6 events: Amenia, NY; Chicago, Illinois; Croton Falls, NY; Iowa City, Iowa; San Leandro, California; Seattle, Washington
Amenia, New York, United States
report by Pamela Beasley
It was a beautiful day at the Amenia Sanctuary on Sunday, May 19th. After some early morning showers, the sun was shining magnificently!
21 people attended, having journeyed from New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. After a flag ceremony where we prayed for peace in every country of the world, we also prayed for the earth and all of the elements of nature.
It was a moving experience, and everyone expressed their happiness and joy in participating together and sending the energy of peace around the world.
Chicago, Illinois, United States
report by Jennifer Kim
On Saturday evening, May 18th, our core group joined together at the Peace School in Chicago to do World Peace Breathing meditation at the same time as the SOPP at Fuji Sanctuary. Gathered together in a circle, we also did the Call to Peace for all countries of the world and performed the Divine Spark IN 49 times. Earlier that day we had performed all of these practices together, which we do every Saturday afternoon. We were glad to repeat our gathering in the evening so we could join in harmony with everyone taking part in the SOPP in Japan and around the world!
Croton Falls, NY, United States
report by Deborah Moldow
The Chapel at Croton Falls hosted its ninth annual Symphony of Peace Prayers on May 19, 2019.
Our six-page printed program included the beautiful message from Masami Saionji read at Fuji Sanctuary that morning, as well as an introduction to the Fuji Declaration and the purpose of the SOPP.
Our kirtan leader, Miriam “Sita” Zernis, set the tone for the event with her own rendition of a very special song from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village called “Breathing In, Breathing Out.”
I greeted all the participants, who ranged in age from 4 to 94. I introduced special guests Rabbi Roger Ross, Executive Director of the Rabbinical Seminary International and UN representative for the United Religions Initiative, and Rabbi Roger’s wife, Rev. Deborah Steen Ross, Executive Director of the New Vision Interspiritual Seminary.
I then warmly welcomed six dedicated Byakko members who had graciously traveled from New York City. They offered a demonstration of the Divine Spark IN, and everyone enthusiastically learned it very quickly.
Rev. Melanie Gambino led everyone in a lovely meditation to the beat of her drum, to open hearts for the world peace prayer flag ceremony. I explained the flag ceremony, which was accompanied by an illustrated slide presentation of the nations of the world, and I invited three children to be flag assistants, displaying each country’s flag card and placing it in a mandala around the central peace pole. They loved this task!
The flag ceremony was divided into four parts, with two or three regions in each segment. After each segment, the Byakko members led everyone in performing the Divine Spark IN three times, filling the lovely chapel with light and prayers. Those attending took turns calling out the country names, and to everyone’s delight, our 11-year-old participant volunteered to recite the country names for one of the regions!
In between the ceremony segments, we recited together prayers of peace from the following traditions: Native American, Sufi, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish (led by Rabbi Roger), and Christian (led by Pastor June Tompkins). I then closed the ceremony with prayers for the Indigenous Nations, the United Nations, and all the other regions of the world, as well as the elements.
At that holy moment, Miriam “Sita” Zernis, began to play her “May Peace Prevail on Earth” chant, and everyone sang along. As Miriam continued to play softly, Rev. Deborah Steen Ross read her beautiful “Visualization for Planetary Healing.” Everyone then joined hands in a circle of light around the flags and peace pole to sing our traditional closing anthem, “Come! Live in the Light.”
The participants all said they were deeply moved by the ceremony, especially as it was enhanced by the Divine Spark IN. The parents of our young flag bearers thanked the organizers for including their daughters, who were very excited. The girls then offered to pack up the flags!
This was the last Symphony of Peace Prayers that I will be leading at the Chapel, since I will soon be moving out of the country. Rev. Melanie requested a set of flag cards so that she could continue the tradition for years to come.
Iowa City, Iowa, United States
report by Dawn Jones
The SOPP was celebrated at the Iowa City Public Library together with Conscientious Objector Day. We prayed for peace in each country using national flag cards. After a country’s name was called, all attendees pointed to its flag and loudly recited, “Peace, Peace, Peace!” as if the vibration of peace was resonating and spreading out to the universe.
Chiyomi Prasithrathsint talked about the Divine Spark INand demonstrated it, and some people tried forming the IN. At the end, we all sang a few songs, including “We Are All Shining Divine Sparks” as a finale. One participant said, “I think everyone felt it was an exceptionally good ceremony this year!”
San Leandro, California, United States
report by Kai Neptune
We had such a lovely SOPP ceremony this year! I hosted the ceremony, which took place from 11am to 1pm on Saturday May 18th, and afterwards we had a potluck lunch together. We had 9 adults and 6 children participate. It was an unusually rainy day (California has been in a drought for eight years, and this year we are having record rainfall).
I began by welcoming the participants, describing the history of the SOPP and the significance of connecting to the millions of prayers and many similar gatherings happening around the world on this same weekend.
Beginning with interfaith prayers, we sang sacred songs of peace from the major religions of the world. This was a new way for us to pray, through songs and mantras. Between each religious prayer, we said, May peace prevail on Earth. May peace be with all the religions and faiths of the world, and I rang a bell. It was very beautiful. We started with a Native American prayer, “Oh Great Spirit,” and continued in the following order: Hinduism (Gayatri Mantra), Judaism (Oser Shalom), Christianity (“Make me a channel of your peace”), Baha’i (“To be Baha’i”), Sufism (“Round and round we go”), Sikhism (Waheguru), Islam (Call to prayer and the poem “In the Name of Allah the Beneficent”), and Buddhism (the Heart Sutra). At the end we also prayed, May peace be with all Science and May peace be in our hearts.
Next, we had a world peace flag ceremony with beautiful laminated cards. There were six children at the ceremony, and although they came and went as they played, they helped with the ceremony and held the flags and walked with them from the living room to the dining room in rotation. It was quite beautiful. We started by saying, May peace prevail on Earth and went through all the countries one by one, with the bell chiming every ten countries, at which point we again said, May peace prevail on Earth. At the end we had a moment of silence.
I had wonderful feedback from the participants, some saying they had never been to a peace ceremony before and that the energy was very uplifting. It was a very beautiful experience.
Seattle, Washington, United States
report by Nao Valente
On May 18 in Seattle (May 19 in Japan), we gathered to join with everyone at Fuji Sanctuary in celebrating the SOPP. We had new participants this year, and four participants who were unable to attend joined from their home or workplace. We began with a short meditation, and then performed the Divine Spark IN. Then, using national flag cards, we prayed for peace and the rebirth of the divine spark in each country and region on earth. Everyone prayed with utmost sincerity, and said they felt very happy at the end of the ceremony.