Unification News for May 2005

WFWP in Washington State

by Patricia Couweleers

An Intercultural and Interreligious Women's Friendship Gathering and Bridge of Peace ceremony was held on Sunday March 20th at the Garden Street Family Center in Bellingham, Washington. Many different races, nationalties, faiths and organizations were represented. This was the first WFWP event held in Bellingham, a city of 70,000, an hour and a half north of Seattle and 20 minutes from the Canadian border.

The room was filled to capacity with 63 people in all. There were 37 guests, and many of them from the Vancouver, British Columbia area who were accompanied by WFWP members.

The program began with introductions by Bonnie Berry as MC. The format of this event had a truly community essence as it was also a potluck. After Bonnie opened the program everyone was directed to enjoy and serve themselves at the delicious buffet created by everyone's contributions.

Patricia Couweleers, the local WFWP coordinator, gave the welcoming address and introduced the video of the WFWP Peace Pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine 2004. Everyone's hearts were truly moved by the content and this set the stage to begin the bridge ceremony.

Many of the visitors were curious and maybe just a little cautious of this new ceremony which they had never heard of before, but once the participants were called out by name, the magic began. The first few couples who crossed had been organized beforehand, but, as is often the case, until the actual guests turn up at the event it can be difficult to plan matches ahead of time. Also there were guests who came with a friend who we did not expect to attend in advance. Thus, the ceremony took on a spontaneous nature as Bonnie invited those to come forward willing to extend the hand of friendship to a sister of peace. In all, there were 18 couples who crossed the Bridge of Peace together in warm embraces and smiles. Thirty of the 37 guests received a sister of peace.

After the bridge ceremony the room seemed to glow as the new sisters of peace sat together and got aquainted. Many women commented afterward to Patricia how happy they were and amazed that their match was a person after their own heart! Everyone toasted the new sisters of peace with sparkling apple juice to the creation of families, communities, and a world of absolute true love.

The event ended with entertainment by a trio of local women named Mockingbird who entranced everyone with their lovely a capella presentations (some original) of songs of peace. Mockingbird led everyone in a final song Let There Be Peace on Earth. No one really wanted to go home.

This event was a community effort of our small but close group of families here in Bellingham representing WFWP and FFWPU. Also, WFWP members in British Columbia brought 8 guests in addition to themselves. Special thanks to Scott Dolfay and Will Couweleers who transported the original bridge of peace from Seattle and back, Brian Granstrom of Great River Productions who provided the audio/visual support, Doug and Eileen Williams who did everything from bridge construction to hospitality and registration.

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