🌹 🎶 Peace Doves
Focussing our New Year hopes on Peace at St Albans Abbey
Epiphany, celebrated in the dawning of each New Year on 6th January, emerges from root words meaning to shine, reveal and in pre-Christian Ancient Greek referred to the appearance of divinity. This Twelfth Night, I journey back to my hometown to gaze at the appearance of 10,000 handcrafted paper doves, their illuminated wings carrying handwritten messages of peace from the community surrounding St Albans Cathedral and beyond. Hushed human babble hums gently amongst mesmerising cycles of ethereal light, as the doves quiver gently to David Harper’s delicate music, suspended in a flittering formation designed by artist Peter Walker.
Clusters of children lie on the floor, gazing up into the heart of the dove cloud, instinctively knowing how best to immerse themselves in the experience. Adults walk in gentle circuits, taking multiple photos and videos until one of us (who was that I wonder?!) follows the lead of the little ones. It’s a beautiful moment to surrender to the ancient floor of the Cathedral, where so many footsteps have trodden over centuries and gaze upwards into a starburst of wings.
The red sashes of tour guides flicker like flames around the edges of the space, ready to help. One guide tells me how amazing it was to watch the installation taking flight on wires suspended from the Cathedral Tower. We share a moment of hope that the heartfelt longing for peace carried on the wings of these doves flies away to soothe our troubled world. I light a candle and go on my way, feeling humbled and inspired.
Since 2018, Peace Doves has flown across the cathedrals of Lichfield, Liverpool, Derby, Sheffield, Rochester and Chichester. The installation can be viewed at St Albans Cathedral until 13th February, accompanied by a programme of events, including the Peace Dove Lates.
I include a poem below written after leading a singing circle for peace in October 2023 when the shadow of war seemed all around.
Peace is /not.
In the understanding that peace means different things to each of us, I preface this with the words for me, this moment, as my own experience and understanding of peace is ever-evolving.
Peace is not a bypass,
It's a call to action.
Peace is not an escape route,
It’s the road itself.
Peace is not a destination,
It’s an invitation.
Peace is not a noun,
It’s a daily verb.
Peace is not inaccessible,
It’s a choice in every moment.
Peace is not woo-woo,
It’s a lived possibility.
Peace is not clichés and platitudes,
It’s an ever-renewing wisdom.
Peace is not an accomplishment,
It’s a humbling practice.
Peace is not a polarised victory,
It’s an all-embracing evolution.
Peace is not people-pleasing,
It’s a courageous honesty.
Peace is not tolerating abuse,
It’s a refusal to play victim.
Peace is not turning a blind eye,
It’s a powerful witness.
Peace is not an eye for an eye,
It’s the seeing of many eyes.
Peace is not righteousness,
It’s the honouring of many truths.
Peace is not the comfort zone,
It’s the risk of No Man’s Land.
Peace is not an identity badge,
It’s our shared humanity.
Peace is not the denial of difference,
It’s an open space for dialogue.
Peace is not for the chosen few,
It exists within everyone.
Peace is not tame,
It’s a wild song of nature.
Peace is not these words,
It’s a precious mystery.
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