A Moment of Reflection and Intention at the End of the Year

A Moment of Reflection and Intention at the End of the Year

A Moment of Reflection and Intention at the End of the Year

by Dr. Lo Sprague, President of The Guibord Center

As I sit here at year’s end, I find myself grappling with how to describe this past year at The Guibord Center. You know us for our commitment to bringing people together through events — from stunning, large public gatherings with diverse spiritual leaders to smaller programs set within the intimate heart of temples and synagogues, gurdwaras and mosques, churches, and ashrams. You have experienced our concerts of joyous, sacred music, the building of the Mandala of Compassion, and conversations where colleagues share how their faith provides tools for meeting some of today’s most complex challenges.

What you’ve never seen is our inward-facing work. In 2023, we spent most of our time and energy listening deeply and productively, making friends, making plans, building trust, coalitions, stamina, and strategies to use in the coming days. These spaces have become an intimate refuge and think tank for colleagues of different backgrounds. In these conversations, they can dream and plan or vent and rage and have their unspoken heartfelt concerns heard — and valued.

Weeks ago, a number of us began to meet following the horror of the October 7th massacre. Everyone was shaken to their core. We listened and wept and gradually began to create a program so that communities could grieve together. A lot of time and work had gone into this when one of the participants said quietly: “It’s too soon.” We all stopped. We thought about what she’d said. She was right. It was a great program, and it was too early. The deaths kept coming. Everything had to focus there. We had to postpone.

This is the heart and soul of interfaith work, activism, and standing with and for one another in times like these. We have to hear each other. The Guibord Center has always looked through a spiritual lens that sees situations and individuals as part of something sacred and larger than just ourselves. That’s the essence of our mission.

We have much planned for 2024. Bringing people together to challenge assumptions, embrace the sacred (in one another), and live out of the Spirituality that transforms the world is the most important thing we can do. We are rolling out programs that will lift your spirits and heal your heart. Our very special “Take Heart” program, which will be launched shortly, is part of that healing.

We end the year giving thanks for each of you, for those who serve on our board of directors and our advisory council, our strategic advisors, and our team of dedicated staff and volunteers, as well as our many friends and colleagues here in southern California and across the country – and this year, thanks to ANIMA – around the globe. Thank you for your support in so many forms. You have given not only your funds but also your time, tools and talent, your wisdom and valuable guidance, your perspectives, encouragement, and prayers that keep us going.

Remembering Peter Rood

Remembering Peter Rood

Remembering Peter Rood

by Dr. Lo Sprague, President of The Guibord Center

With heavy hearts, we announce the passing of our dear friend and longtime colleague, the Reverend Peter Rood. Peter loved people. All people. Long before he joined the Board of Directors of The Guibord Center as a founding member, he and Gwynne worked together, pursuing their mutual delight in bringing people of diverse backgrounds together in friendship and meaningful community.

Gwynne asked Peter to serve with her on the Bishop’s Commission for Ecumenical and Interfaith Concerns for the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. And he did, bringing many others with him. Together they helped the diocese become a force in growing the ecumenical and interfaith community. One of the many gifts he shared was to serve as the Christian voice in the “Abrahamic Blessing” that opened The Guibord Center‘s Inaugural Program in February of 2011. Please listen to Peter here

Peter was a remarkable priest. He turned the unused grounds of Holy Nativity Church in Westchester into a community garden. He fed all who were hungry in spirit to generous community meals at the church, inviting people from different faith traditions to break bread and share their stories. He brought strangers together who went on to become lifelong friends. 

In the early days of the Center, Gwynne and Peter sat down to talk on film about fasting during Lent and Ramadan. You can view their conversation here: “One Christian’s Loving Response to Ramadan” with the Reverend Peter Rood.

One day I remember Gwynne pointing out a member of the St. John’s Cathedral Choir and then returning my gaze to Peter, smiling across the room.

 “He doesn’t know he’s in love yet,” she said, nodding toward his future wife.

Peter and Kristen shared an extraordinary love, and everyone who knew them rejoiced in the union of those two gentle souls. The light left his eyes when Kristen died in 2022. Now we pray it has returned as they are united.

How blessed we are that Peter touched and changed our lives. May he rest in peace.

 

Honoring the Life of Venerable Master Hsing Yun

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Honoring the Life of Venerable Master Hsing Yun, Founder of Fo Guang Shan

News is spreading quickly around the world of the death of Venerable Master Hsing Yun, Founder of the Fo Guang Shan. Our hearts go out to the Abbot of Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights, the Venerable Hui Dong, his monks and staff, and our many Buddhist friends and colleagues throughout the world.

Upon hearing of his death, I thought back to Venerable Master Hsing Yun’s wonderful bright presence in the exquisite 5-minute film, “Be the Light”. The film was produced and shared by his community to give guidance and hope in the darkest, most desperate days of Covid, and is infused with all the compassion and care, beauty and kindness that was the essence of his life and teachings.

Be the Light. That was his message, his life, his legacy.

