I feel almost inclined to start this story with “once upon a time” since it feels that we began our adventure so long ago. I started The Bardo Group (though it wasn’t titled that way to begin with) in 2011 as a way to encourage a sort of world without borders by having people from different cultures and religions come together to show what’s in their hearts and in doing so to demonstrate that with all our differences we have much in common: our dreams and hopes, our plans for children and grandchildren, our love of family, friends and the spiritual traditions we’ve chosen or into which we were born . . . not to mention our love of sacred space as it is expressed in the arts and our concerns for peace, social justice and sustainability.
At one point I decided that it would be nice to have a sort of virtual Sunday service and invited Terri Stewart, a Methodist Minister, to be our “Sunday Chaplain.” In 2008 she founded Beguine Again, an interfaith platform for clerics and spiritual teachers to offer daily solace and inspiration. I felt comfortable inviting Terri in because she didn’t want to convert anyone and seemed to appreciate the beauty and wisdom of traditions other than her own. She even incorporated the wisdom of other traditions in her rituals and writings. Terri supported our mission. She didn’t appear threatened by different opinions or beliefs.
A little over a year ago, I suggested we might throw our two efforts together, Beguine Again and The Bardo Group. I hoped that would ensure the continuation of the The Bardo Group and the wise, beautiful and valued work and ideals of our core team and guests, a group of earnest and talented poets, writers, story-tellers, essayists, artists, photographers and musicians. Each is a strong advocate for a better – fair, peaceful and sustainable – world. Together they are a powerhouse.
Okay, yes! I’m a bit biased. I’ve only met one of our group in person and only talked by phone with Terri, but I’ve read everyone’s work – their emails, messages, books, blogs and FB posts for years now. We’ve been through deaths in families, births and birthdays, graduations, illness and recovery, major relocations, wars and gunfire, triumphs and failures. Two of our original contributors have died. I feel that our core team and our guests might be my next-door neighbors instead of residing in Romania, England, Algeria, the Philippines, Israel, India, Greece, Bulgaria, the United States and other countries I’ve probably forgotten. We’ve featured work by people ranging in age – as near as I can guess – from 19 to nearly 90. They’ve been Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and agnostics. The growth of our readership is slow but steady, loyal and just as diverse as our core team and guests.
So what did we do to facilitate this merger: At Beguine Again daily posts continued. That team joined The Bardo Group. We stopped posting daily on The Bardo Group site and started The BeZine, a monthly online publication with a fresh theme for each issue. Terri got a grant to establish a community website from the Pacific Northwest United Methodist Church. The website has been over a year in the works. Today, we unveil it.
The site is designed to be a spiritual networking community. Though it is an extended ministry of the Lake Washington United Methodist Church, this effort remains both interfaith and a labor of love.
The site is supported by donations, membership (paid membership is optional) and a generous grant from Pacific Northwest United Methodist Church, which funded the design and development of the site. The grant from the church ends on December 31, 2015. Donations and membership fees will support the cost of technical assistance, web hosting and so forth. Should there be any excess funds they will go to the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition, a Seattle nonprofit (also interfaith) founded by Terri under the aegis of the church. Coalition members provide assistance to incarcerated youth. No income is earned by anyone associated with Beguine Again, The Bardo Group, The BeZine or the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition. All are labors of love.
The BeZine can still be easily and conviently accessed directly either here at this site or through Beguine Again if you choose to become a member of the community.
Please check out the site. Any questions? Let us know … and do let us know what you think. Please be patient too. The tech gremlins are still working behind the scenes.
A note on the name: Beguine Again. The original Beguine community was a Christian lay order in Europe that was active between the 13th and 16th century. Terri chose the name “Because they worked outside the religious structure and were a safe place for vulnerable people.”
© 2015, article and photograph, Jamie Dedes; Beguine Again logo, copyright Beguine Again