The Guibord Center’s
Annual Fundraising Dinner:
An Evening of Spirit, Hope and Healing
New Strategic Partnerships Announced
At this year’s annual fundraising dinner The Guibord Center announced several new strategic partnerships. Each partner is deeply committed to compassion, authentic peace building and strategic thinking that creates long-term change for good.
Connie Rice, co-founder of The Advancement Project, offers legal savvy and guidance that will enable The Guibord Center to respond most effectively to the challenges of today’s increasingly complex environment. A warrior for justice and inclusion of those who are marginalized, her support will allow The Guibord Center to reach out to all people of faith who need their voices raised and included in the public square. Connie Rice’s biography
Animal Defenders International (ADI) and The Guibord Center have been discussing how faith leaders might address the compassionate treatment of animals. Read more about The Guibord Center in partnership with ADI.
The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA has approached The Guibord Center to partner in an initiative to create two new interfaith dialogues, one between Buddhists and Christians and the other between Hindus and Christians. Read about the partnership between The Guibord Center and the National Council of Churches.
Bringing Forth SPIRIT
The humble priest dressed in simple white stood alone on the large platform encircled by a forest of tall banners representing eight of the world’s great faiths. The prayer he uttered, in a language five thousand years old, and the light he struck marked the celebration as sacred.
While The Very Rev. Canon Dan Ade, co-dean of St. John’s Cathedral, had given a warm welcome moments earlier and The Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord had followed, it was, indeed, the Zoroastrian priest, Manack Bhujwala’s, igniting of the Fire that marked the true opening of The Guibord Center’s evening of Spirit, Hope and Healing.
The flame was then carried out to every table by the Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist members of The Advisory Council and Board of Directors for each guest to light their own candle. While flames spread out into the room an exquisite vortex of women’s voices from Vox Femina conducted by the remarkable Dr. Iris Levine flooded through the Cathedral lifting spirits heavenward.
When the last note finally faded and the singers left the stage, the beautiful Brahma Kumaris leader, Sr. Gita, stepped forward. She gathered the spinning energy of sound and light and channeled it into a powerful “Om Shanti Shanti Shanti” of centering and healing. Calm descended throughout the great space.
At every table the only movement was candlelight flickering brightly amid the blues and greens of flowers arranged once more by Lynn Cheney. Palms pressed together, sitting straight and tall, people allowed themselves to follow the chanting into a place of deep quiet. Eyes closed, breathing calmed, guests became participants. The Guibord Center’s program had, indeed, begun.
Dr. Lo Sprague next took to the stage as the Chair of the dinner. “The Cathedral is filled with light tonight,” she began. “Some of it is from the candles. All of the rest is from you.”
She was there to explain that this was no ordinary dinner. There would be no alcohol served. “We ask that the Spirit you engage in on this night be your own. Tonight we ask you to be present and fully engaged with your own inner Spirit as you interact with others.” She spoke of the evening as an opportunity for much needed Spirit, Hope and Healing in a time of darkness for all who are committed to goodness and compassion.
She noted that the meal itself – donated and staffed by Citrus Valley Health Partners – would be entirely vegan for the first time, truly a “Kindness Dinner”. “On this night, for one meal, we do whatever we can to lessen the suffering of animals.” she said. Interestingly, a number of those who had experienced a “kindness meal” at The Guibord Center before revealed in a show of hands that they had tried to eat kindly again at least once since then.
Respected Hindu leader, Dr. Rini Ghosh, said the prayer of grace and gratitude. Dimitris Mahlis returned to the stage with guitar and oud to provide the quiet music for the meal. Voices rose in engaged conversation. Muslims slipped out unobtrusively for evening prayers and returned to join their friends and colleagues.
