Report from Southern California
The Southern California Committee for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (SCCPWR), known for breaking new ground in Southern California by bringing together communities that rarely interact, held its second annual Seeds of Peace event last April 19 at the All Saints Church of Pasadena.
Last year Seeds of Peace brought together 16 different meditation communities – a first for Los Angeles – to offer workshops on meditation and contemplative practice. Dr. James Doty, Stanford neurosurgeon and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research, gave the keynote.
This year SCCPWR added a new dimension, reflected in the program’s subtitle, Meditation and the Engaged Life. A cornucopia of 19 meditation and contemplation workshops, followed by 19 social action workshops, attracted nearly 500 participants. In between the two sets of workshops, the keynote speaker, Marianne Williamson, featured in TIO last month, artfully linked the two halves of the program. She gave a spirited talk that emphasized the importance and value of joining inner and outer peace through meditative practice, coupled with social activism.
The quad at All Saints Church resembled a colorful renaissance faire. Many communities and organizations sponsored booths to put a public face on what they do, believe, and practice. The Brahma Kumaris of Southern California were next to Maureen Cruise and her volunteers, advocating for health care “as a human right.” Nearby two monks performed healing rituals for passersby. Not far away, sporting a hot pink sunhat, was Jody Evans, founder of Code Pink, a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement, working to end U.S. funded wars.
Opposite Jody and her team were Kimberly Medendorp and Randy Christopher, founders and co-directors of the Peace and Justice High School Academy in Pasadena. Around the corner was a colorful display of handmade crafts and jewelry from indigenous artists and a visiting Mayan shaman. Next to them was the booth for All Paths Divinity School, offering on-line courses in religion and interfaith theology. Under the tree were the Teiko drummers, pounding out their powerful message with laser concentration. Throughout all of this, circulating through the crowd, were the many volunteers, including a local boy scout troop.
Those interviewed all agreed that the experiment to join together meditators and social activists had worked. “It was a magical day,” many reported, saying they hoped this would continue to be an annual event.