Lincoln: report by Diana Joy and Antonella Villa
For the past two years we have held our SOPP ceremony in a large marquee in our garden, but this year we felt it was the right time to take it out into the city of Lincoln. We hired a beautiful room that had once been the chapel of a large hospital, located immediately behind the castle in Lincoln city centre. We decorated the room with some written mandalas, and set out tables for the interfaith guests, some information about Byakko, and also one for flower arranging.
There were between 50 and 60 participants in total, and the ceremony commenced at 2 pm with a welcoming address given by Diana. The microphone was then passed to Jenny who read the prayer for oneness with all living things that was first introduced at Fuji Sanctuary.
As they did last year, Teresa Rowan sang a Native American song with her drum and Gregg Chapman played the didgeridoo, an instrument from the Australian Aboriginal tradition. We felt that we wanted to honour these two traditions further by including them in the prayers from different faiths and spiritual traditions. This brought the number of faiths and traditions to fourteen. One by one, each interfaith guest was invited to the stage and received a flower in honour of his or her particular tradition. Following Teresa and Gregg, Diana Joy stood in for Rakesh Chander-Nair to offer a Hindu prayer. Athea Ghani represented Islam; Jasmit Kaur-Phull, Sikhism; Tom Morley, Buddhism; Paul Sutherland, Sufism; Jill Tully, Bahai’ism; Carole Glover, Brahma Kumaris; Stephen Griffiths, Judaism; Lily Amery, Christianity; Donald Sutherland, Quakerism; and Jil Greenewood, the Celtic Tradition.
Prior to each interfaith guest being introduced on stage, music was played that reflected his or her culture and/or faith. The music seemed to soften people’s hearts, and some guests were encouraged to sing along. As each guest received their flower they placed it in a large, beautiful blue bowl. Then, they led participants in their peace prayer. At the end of the prayers, the fourteen flowers looked magnificent together in the bowl!
This year we were very fortunate to have a live choir singing between the prayers for each continent during the flag ceremony. Antonella gave a short explanation about the flag ceremony, and the choir came up on the stage. It was so wonderful to have a choir joining in with us as everyone carried flags around the room. Before long, the last flag was being flown, and that was the end of the ceremony. With the choir’s help, we sang “One World, One Voice, One Heart Beating”—beautiful!
It was truly wonderful to see how people from various backgrounds—peacemakers, interfaith guests and people on their own spiritual paths—could really be together and enjoy one another’s company and prayers. We believe this would have been unthinkable just a few years ago! As we have mentioned in years past, we could not have held this ceremony without the help of many volunteers—infinite gratitude! We really could feel the guiding hand of the divine realms at work orchestrating all the symphonies around the world and especially the energy of Fuji Sanctuary and its central role in the SOPP. Again, infinite gratitude!