Monday, September 13, 2010

The "Dr Peter" Tapes ...

About 20 years ago, I went to church in Burnaby BC one Sunday morning to find that the homily was to be given by a young man named Peter Jepson-Young. My minister had heard the first of the "Dr Peter" tapes on CBC Radio and had immediately called to ask him if he would consider coming to talk to the congregation. That Dr Peter answered, "Yes", was a testament to his grace and courage because the Christian church at that time was frequently less than kind and inclusive in its response to people with HIV/AIDS.

I remember a nervous but thoughtful, articulate, deeply honest and very funny man who, despite failed eyesight, stood alone on the chancel steps to give us a real picture of life with HIV/AIDS. He taught and reassured and made human the face of a little known or understood disease. We laughed and cried as he spoke and many people stayed a long time after the service to speak with him and his family.

That one 20-minute talk changed the hearts and minds and attitudes of people who had previously been frightened to even hug a person who was HIV positive. In the years to come, the minister became a chaplain to our church's support organization for gay, lesbian and transgendered people and the congregation continued to support the Dr Peter Foundation and the Dr Peter Center. We all grieved on the day of Peter's death in 1992.

This September, Vancouver has declared a Dr Peter Week in appreciation of Dr Peter Jepson-Young's contribution to the quality of life of those affected by HIV/AIDS. CBC Radio is marking the 20 year anniversary of the tapes by featuring them on their broadcast and website and there will be fundraising events for the Foundation all around Vancouver. Please take a moment to visit the CBC site and take in the details.

During one of his most poignant broadcasts, Peter shared his Affirmation with his viewers. Let me share it with you today:

I accept and absorb all the strength of the earth
to keep my body hard and strong;

I accept and absorb all the energy of the sun
to keep my mind sharp and bright;

I accept and absorb all the life force of the ocean
to cleanse my body and bring me life;

I accept and absorb all the power of the wind
to cleanse my spirit and bring me life;

I accept and absorb all the mystery of the heavens,
for I am a part of the vast unknown.

I believe God to be all these elements,
and the force that unites them;

And from these elements I have come
and to these elements I shall return;

But the energy that is me will not be lost.

Dr Peter Jepson-Young, MD
Dr Peter AIDS Foundation

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