A week before the Solstice, the Resource Center hosted the 20th annual Interfaith Celebration of Community, Spirit and Change at Beth El Synogogue in Durham. We had to keep adding chairs in ever widening circles around our eclectic altar, to welcome the largest crowd we have seen in years. Over eighty-five people gathered with us (about a third of them for their first Interfaith Celebration) for an evening of story, song, dance, and above all, sharing light and prayers amidst the darkness.
After Stacy Grove shared a peaceful, centering flute melody, RCWMS Executive Director Jeanette Stokes greeted everyone, inviting us to breathe, be open, and stay comfortable for an evening that would “go on a little longer than you’d want it to,” although no one was caught sneaking out before the end! Rinah Rachel Galper led a beautiful meditation on “going into the pit” of sometimes painful, multi-generational memories to find healing and wisdom, instead of avoiding difficult realities. In the meditation, Rinah Rachel made one of several references woven throughout the evening to the pain we are facing as a country around police violence against communities of color. This evening provided space for healing, as well as celebration, through a variety of practices. Stacey Grove also brought up the painful past, in introducing a Torah that survived the Holocaust in Czechoslovakia, which she had on display at the Celebration. Stacey reminded us of the power of story, a theme echoed by Rachael Wooten in her potent narration of Tara, the female Buddha of Tibet.
As always, the musicians filled the space with beauty and magic, inviting us into active celebration. Julie Purcell introduced the Dances of Universal Peace to the group, coaxing the experienced and curious into concentric circles of joyful movement – while allowing the non-dancers to stay in their seats and join in singing a mantra if they desired. Kathleen Hannan led the lively band and brought us together in singing “Thank You Mother Earth” and chanting “Mitakuye Oyasin” during the dances.
For the traditional closing ritual of the evening, we darkened the room in honor of the season. Then we slowly passed the light of the flame from candle to candle, as we each voiced a prayer from the heart. We held up prayers for compassion, for those grieving, for the Earth, for love, and many more. And then everyone joined in a joyful rendition of “This Little Light of Mine,” waving candles, greeting friends, and bringing to close a warm, friendly, transformative evening. If you weren’t able to make it, we hope you’ll join us next year to learn, be together, and celebrate change.