Monday, December 02, 2002

Yesterday I had an amazing experience at the World AIDS Day Ecumenical Prayer Service, which was held at the Cathedral dowtown. The Cathedral boasts the Dynamic Duo of Parish Priests, Msgr. Bob Perkins and Father Peter Creed. Father Bob is eloquent, calm and well-versed, while Father Creed exudes warmth and comfort with his voice and actions. As I walked in, a volunteer handed me a red ribbon, a candle, prayer card and program. There were many churches participating in the event- Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Community. Father Perkins did the opening prayer, and then there were four readings from groups of two. The second reading featured a lady named Joanna Haliday, who is the Chairperson of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond AIDS Task Force, as well as a member of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church AIDS Committee. She read a fictional autobiography of a 6-month old baby with HIV, abandoned in a hospital. The reading stressed how the nurses would hold the baby, and it ended with the line, "I like to be held!"

The most touching part of the ceremony was the presentation of photos and mementos on the alter. People came forward with banners, cards, pieces of clothing, photos, and AIDS quilt panels in memorial to their friends and loved ones as a lone cello played Bach. A group of young men sitting the pews across from me began to wipe their eyes, and focused on consoling one of the young men, who was crying a bit harder than the rest. Father Creed and a volunteer helped us light our candles. Reverend Dennis of Greater Mount Moriah Baptist Church then asked us to hold up our candles, and to reach out and touch the person next to us. Through that touch, Rev. Dennis said, we were helping each other heal. Then he told us to blow out the candles, and to watch the smoke fly away. Our problems would fly away with that smoke, he told us. After which, Father Perkins gave us a final blessing. It was truly lovely.

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