First Rites

World peace and global unity: Those inseparable humanitarian concepts seem to hit home a little harder as we segue into 2003, and there are plenty of people out there who aren't really feeling the urge to party 'til they drop this New Year's Eve. If you fall into that category, you can share your hopes for peaceful possibilities in 2003 with others of the same mind: Every year at 5 a.m. on December 31, Capitol Hill's First Divine Science Church opens its doors for thoughtful folks like you for an Early Morning Meditation on World Peace. (The early hour, which translates to noon Greenwich time, is set to coincide with similar events taking place around the world.) And guess what? Even if you go, you still have the whole day and night ahead of you if you decide to go forth and make merry.

What happens at the strike of 5 a.m.? "It's quiet and it's dark," says First Divine's Reverend Karl Kopp. "I come in and sit down and say, 'It's 5 o'clock,' or whatever, and then I explain what's going to happen and invite people to share in it. The idea is really just to enter into a consciousness of peace, and to do it in sync with groups doing the same thing all over the world."

The silent meditation usually lasts about an hour, though last year's well-attended post-9/11 service went on, spontaneously, for nearly two. When it's over, a bell rings, and everyone files into the dining room for a simple potluck breakfast. "Afterward, people are subdued," Kopp explains. "It's an odd time to be together, but it's a friendly atmosphere. There's a feeling like we're all together here and connected. There's a sense of goodwill and 'okayness.'

Kopp figures the church will continue to hold the meditation services at the end of each year, certainly for as long as he's around -- "If the world doesn't cave in on us first," he adds. But he also acknowledges that you don't have to be in a big room with a bunch of other people just to think things through: "If you can't make it at that hour, you're still welcome to meditate on your own, wherever you are. The material place where you do it doesn't really matter."

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd