On November 2, 2012, six of the Beads-on-One-String Foundation Directors (Richard and Cynthia Griffin, Wayne Smith, Renate Moritz, Jane Hoskin and Marnie Frank) met with members of the Myrtle Beach Meher Baba community to introduce the newly formed Beads-on-One-String Charitable Foundation. The purpose of the meeting was to inform people of the Beads’ vision and work being done and to invite interested persons to join in this exciting venture.
The Directors explained that the Beads-on-One-String Foundation is inspired by Meher Baba’s 1932 message to the West in which He expressed His intention to “give the religion that teaches the Knowledge of the One behind the many … (and) revitalize all religions and cults and bring them together like beads on one string.” The intention of the Beads Foundation is to develop and support projects which explore and experience this Oneness that lies at the heart of all.
Wayne Smith and Jane Hoskin, two Directors from the UK, explained to the group that Don Stevens was the founder of the Beads Foundation. He believed that Baba’s revitalization of the world’s religions and wisdom traditions was a great legacy which He gave to Creation in this Advent. Several years before his passing, Don organized a steering committee composed of American and British members and gave them the mission to develop projects which explored “the One behind the many.”
Wayne and Jane further explained that under Don’s guidance, the initial Beads-on-One-String project was a pilgrimage to holy sites of various religions in India. In the early 1960’s Baba had ordered Don to visit and film these holy places. Years later, upon seeing these films, Eruch Jessawala told Don that these were places which Baba had visited many times, always incognito and without the knowledge of even his very close mandali. In 2004, 2007. 2009, and 2010, Don organized pilgrimages to these same sites, the purpose of which was to tap into their spiritual energy and offer the possibility to experience that unity of Truth behind all the religions.
Inspired by the profound responses of the pilgrims who participated in these journeys, Don encouraged the Beads Steering Committee to broaden its activities. A film was made of the 2009 India pilgrimage, whose purpose was to expose to a generic audience the process and possibilities inherent in such a spiritual endeavor as the pilgrimage. In 2010, again with Don”s guidance, the Beads sponsored the Berlin Seminar, a gathering together of lovers of Meher Baba as well as followers of other religions, to explore the One in the many.
Jane and Wayne were longtime associates of Don’s and they explained that before his passing, Don worked with the Beads Steering Committee to formalize the organization into a charitable foundation. In May, 2012, the Beads received its 501.c3 tax status and the steering committee is now the formal Board of Directors of the Beads-on-One-String Charitable Foundation.
As the meeting continued the Directors described to the audience some of the current Beads projects. People were interested in Renate Moritz’s description of a September 2012 workshop offered in London entitled “Finding a new relationship between the soul and God.” Eight persons including followers of Meher Baba, a Spanish professor of Sufism, and a German Buddhist participated in the two day workshop in which they explored the question of how to forge a fresh and personal relationship with God. Out of this exploration unfolded a creative process in which different perspectives informed participants of new ways to understand their own practice. At the end of the two days the participants expressed a real sense of connection and companionship among themselves and their intention to make the workshop available to more persons in 2013.
Last spring the Beads Foundation partially supported a film project done by a student at UC-Berkeley. The purpose of the film was to interview students engaged in endeavors to develop community between apparently diverse groups. The intent of the film was to convey the idea that ordinary persons are able to connect in extraordinary ways and discover their similarities despite their outward differences.
A third project which the Directors described for the group was the Heartland Pilgrimage: a Journey of Forgiveness. Developed as a pilot project, the Beads partially funded two adventurous women, Jill English and Kathryn Harris, to follow Meher Baba’s 1952 auto route from the Meher Center to Prague, Oklahoma and back to the Center along the deep South trail of the Freedom Riders. The purpose of the pilgrimage was to acknowledge the history of suffering of the Native Americans and the African Americans at the hands of White Americans. By deeply connecting with this suffering, the goal was to feel the spiritual humility necessary to recognize the Oneness which binds us all. Jill and Kathryn’s experiences were profound, and it is the intention of the Directors to offer this pilgrimage to a wide group in 2013.
After the Directors’ presentation, the evening was open for questions, comments, and suggestions. A lively half an hour of conversation followed. Attendees had many ideas the Directors and the audience wanted to pursue which they did the following morning in another two hour meeting. The Beads Directors were touched by the warm enthusiasm expressed by the audience members and at the conclusion of the gathering encouraged all who are inspired by the Beads’ vision to share their ideas and join this experiment inspired by Beloved Meher Baba.