issues associated with conflict and inequality.
Instead of calling people out we call them in. We seek to understand. We encourage quiet time, spending time in nature and with the arts, and finding contemplative practices like meditation, tai chi, or prayer.
CAMP Rehoboth has transformed community spaces for learning and gathering: our courtyard, the porch, the gallery space, and the Elkins-Archibald Atrium. By inviting people into CAMP Rehoboth spaces through the arts, health and wellness events, workshops, and social gatherings we create opportunities where connection and learning can take place.
We support others through service, as volunteers with and around CAMP Rehoboth or as volunteers through our outreach program. We act with compassion towards others and understand that when someone is hurting, we do not turn our heads—we reach out and provide help. We do not hide from life; we work to transform fear, hesitancy, and lack of understanding into inclusion and respect. We celebrate joy, friends, community, and each other.
We, together, become an extension of the Peace Pole that sits quietly at CAMP Rehoboth. Let us continue to be the light that illuminates the pole and our community. ▼
Kim Leisey, PhD, is Executive Director of CAMP Rehoboth.