Welcoming Spring with Community and Prayer
At Penguin Hall, we believe that there is a place for you here–no matter your beliefs. To be truly empowered to live and lead exemplary lives, the students at Penguin Hall are invited to grow in inner wisdom as well as intellect and learn to navigate their unique inner truth. Along with this inclusive environment, each student is required to take a full credit of social science or religion/philosophy which include courses such as World Religions and Social Justice.
One of these courses offered this semester is our Death and Dying course taught by Ms. Brigid Beckman. The course provides a fascinating insight into the rituals and ceremonies every culture and faith tradition has to honor loved ones when they die. As humans we strive to find meaning in both our living and our dying. Understanding that mortality is inescapable can actually lead to a deep appreciation for living. Through a study of the psychology and rituals around death and dying, students explore with sensitivity what happens when we are faced with a loss.
These complex concepts can also be translated to the natural world. Spring is a season of rebirth and renewal. The world, once dead in the cold of winter, is now springing to life once more. This sacred cycle is recognized and celebrated by many religions around the world. To highlight this seasonal transition, students in the Death and Dying course held an Interfaith Spring Prayer Service during Morning Meeting, which also was a celebration of the diverse religions held by many members of the APH community.
With a warm welcome and call to celebration from Aymee M. ‘24, the service began with this prayer recited from Hayden G. ‘21:
“We give thanks that Spring is a time of new life and fresh starts, when the bright colors of the world finally seep back into our days after being trapped for so long beneath the stark white of the snow. We give thanks for the flowers that bloom and the leaves that will soon cover every branch of the trees. We offer blessings for all of Mother Nature’s creatures coming out from hiding to explore another beautiful season.
May we find time to admire the brilliantly green grass that coats the front lawn. May we find peace in listening to the sweet songs of the birds that have returned from their winter holiday. May we see in Spring a new opportunity for each and every person alike, and a chance for our little community to be a part of something bigger than ourselves: the whole of creation. May we all share in this lovely season the feeling of novelty and excitement at what the earth is so incredibly capable of, and how lucky we are to experience its profound transformation.
Hayden G. ’21 Aymee M. ’24
Passover Reading by Leia S. ‘23
Passover, or “Pesach” is one of the most important Jewish holy days and commemorates the Israelites freedom from slavery in Egypt in ancient times. This year Passover began at Sundown last Saturday, March 27, and it ends at Sundown on April 3. It also is a reminder of the importance of freedom to people today, and throughout history. Passover reminds Jewish people around the world of God’s covenant promises and love.
Brothers and Sisters
let us order ourselves around this table
to negotiate new covenants;
let’s rewrite our tragedies;
let’s renew history;
let’s translate our enslavement into the freedom of this moment.
Together we endured suffering; now
let’s share a certain future:
past afflictions can be transformed
into renewed blessings;
let us break bread and sing praises to life;
let our Hallelujahs resonate deeply…
Heal my soul. O Lord heal others so I can be healed.
Let us sing on each cup of wine that zest for life
that brings us home to this table,
to the singing of this story,
our arms about one another.
Spring Equinox (Ostara) Reading by Cori I. ‘21
Wicca is a modern religion based on ancient pre-Christian Celtic traditions that honor the cycles of nature, including the Spring Equinox on March 21. There are many misconceptions about this tradition, but at its heart is a deep respect for the power, balance, and beauty of the natural world. Eostre is the Germanic Goddess of Spring. She gave her name– and symbols of the hare and egg as signs of new life– to the Christian festival of Easter, whose timing is still determined by the phase of the moon.
Spring Equinox Prayer
The dancing hare foretells the spring,
With the fertility and new life this time does bring,
Gay Eostre dances on the Earth,
As seeds and flowers come to birth.
Tulips and daffodils come into bloom,
And life sprouts from the Earth Mother’s womb,
Chickens lay their eggs now the light is growing,
Catkins and blossoms on the trees are showing.
The Sun reaches forth with his hand,
To the Maiden of Flowers returned to the land,
Their dance brings new balance into our life,
Planting the seeds to overcome strife.
We grow with the flowers and the trees,
Winter’s gloom banished on a spring breeze.
The joy of new birth enters our hearts,
As we look forward to Beltane’s love.
Easter Reading by Bea M. ‘21
There are many Christians all over the world, both Protestant and Catholic, who celebrate Easter this coming Sunday, April 3. Greek Orthodox Easter will be celebrated on Sunday, May 2. At the heart of these celebrations is the reminder that God’s abiding love is with us always, even in our suffering, and that hate and death cannot win.
When reading the book of Psalms, chapter 36, David describes God’s relationship to the ones who seek him out. He also explains how great God’s faithfulness, righteousness and His love is.
Psalm 36:5-7, 9-10
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, like the great deep; you save humans and animals alike, O LORD. How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!
Ramadan Reading by Kylie S. ‘23
Muslims around the world fast from dawn to dusk for a month during Ramadan– to cleanse their souls of anything impure, for self-reflection and also to empathize with those in the world who may be poor and hungry. This year Ramadan begins on April 13 and ends on May 12. Ramadan ends with the festival Eid-al Fitr to celebrate the breaking of the fast. Here is a poem from the Muslim Sufi mystic, Rumi.
From Essential Rumi translated by Coleman Barks
Dancing into freedom.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.
Holi (The Festival of Colors) Reading by Paige P. ‘21
Holi is a Hindu festival that celebrates spring, love, and new life. It is also celebrated by people in the Jain and Sikh traditions. Some families hold religious ceremonies signifying the victory of good over evil, but for many Holi is a time for fun. It’s a colourful festival, with dancing, singing and throwing powder paint and colored water. Holi is also known as the “festival of colours”.
Fill the Heart with the oil of love.
Place in it the wick of single-pointed mind.
Light it with the Knowledge of Truth and remove
the darkness of ignorance around you.
Just as one lamp can light many lamps; let each
of us kindle this Light in many hearts.
And may God gift you the beauty
of all the colors of the rainbow
To bring joy to your life.
In closing, Ms. Beckman invited the APH community “to recognize that with the start of spring, we instinctively open our minds and hearts to search for new beginnings. The start of spring can help us find peace within us and help us grow. Spring symbolizes the emergence of new life with new beginnings. One of the deepest gifts of being in a community like ours is that we truly aspire to support each other, day in and day out. We never know what someone is facing or feeling inside, and our kindness can make a big difference.”