FOR RELEASE ON DEC. 14, 2006
Members of the worldwide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community are among those creating a more spiritual and reflective transition to 2007. The Bridge of Light celebration on December 31 marks the arrival of the New Year by honoring the full equality and dignity of all people. This celebration marks the 3rd annual celebration of the cultural tradition, founded in 2004. Today, the Bridge of Light is a part of World Spirituality Day, a non denominational global spiritual tradition modelled after Earth Day.
Seattle, WA -- Members of the worldwide lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community are among those creating a more spiritual and reflective transition to 2007. The Bridge of Light celebration on December 31 marks the arrival of the New Year by honoring the full equality and dignity of all people. This celebration marks the 3rd annual celebration of the cultural tradition, founded in 2004 by participants of the Gay Spirit Culture Summit (GSCS) held in Garrison, New York.
Although the Bridge of Light idea was the fruit of the GSCS, a gathering of over 100 spiritual leaders and luminaries in the international gay and bisexual men's community, now the event belongs to anyone. All are invited to celebrate a tradition to affirm the full equality of all persons, setting visions for the year ahead, and symbolize their shared hope, unity, and spiritual heritages and principles.
The Bridge of Light tradition is part of the 4th annual World Spirituality Day, an event sponsored by Integrative Spirituality, a not-for-profit omni-denominational spiritual organization based in San Francisco, CA. World Spirituality Day is regarded as "The Earth Day for the Spirit." Just as Earth Day is celebrated worldwide now, in many different ways, World Spirituality Day allows for a kaleidoscope of worldwide gatherings and events, big and small, year after year. Bridge of Light is one such type of event, celebrated by members of the LGBT community.
The nondenominational World Spirituality Day is simple to participate in and can be celebrated either alone or in a group. Bridge of Light's distinctive contribution to this global tradition is to symbolize the many distinctive contributions of gay and queer-identified women and men from throughout history and in many cultures. Specifically, the Rainbow is offered as the focal symbol for Bridge of Light celebrations because it is the symbol most widely recognized as identifiable with the worldwide gay and lesbian community. The Rainbow is honored not only for its diversity but also for its underlying Unity behind the multiplicity of colors.
Joe Perez, founder of the Bridge of Light tradition and founder/editor of the Gay Spirituality & Culture Weblog, says: "The first two years of Bridge of Light celebrations have seen only small, private celebrations in homes. But I hope that soon larger group and community-wide parties will emerge. Social, religious, and civic groups are welcome to add Bridge of Light ceremonies to their list of winter activities. What makes this tradition unique is its focus on spiritual principles that are the common heritage of all people ... and the vision that these principles can provide the basis for affirming universal human dignity, rights, and justice for the gay community and all people."
Like Kwaanza, the holiday honoring African-American heritage first celebrated in 1966, Bridge of Light is a cultural celebration not requiring any particular set of religious beliefs. The central ritual of Bridge of Light is a candle-lighting ceremony intended to honor the distinctive contribution of men who love men and women who love women and others whose ways of loving mirror the beauty of the Divine ways of loving. As part of the Bridge of Light, six candles are lit on New Year's Eve, one candle for each color of the rainbow.
Universal values and spiritual principles are honored with each lit candle: Creativity (by lighting a purple candle), Freedom (a red candle), Integrity (a blue candle), Self-Reliance (an orange candle), Harmony (a green candle), and Love (a yellow candle). Some celebrants of Bridge of Light also light additional candles to highlight additional traditions, values, and principles from their own distinct traditions.
Another premise of Bridge of Light is that gay life today is maturing into a greater focus on partnerships, family relationships, and deep friendships of substance. Getting married and having kids (if desired) is within reach of gays today and future generations. Therefore, our community's most important traditions should reflect this development. Bridge of Light is intended to be a family-friendly holiday.
