Memorial Day Remembrance Service

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I’d like to share with you a public Memorial Day Remembrance service that we have held in Rochester for the last 14 years. The purpose of the service is to help lay to rest the impressions of war and violence. You may wish to consider a similar service in your area, or to hold this intention inwardly.

The inspiration for the service is drawn from the Universal Worship, Healing and Kinship concentrations and from beloved Sufi teachers. The service is based on the belief in the ability of the divine healing power to bring healing and to transform darkness into light. It is a service that offers a perspective of overlooking differences. It is a program of holding a vision of the ideal and giving energy to raising the consciousness of humanity to that ideal, and calling on the divine healing energy to release the impressions of violence.

The outer service reflects the inner service.

The outer service is called Memorial in Time of War. Our service in Rochester occurs on a riverbank. We start with a collective attunement to the breath. We place ourselves in the inner landscape of the heart. There is a Rumi poem, the Sufi Prayer for Peace, reference to Thomas Merton’s understanding of the Hidden Ground of Love, and a Buddhist prayer. The central feature of the service occurs when each participant individually joins in the recitation of names of those who have died in war in the last year – Americans, Afghanis, Iraqis, and those from Yemen and Syria.
Drawing on the Jewish tradition on Holocaust Remembrance Day, we hold an intention of “may their memory be for a blessing”. As each name is read, a bell is intoned, and a flower is offered to the river as a symbol of the beauty of each life being returned to the everlasting Life.

The inner service is the Universal Worship, calling on the living energy of the prophets, and the Divine Healing Hierarchy to be present to allow for healing of the violence of war and laying to rest the impressions of violence that may be present with those who have died in war. The inner service starts with the preparation for the service. As we research the names of those who have died this year, we often see photos of American young women and men and their ages. We find the names of the Afghan and Iraqi, Pakistani, and Yemeni civilians who have died, along with their ages – some as old as in the 70s, some as young as a few months old; we then print a card for each name. Before the service on the riverbank, I do a Universal Worship at home. Then at the river, before the attendees arrive, we clean and clear the space. I walk the space, breathing Hu. I set up an altar and do an informal universal worship, asking the masters, saints and prophets to come to help bring healing. I leave the candles lit. Then we set up the space for the outer service: baskets of fresh flowers, a basket of small cards with names and ages of the victims of war, a bell. People arrive, are given a card with a name, and the outer service begins.

If you would like any additional information about the service that we hold in Rochester, please contact me. I can provide the actual service as well as the research sites for names of the victims of war. If you are interested in offering a similar service in your area, please feel free to use any or all of these ideas as they are, or as a starting point for your own reflection and inspiration. There could also be a service at a different time, not just on Memorial Day. There are many possibilities.

The service could be done on a river bank, but if that is not possible, the flowers could be put on a grapevine wreath or simply laid on a surface, and then later taken to a nearby river or lake and put in the water. (like a sand mandala being dismantled).

We send notices out to area interfaith groups, churches/temples, mosques etc., and other contacts we have made over the years. We put up some flyers. Some years the local media has come and photographed or interviewed. It doesn’t matter if any one comes to the service. A couple of people holding the intention will be effective, and seeds will be planted.

Shalom, Salaam, Hu,
Cheraga Rahima Karen Keenan