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Psychologist-minister creates learning of how to live in peace

Believing that an important piece of finding world peace is helping people of different faiths to realize that their traditions include teachings about peace and guiding them to practice those teachings, Joan Broeckling has helped organize two International Day of Peace celebrations at Unity Church of Truth.

In addition to her work four days a week as a school psychologist for the Cheney School District, she is an ordained minister in the Beloved Community, an organization started by peace troubadour James Twyman.

In counseling, she wants young people to start their lives focusing on their opportunities, rather than on pain and conflict.

“I hope to set a tone for how they relate to the rest of the world,” Joan said.

Joanne Broeckling

Joan Broeckling

“I see that people want to be happy, to live in peace and to have joy.  Sometimes children have their capacity buried.  Sometimes parents lose their awareness of their commonalties in marital conflicts and overlook that each has valid points of view and needs to be met,” she said.

She described her ministry with the Beloved Community as “a ministry of listening to my inner voice and following my ministry in interfaith work.”

Joan is one of six members of the board of the Interfaith Council Inland Northwest, which is in the process of discerning its role.  It’s next meeting, she said, is at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 8, at the Center for Spiritual Living on 33rd and Regal.

Her interfaith interest started early when her grandmother gave her a book about comparative religions.
“I have always been fascinated by people of other faiths,” said Joan, whose Methodist upbringing, combined with involvement in Unity churches, nurtured that interest. 

For 17 years, she and her husband, Hank, were active  at Seattle Unity, where she was youth education director. 
Then they were involved in Edmonds United Methodist Church for 12 years before moving two years ago to Spokane, where they are involved in Unity Church of Truth at 29th and Bernard.

In high school, Joan spent one summer with Up with People, an international music organization that gathers 80 to 100 youth from around the world each year to travel throughout the United States and the world.

After she graduated, she traveled with an Up with People group on the East Coast, and then from January through June, she was one of three young women traveling through the Southwest to organize “Sing Out” groups.

We lived by guidance and trust, not a schedule of where to go or assurance of places to stay.  We had a car but no money.  We were housed and fed where we went,” she described.

“It was a time of spiritual growth for me, a call for me to learn to trust and surrender, unsure where the resources would come from,” she said.

Joan completed a bachelor’s degree in African studies in 1973 at the University of Washington, including eight months abroad. 

She spent four months studying and traveling in France and Europe, and four months in Kampala, Uganda, as a volunteer bringing together young people of different tribes to do work projects—such as digging a water hole in a village or repairing mud huts in a leprosy colony.

It was the first time the Ugandan youth were introduced to what they shared in common as Ugandans beyond their tribal differences,” she said.

In 1977, she earned a bachelor’s degree in special education at Central Washington University.  In 1978, she visited her parents for three weeks in Baghdad, where they lived for four years while her father worked there with Boeing.   In 1984, she earned a master’s  degree in psychology at Antioch University and in 1995, she earned a master’s degree in school psychology as an education specialist at Seattle University.

Both Hank and Joan have been involved in organizing “One Peace, Many Paths” events, last year as part of the Unity Church peace committee and now as part of an organization of that name, working in collaboration with the Interfaith Council.

“Jesus’ teachings and the love Jesus brings to the world are part of my life,” she said.
Both as a Methodist and in Unity she has found that worship helps her find inner peace and freedom from becoming caught up in spiritual differences that “always exist.”

For her, part of seeking peace is listening.

For Joan, a deep sense of peace she feels within herself and with the universe is God.
Having lived in Uganda before the atrocities of Idi Amin and having visited in Iraq before Saddam Hussein became an enemy, she has been attuned to the devastation and pain that war has brought to those places she knows.

“War is real, not something abstract that happens elsewhere.  It impacts all of us,” she said.
Despite that, she believes that peace is possible.

“I’m not willing to accept that there will always be war,” Joan said, “especially with our growing contacts around the world through Internet and social networking sites such as iPeace.”

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