Dozens of leaders, change agents, activists, authors, ministers, rabbis, gurus, and friends of the LGBT community have already endorsed Bridge of Light. Some well-known endorsers include: Carolyn Baker, Ph.D. - history professor and author of books including "Coming Out from Christian Fundamentalism"; Greg DiStefano - a spiritual explorer, integral philosophy enthusiast, and national book award-winning author of the memoir "Breakdown"; Jari Dvorak - seeker and spiritual organizer, a founder of Dharma Friends; Rev. Koshin Paley Ellison, Zen Buddhist priest and psychotherapist, founder of the Buddhist Psychotherapy Collective; Craig Harwood, producer of "Paternal Instinct", board member for GLAAD and The Lantern Group; Daniel Helminiak - professor of psychology and spirituality, author of many books including "What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality"; Ko Imani, social entrepreneur, activist, and author of "Shirt of Flame"; Fenton Johnson - author of books including the award-winning memoir "Keeping Faith"; Toby Johnson, author of many books and former editor/publisher of White Crane Journal, the journal of gay men's spirituality; Jim Marion - author of "Putting on the Mind of Christ"; Andrew Ramer - author of the gay spirituality classic "Two Flutes Playing"; and Jacob Staub - Reconstructionist rabbi and rabbinical college faculty member;
It is a strange world where acknowledging the spiritual dignity, worth, and beauty of all people--including homosexual, bisexual, and transgendered persons--is controversial. Today, many so-called spiritual leaders use the arrival of the winter holiday season to spread messages that are disrespectful of LGBT persons. But we believe that values such as creativity, integrity, freedom, self-reliance, harmony, and love are NOT the exclusive domain of only one nation, sect, gender identification, or sexual orientation.
Suggestions on How to Celebrate and Create Your Own Bridge of Light Event Wherever You Are
Bridge of Light is celebrated on New Year's Eve of each year and can be celebrated alone or in a group. Here are some suggestions:
• Any location or time during December 31 will work but if possible, it is better to pick a location and time of the day that is highly meaningful to you and/or your group. If you are having a traditional New Year's Eve party, we suggest pausing the party for a brief candle-lighting ceremony at around 10 P.M. or 11 P.M.
• Before you start, spend a few moments getting into a relaxed, meditative or worshipful state.
• Light each of the six candles, one for each color of the Rainbow, in the following order: purple (for Creativity), red (for Freedom), blue (for Integrity), orange (for Self-Reliance), green (for Harmony), and yellow (for Love). The candles should be arranged in the shape of a bridge or arch, just as with the Rainbow. Reflect silently on the meaning of these principles in your own life and your communities.
• Set up a gathering with friends and share your personal spiritual experiences, sense of meaning and purpose in life, or your hopes and dreams for the future. Respectfully listen to others sharing from their own experience.
• If so desired, celebrate and/or carry on with the rest of your New Year's party plans and/or other activities as part of the World Spirituality Day event.
Although Bridge of Light originated in the USA, participation from the worldwide LGBT community is warmly invited. Celebrants in non-English speaking countries are welcome to translate the festival's name to their own language. For example: Brug van Licht (Dutch); Pont de Lumière (French); Brücke des Lichtes (German); γέφυρα του φωτός (Greek); Ponticello di Luce (Italian); Ponte da Luz (Portuguese); мост света (Russian); Puente de la Luz (Spanish); and so forth.
The winter season need not be a time of loneliness, isolation, and exclusion for anyone--not even those often excluded by traditional religious groups. It can be a bridge unto gratitude, optimism, and renewal of our spirits. Together, we can strengthen our families, communities, and help in leading the world toward brighter tomorrows.
1. Bridge of Light -- http://www.bridgeoflight.net/
Bridge of Light is cultural tradition first celebrated in 2004 celebrating the full equality and dignity of the global LGBT community and all people.
2. Joe Perez -- http://www.joe-perez.com/
Joe Perez is a Seattle-based writer, founder of Bridge of Light, founder/editor of the Gay Spirituality & Culture Weblog, and author of "Rising Up: Reflections on Gay Culture, Politics, and Spirit" (Lulu.com, 2006) and "Soulfully Gay" (Integral Books, 2007).
3. Gay Spirituality & Culture Weblog -- http://gayspirituality.typepad.com/
Gay Spirituality & Culture is a Weblog authored by multiple independent authors. The Weblog's goal is to shift gay culture towards greater self-esteem and health, love, wisdom, social justice, personal responsibility, and sacred ways of living.
4. World Spirituality Day -- http://www.worldspiritualityday.com/
World Spirituality Day, now in its 4th annual celebration, is an all denominations cultural tradition held on December 31st and dedicated to renewing one's most profound and transformational direct spiritual experiences.
5. Integrative Spirituality -- http://www.integrativespirituality.org/
Integrative Spirituality is a not-for-profit, omni-denominational spiritual organization based in San Francisco, CA, and the original sponsor of World Spirituality Day.