The official opening of the new Glastonbury Information Centre, where will be offering our Pilgrim Reception services is the 18th November 2017. Come and see us soon!
Seventy years ago today, the United States dropped the world's first atomic weapon on Hiroshima, Japan, in an attempt to force the Japanese into surrender in the late stages of World War II. The bomb flattened the city and killed tens of thousands instantly.
The Peace Flame, lit from the embers of the fires, was brought to Glastonbury Festival in 2008 and since then, the flame has been kept burning in Glastonbury. Today, it was taken to the Bishop's Palace to light 70 candles to be floated on the water of the moat.
The Glastonbury Unity Candle was also in attendance and was lit from the Peace Flame to be kept alight until its next outing, to the Glastonbury Peace Pole on Saturday 8th August. Along with the gathered crowd, were Sue Barnett, (Chair of Somerset CND), Tim and Sophie Knock (the Peace Flame), Councillor Alison Gibson (Deputy Mayor of Wells), Councillor Jon Cousins (Deputy Mayor of Glastonbury), Michael Eavis CBE (Glastonbury Festival) and Morgana West and Shoshana Dennis (Directors of Glaston Centre).
Councillor Denise Michell, Mayor of Glastonbury , Morgana West and the Glastonbury Unity Candle had the honour of opening the first Glastonbury Magic Festival.
(Morgy and a young boy light the candle at 5:00)
The Reception Centre was honoured to welcome the Road to Peace Penniless Pilgrimage into Glastonbury. Having walked from London to Glastonbury, without money and placing themselves at the kindness of the world around them, the pilgrimage has been a physical prayer, in celebration of the Dalai Lama’s 80th Birthday and his advocacy for Global Peace and Happiness.
Dubbed the ‘Glastonbury Tales’, it was a modern re-telling of an ancient story – a re-dedication of the pilgrim pathways that were for millennia walked in peace and contemplation by untold thousands of people.
Greeted at the centre, the group was offered a Glastonbury Unity Candle to take with them on their journey before being escorted alongside the main candle in its lantern to the Glastonbury Peace Pole.
The Glastonbury Unity Candle had the honour of leading the Mayor's parade to the Church and back. The weather was kind and a lovely day was had by all who attended.
The inspiration behind the Anthem was to create a community song that reflected the uniqueness, beauty, sacredness and spirituality of Glastonbury and Avalon, and a song that could bring the town together.
In 2013, Morgana West, co-founder and manager at Glastonbury Reception Centre and Sanctuary, had a recurring dream about creating a new song for Glastonbury and asked her friend, Dr Lynne Sedgmore CBE to produce the lyrics.
For inspiration Lynne meditated, read Blake's song Jerusalem, and walked through all parts of Glastonbury. Over three days the verses and chorus flowed, centred on the powerful theme of Unity through Diversity, as promoted by Glastonbury Reception Centre.
Both Morgana and Ananda O'Kelly helped to further develop the words. The music took longer via a classical version, followed by a guitar version until its culmination into a choral score written by Sally Pullinger for the Avalonian Free State Choir.
Sung for the very first time by the Avalonian Free State Choir and members of the Glastonbury Community, it was first launched at Glastonbury Frost Fayre on November 29th 2014.
Since 2007, our own Centre has been supporting and welcoming people of diverse beliefs to Glastonbury and it is now recognised that there are more than seventy spiritual paths upheld in this small, but interesting, market town in the south-west of England. It has long been a personal dream of mine to be able to create a neutral but sacred indoor environment, not affiliated to any one belief; a space in which people could share their own spiritual understandings and religious beliefs in an atmosphere that gives honour and respect to the diversity in the world around us. This concept became a reality in 2014 with the development of the Sanctuary. The support and encouragement we have received since the opening of this space within our Centre has been more than we dared have hoped for.
Recognised as being open to all paths, Glastonbury Reception Centre has been described as a 'living bridge' that connects across secular and spiritual communities and spreading a harmonious message is, we feel, an important part of our role. Support, understanding and acceptance of those of good intent, regardless of faith or spiritual beliefs (or those with none) underpins all our work. Building bridges between diverse beliefs is at our core; our aim to show how we can acknowledge and respect each other, even if we don’t necessarily agree.
Our work also involves taking things one step further by pro-actively encouraging and supporting people of good heart and intention on their own path through life.
Our Centre has an ethos of Unity through Diversity but this is not to suggest we feel all faiths and paths are the same, or that they should be. It is an expression which has been in use for thousands of years and in essence, can be seen to imply the working together of all aspects of a community without losing the special personality and beliefs of the individual projects and people involved and we acknowledge that diverse beliefs and practices can present complex and difficult challenges creating chasms that often-times are difficult to bridge. However, rather than focus on the discordant differences, our own goals are to create ‘spaces’ where tolerance, understanding and co-existence can be found, demonstrating how together, we can live well, whilst remaining different. Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable. So says the inspirational Kenyan proverb extolling the power of Unity.