Please watch and then – Be the Light. There is no greater way to honor Venerable Master Hsing Yun

Dr. Lois M. Sprague, Ph.D.,  President
The Guibord Center – Religion Inside Out

Remembering Independence Day

Remembering Independence Day

Independence Day Flag

Remembering Independence Day

As we prepare to celebrate the 4th of July, let us take a moment to recognize that the forefathers of this nation signed the Declaration of Independence with their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.

They pledged everything they had to pursue the idea that no one man was better than any other. Their vision was limited to their time and place. It ignored women, children, people of color, and The Indigenous. Those were to come later in a struggle that continues to this day.

What would you treasure so dearly that you would offer up your life, fortune, and sacred honor to bring it into being?  For our forefathers, it was the revolutionary realization that kings were no better than anyone else and that there was inherent value in the commoner. They fought for democracy, the greater good as they understood it, and the rule of law.

May we do no less.

Dr. Lois M. Sprague, Ph.D., President
The Guibord Center – Religion Inside Out

On the Second Anniversary of George Floyd’s Murder

On the Second Anniversary of George Floyd’s Murder

On the Second Anniversary of
George Floyd’s Murder

“Daddy changed the world.”

Gianna Floyd, 6- year old daughter of George Floyd

Here on the second anniversary of George Floyd’s horrific murder, I want to acknowledge some of the many ways that Gianna’s father’s tragic death has changed me as a white person along with millions of others and transformed the work of The Guibord Center forever.

Her dad’s murder has, indeed, changed us. Forever.  For the better.

White privilege runs deep. It is a wondrous thing always to get to go to the front of the line – until you see the barbed wire that’s been keeping others back. And the scars they bear from trying to move forward. And their anger, despair, and exhaustion from working harder than you can imagine while following the rules in a rigged system where they’ll never win.

That’s not right. It’s not fair.

Like millions of my white peers, when I watched that tape two years ago,  I suddenly remembered all the names I had been hearing: Trayvon Martin. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Young people murdered at the hands of the police or by white men playing cops. Yes, I heard the names and got angry, but I had done nothing. I had heard them through a cultural cloud of denial that surrounded such reports and concerns and… I had done nothing! “That’s just how it is.” “A horrible fact of life.” “There’s nothing I can do.” It’s just the racist system.” These thoughts ran through my head, muting my concern and enabling me to disconnect from myself without ever being aware of what I was doing.

I had confronted many injustices of racism since childhood. It always felt wrong. I knew it was wrong. It wasn’t fair.  “That’s just how it is.” “It’s the system.” “It’s all okay.”  Those were the answers to my concern and alarm. Over and over again. The mantras blurred the pain and muted the tears. My heart, like so many others,  learned to become numb.

And then George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer who looked directly into the camera and defied anyone – defied me –  to stop him.

The horror of the certainty of impunity on Derek Chauvin’s face finally broke the spell.

No! “That’s NOT just how it is”! Racism is not preordained! Not right! It’s not how it has to be! Not anymore! The spell shattered, and millions of white Americans finally awakened to the excruciating pain of the cruel injustice that is racism in America.

Racism is a spiritual issue. It is a hardening of the heart. It is a denial of the sanctity of the other.

No!

In the immediate aftermath of the murder, many people asked us at The Guibord Center “to do something.  Go down there and help people”.

I winced. “No.”  We have always had a policy of asking people of different backgrounds to tell their own stories. We needed to listen, open our hearts, look at our assumptions, and prayerfully and humbly seek to understand the toxic and self-damaging way we had been trained to deny the fullness of the sacred in our brothers and sisters of color.

We called our entire Guibord Center Community together – Our Board, Advisory Council, staff, friends, and colleagues — and invited them to join in a year of prayer and discernment about what we could do as people of faith to grapple with the urgent spiritual necessity of breaking open our hardened hearts and engaging in the process of setting things right.

We met with Black colleagues and listened deeply to them. We hired a Black professional with excellent confrontational skills to help us break through our layers of denial about the racism we recognized we carry. We read together and met weekly for many months to study and pray together and gradually felt the walls around our hearts breaking open.

We began a unique initiative on “Nonviolence and Racism” and brought in speakers from across faiths to teach us about nonviolence as an effective force for changing racist systems. After completing the full complement of structured antiracist training with our expert, we continued to meet weekly without her and still do so. It’s a beginning.

We continue to bring issues of racism into our Inspiring Stories Series. A number of us have joined Rev. James Lawson’s monthly Saturday morning seminars to dig deeper. We continue to grapple with ways to change the injustices embedded in every aspect of our laws and businesses and to staunchly raise the voices of concern in the streets and pulpits and playgrounds all around us as the sacred and spiritual truths that unite us to Creation and one another are frayed and denied.

George Floyd’s murder has, indeed, changed the world. Not enough yet, but it has begun. It’s opened our hearts and led to significant changes in how we see and treat one another. We’re more aware now. More respectful. More vocal. More inclusive. The change is a life-long process. We have a long way to grow, and we are committed to staying faithful to the process.

I hope you’ll continue to join us.

Dr. Lo Sprague
President – The Guibord Center
Turning Religion Inside Out