Gathered in a circle in the backyard of Magnolia House Studios, members of the Church of Universal Peace in Westminster shouted the word peace three times in 15 languages while dedicating the congregation's official peace pole Sunday morning.
"A peace pole is an international symbol of the hopes and dreams of the entire human family," said Veronica Beasley, a member of the church who facilitated the peace pole planting.
Beasley said the church decided to plant the peace pole prior to International Peace Day, which is celebrated on Sept. 21. She said the United Nations acknowledges Sept. 21 as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.
"We're very excited to participate in this international celebration," Beasley said, adding, "Everything we do should revolve around bringing greater peace to the world through our individual communities."
Beasley said peace poles carry the message "May Peace Prevail on Earth" and peace-lovers of all faiths have been involved in pole dedications, including the XIV Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, President Jimmy Carter and Deepak Chopra. She said there are tens of thousands of peace poles in 180 countries.
"Our peace pole has 'May Peace Prevail on Earth' printed on it in four different languages. Our pole has English, Cherokee, Spanish and Yoruba, a Nigerian language," said Jaqui MacMillan, the church's minister.
The service began with a gong and opening prayer entitled "Creators of the Universe" inside Magnolia House Studios. The group moved outside and gathered around the peace pole. Each member received a word for peace and a tea light. The words were printed in English, Turkish, Indian, Gaelic, Swahili, Chinese, Hawaiian, Greek, Norwegian, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Hebrew and Japanese. As they lit tea lights, the group sang "Imagine" by The Beatles. Then each of the members said their word for peace three times until they were shouting.
"It was powerful. It's really moving to have everyone together to put their energy into the peace pole," said Stephanie Katsampis, of Westminster.
The group recited three peace prayers pulled from Christian, Pagan and Buddhist literature.
"I'm very connected to that prayer because I grew up Catholic. This church welcomes all religions and beliefs," said Kathi Koenig-Stoffel, of Abingdon, who delivered the Christian prayer.
The group also sang a Yoruban welcome song as MacMillan played an African drum. At noon, they observed a minute of silence.
Melva Cook, of Taneytown, said the peace pole was a step in the right direction.
"It has to start somewhere. We're sending peace out into the world. I believe it matters," Cook said.
MacMillan, who painted the pole with decorative flowers and rainbows, said she plans to plant a peace garden around the pole so the community can come and reflect on its message.
"The peace poles are not just for churches, they are for everybody," MacMillan said.
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