The Kenai Peninsula may be far away from the areas of international instability that have been making headlines this year, but that doesn't mean residents here are powerless to affect what happens in troubled areas of the world.
To that end, there will be a non-denominational prayer and meditation gathering at 3 a.m. Tuesday at the Kenai River Center on Funny River Road in Soldotna. The event is part of the World Healing Day, a meditation project where groups gather around the globe to pray for world peace at noon, Greenwich Mean Time on the first day of the new year, which is at 3 a.m. Tuesday in the Alaska time zone.
"What (participants) do during that hour makes a difference," said Reverend Kathe Ford of the Center For Spiritual Living in Soldotna and an organizer of the local meditation and prayer event. "It makes a difference not only for the individual praying, but for everyone in the world, everywhere. I think this is very important work. And I know it's 3 a.m. (But) it really is a great way to end the year and begin the new one.
Worldwide, the event has been going on since 1986. Locally, it has happened for the last nine years. Ford said she participated in the meditation and prayer event through her church in Burbank, Calif., prior to moving to Alaska. When she came to the central peninsula in 1994, she organized a gathering here.
"It doesn't matter where I have been -- it doesn't matter if I've been in Burbank or Soldotna or Sterling or Kenai or wherever," she said. "Wherever I have been on Dec. 31 at noon, Greenwich Mean Time, there is a feeling of connection, of energy."
The goal of the event is to pray for world peace in general, not necessarily for peace in one particular country or a peaceful resolution to one particular conflict, although participants are free to pray for and meditate about whatever they feel is most important.
"There have been times since (the event) started that (world peace) has been perhaps more meaningful to people than at other times, depending on what's going on in individual lives," Ford said. "A lot of things are going on in the world now that people have expressed concern over. People have loved ones who are serving in parts of the world where there is a lot of concern about their safety. ... I think (the event) is always meaningful. This year I think world peace is pretty front and center for a lot of people."
The event will take about an hour. There will be music provided by Vickie Gardner Placker of the Center For Spiritual Living, singing, candlelight, a time for personal sharing and a time for silent meditation and prayer for world peace. Participants also will read a prayer written by John Randolph Price, who founded the World Healing Day event. The same prayer is said across the world in all World Healing Day gatherings.
The event will end with muffins and coffee. Children are welcome, as are members of any denomination or religion, whether they are Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or not religious and simply interested in world peace.
"I think that what we put our focus on is extremely important," Ford said. "We wouldn't pray if we didn't think it was worthwhile. People all over the world of all religions pray so they must feel there's a power here."
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