SPIRIT HOPE HEALING
The Resilience of SPIRIT
After everyone had eaten and the plates were cleared, Gwynne stood and requested utter silence. The room went black. In the vast space of the darkened Cathedral a single woman dressed in black cassock stood alone on the stage visible only in the pale glow of one solitary music-stand. Every breathe was held as the silence grew thicker. A piano sounded from somewhere off in the darkness. Cindy Marty began to sing. The sound was haunting, painful, exquisite. Heart-rending. The Hebrew words aching. Familiar. Ancient. Layered with grief upon grief, generation upon generation throughout time unending.
The Mourners’ Kaddish, that tear-stained song of aching hearts that praises God and yearns for God’s kingdom on earth, filled the darkness softened only by the pale flickering of candles. A prayer of sanctification of God’s holy name.
As the last notes faded there on the screen behind her appeared one word in black letters on the white screen: SPIRIT. Images followed it one after another, a montage of the brokenness we of this generation face: an abandoned dog,.. a Native child,.. refugees,.. a crowd raising signs that read BLM – Black Lives Matter,.. water protectors at Standing Rock,.. anti-Muslim graffiti,.. Swastikas,.. an old woman carefully counting out her money,.. Jewish gravestones upended,.. illegal immigrants stopped crossing the desert,.. a transgendered youth,.. the Constitution,.. a mother with her sick child,.. Japanese interment camps,.. Muslims seated together,.. a homeless vet,..
Suddenly another word appeared: HOPE. More photos – but this time smiling faces… arms entwined… warm embraces… friendship… familiarity… wait! These were photos of those gathered in this place on this night just as the dinner began. Participants began to relax, to grin, to lean forward and nod to one another.
HOPE. We are the HOPE. There was collective sigh. A recognition.
Moments later. The word: HEALING. And with it a film began of the work that The Guibord Center has been doing to bring healing to the Collective in these past six years. So many programs. So many people participating across so many faiths. So many people brought together with so much heart and care.
The film ended and Gwynne took to the stage having just seen the film for the first time. “I can’t believe that we’ve done all that!” she said in genuine amazement. First one person stood and then another and a moment later the entire community was on its feet cheering and applauding. They could scarcely believe it either.
This year for the first time Gwynne spoke to the crowd herself. She spoke about how in a world gone mad we need to hold onto a vision of the kind of people God’s wants us to be and about how we need to come together to make a difference.
“In a time of lies, false news and deliberate deceptions,
Truth is found in the way we treat each other.”
Rev. Dr. Gwynne Guibord
New Strategic Partnerships (see above)
She then presented four of The Guibord Center’s new strategic partners.
Connie Rice, Los Angeles icon for racial and economic justice, attorney and co-founder of The Advancement Project who has already been of great help in maneuvering the legal challenges of today’s increasingly complex and divisive environment.
Dr. Lisa Patriquin, the new Program Director of Youth and Young Adults, who shared her vision briefly.
The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) an enormously significant council in the United States that represents millions of Christians has approached The Guibord Center to begin an initiative to create and hold two new national dialogues, first between Christians and Buddhists, and a dialogue between Christians and Hindus. These will be a large step forward in helping Christians in their understanding with their Buddhists and their Hindu neighbors and give an important voice to these communities.
Tim Phillips and Jan Creamer of Animal Defenders International (ADI) were brought forward by Gwynne to talk briefly about ADI as Gwynne addressed a new effort of The Guibord Center to product a public service announcement for ADI featuring various faith leaders speaking to the need mandated by our faiths to lead with compassion including in our treatment of animals.
Following these announcements Gwynne called successful entrepreneur and Reiki healer Terry Opalek to the stage to make the ask for the evening.
Terry spoke simply from his heart to address the need to dig deep to support the work of this remarkable organization. He told of how attending a Guibord Center Event at the Sikh Gurdwara had changed him and led to a friendship in his hometown of Chicago between Terry and a young Sikh man. A stranger became a friend because The Guibord Center gave him the tools, courage and incentive to reach out to a man who would otherwise have remained a stranger.
People responded to Terry’s story and when they were done, Gwynne invited everyone to take a moment to blow out the candle they had lit and to know that its light remains within them. Nirinjin Singh Khalsa did the departing blessing that concluded our time together.