Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Concert 'about bringing people into unity'

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Instead of the end of the world, next Friday signifies the beginning of another age, says a Winnipeg woman planning an interfaith event on the winter solstice.

"We feel every ending is the beginning of something new," explains Hollie Andrew, a member of Keepers of the Sanctuary, an organization for healing and spiritual growth.

"We want to be part of this new era where people truly live with acceptance."

Andrew and other members of Keepers of the Sanctuary have organized a concert of sacred sound for 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 21 at St. George's Anglican Church, 168 Wilton St. Tickets cost $20 and include a finger food reception with vegetarian and kosher options.

The winter solstice, the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere, falls on Dec. 21. The date also marks the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar, prompting fears that the world is ending.

Instead of fear, Andrew hopes the event will spark hope and a little understanding of the many ways Winnipeggers pray, meditate and sing within their own traditions.

"It's a sharing of many different ways that people make a connection with the divine," says Andrew.

The evening will open with a Muslim call to prayer, and include prayers, chants, and songs from Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, aboriginal and Christian traditions.

Although each prayer or chant will only take a few minutes, Rabbi Alan Green of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue says that's enough time to get a sense of how sound and spirit work together.

"When the word (Shalom) is chanted in unison, it has a powerful effect on the individual, on the consciousness of the group, and on the whole civilization," says Green, who will lead a chant on the Hebrew word for peace.

"So if I create a stir within my consciousness, I'm creating a stir within me and everyone around me."

"In this situation, we're all going to come away with the (thought) that all of humanity shares a common theme," adds Rev. Fredrich Ulrich of the Manitoba Buddhist Temple, who plans to lead the audience in a Sanskrit chant on loving kindness.

Between the prayers, chants, and songs, Andrew and other members of the Sanctuary will play their crystal bowls, which vibrate when tapped with a mallet. The 20 bowls range in size from 20 to 60 centimetres in diameter.

Raised Pentecostal, Andrew attends St. George's Anglican Church, where her husband sings in the choir, but considers the Sanctuary her spiritual home. The Keepers of the Sanctuary ( meet Thursday evenings in their rented space at St. Norbert's Art Centre.

Since many faith traditions celebrate events in December -- Hanukah, Christmas, Buddha's Enlightenment and Kwanza all fall within this time -- Andrew says it make sense to hold an event to bring together various traditions. She says the point is not to convert anyone to one faith or another, but to listen to each other through their sacred sounds.

"It's about bringing people into a oneness, a unity. It's a time to fuel that connection with each other," she says of the first interfaith event planned by the Keepers of the Sanctuary.

"It's for any people who feel the urge to understand the others' ways better and who wish to feel a deeper communion with all of humanity and the Earth."

And having people from many traditions visit a Christian church decorated for Christmas is a small way of promoting unity and understanding, says the priest of St. George's Anglican.

"I think we're trying to say we're committed to a new future," says Rev. Lyndon Hutchison-Hounsell.

For Andrew, the solstice is a time of spiritual reflection, as well as a time to anticipate more of those beautiful bright blue Manitoba winter skies.

"It's a very good to have a celebration at a time when we're looking for more light and we're hoping for a good winter and we're hoping for spring."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 15, 2012 J13

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