Most of us know only too well that there is widespread agreement in that bridge building can be successful in helping to reduce prejudice and hostility between different groups, propelling people into living peacefully alongside each other. In a community such as Glastonbury, where diversity is both flourishing and glaringly apparent, many of our visitors often remark on the kindness and love that is, at times, quite palpable. As expected though, where harmony and love is shining a very bright light, discord and hate can be found in equal measure. After all, as human-beings, full of complex contradictions going about our human-doings, we often find ourselves facing the challenge of a need to become consciously aware of where we are placing our focus and of how our actions might be contributing to the ‘whole’. The legend of the Holy Grail has a high profile here, believed by many to have been hidden in Glastonbury, it's predecessor in the stories, the Cauldron of Ceridwen. Many come in search of its 'truths' and it is a well-known 'secret' that the 'hiding place' is within each and everyone of us, we are the Grail, we ourselves are the Cauldron. It is our own thoughts, and deeds that allow the Light to shine forth out of our own vessels and it is of our own actions we are reminded to frequently ask the question;
"Whom does the Grail serve?".
It is with this in mind that I am in the process of developing a Cooperation Circle, (CC), affiliated with the United Religions Initiative (URI). The URI is a global grassroots interfaith network that cultivates peace and justice by engaging people to bridge religious and cultural differences and work together for the good of their communities and the world. Cooperation Circles (CCs) are the heart of URI. They are independently organised, self-governing and self-funding and I think it is fairly safe to say that our own organisation fits within the remits. You can find out more about URI and CC's at the bottom of this post.
A weekend that was heralding the autumnal chills, once again saw me heading towards Ammerdown Centre , my purpose to meet with Karimah Stauch, the European Coordinator of URI.
Autumn is a time of harvest and celebratory occasions, not only of that which the land has given us but also a period in which we are offered the opportunity to consider and ‘gather in’ all that we have sown and nurtured throughout the year within our own lives and the positive differences we might have brought to the world around us. It is also a time of endings. The sagacious ones amongst us will be thinking also of the necessary new seeds that need reaping and nurturing over the winter months, until the ground is once again ready to bring to fruition the bounty necessary for our ongoing nourishment.
My journey towards my destination takes me through fields and woodland and, whilst the radio informed me of a whole village of killings and the women and children kidnapped in Northern Iraq, my sadness, already profound over the atrocities that humans can perform on one another, deepened further in the autumnal energies. I thought about the tortures that will be inflicted onto those souls until they convert from their own religious beliefs. As I drew closer, reflecting on my own work in the name of harmony and peace and all that might have been 'harvested’ in its name this year, thoughts of pointlessness and hopelessness, like the autumnal mists that settle over the low-lands of Somerset and cloud our ability to see into the distance, whispered despondency into my spirit.
Ammerdown is a remarkable place in a beautiful setting, nestling in woods next to a Stately Home, surrounded by beautiful landscaped gardens and parkland and I have been fortunate to have visited on a few occasions. As my speed slows to the required five mph on the long driveway, its soothing calmness sweeps over me. Since opening in 1973, it has developed into an internationally respected centre with a special focus on interfaith dialogue, peace and reconciliation. Karimah, the person I was here to meet, had arrived, along with others, in a very packed minibus in order to participate in Three Faiths Encounter, an event where, for the past twenty-five years, people of Jewish, Islamic and Christian faiths have converged to talk, share, discover each other’s worship and learn from each other. Their theme this year, ‘Who Is My Neighbour?’ brought regret that this was not my reason for being there.
Karimah was attending, not only under the mantle of her own faith, but also in her role as URI Coordinator along with two other URI CCs: The German Muslim-League Bonn CC and URI Germany CC. I was very appreciative that she had been willing to take some time out to chat with me about the organisation and allow me the opportunity to bring to her an awareness of some of our own work here in Glastonbury. Her welcome was heart-warming and my instincts have nudged me to say that our paths will once again cross in the future. Others attending the conference were also willing to take time out and chat with me. Rabbi Michael Hilton, a Reform rabbi of Kol Chai Hatch End Jewish Community and writer, author of ‘The Christian Effect on Jewish Life’, Sheikh Bashir Dultz, the spiritual leader of the German Muslim-League and co-founder of global URI and its branches and Peace Ambassador Tatomir Ion-Marius, World Peace Prayer Society representative, all re-stoked the fire beneath me, evaporating the mists of earlier and encouraged me to forge ahead in creating the Cooperation Circle.
Before I left, I gifted a Glastonbury Unity Candle to Karima; this will return to Germany with her where it will be used in URI events. In return I was given a poster that reminds us of the Golden Rule, the ethic of reciprocity in that we should treat others as we would like others to treat us. The stated words on the poster are the maxims from many different beliefs around the world that reflect the Golden Rule, so known since the 1600's. However, the concept itself pre-dates it and can be found as far back as early Confucianism. (551–479 BC).
Karimah Stauch, the European Coordinator of URI, Rabbi Michael Hilton, a Reform rabbi of Kol Chai Hatch End Jewish Community and writer, Sheikh Bashir Dultz, the spiritual leader of the German Muslim-League and co-founder of global URI and its branches and Peace Ambassador Tatomir Ion-Marius, World Peace Prayer Society representative and MW.
All over the world people of different beliefs tear each other apart with words and actions and no matter how great or small our peace work is as individuals, together we contribute towards greater understanding; in turn leading us closer towards reconciliation. Peace/bridge building between diverse beliefs and ideas has most likely been around since the third human joined the first two and my words here are nothing new, having been said by many before me. However, if our Centre and Sanctuary can become a circle of cooperation and our own work offer just one drop of nourishing water into an ocean of humanity then, no matter how hopeless or how pointless it sometimes seems to us as single individuals, together, we offer a considerable contribution into the seas of Harmony and Understanding. No matter how insignificant, as individuals, we belief our efforts to be, together we can be strong.
Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.