Two international conventions--one to improve marriages and the other to chart a group's spiritual course into the next millennium--are expected to attract several thousand participants during the next two weeks in Los Angeles.
Beginning Sunday, 3,500 people from 40 nations are expected to join in a week of lectures, discussions, meditation and prayer sponsored by the Self-Realization Fellowship, founded by the Indian-born spiritual leader Paramahansa Yogananda.
"At the dawn of the millennium ahead, new beginnings, new challenges and ever-expanding possibilities are before us," said Sri Daya Mata, president of the fellowship.
Sessions, to be held at the Bonaventure Hotel, will be led by monks and nuns of the Self-Realization Fellowship Order. Topics include "Eternal Values in a Changing and Uncertain World," "Cultivating a Personal Relationship With God in Daily Life," "Positive Ways of Coping With Stress--A Spiritual Perspective" and "Wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita: Keeping the Right Perspective on Life." For more information, call (323) 225-2471.
In the second event, 1,500 couples from around the world are expected in Los Angeles for the Marriage Encounter International Convention, which will be held Friday through Aug. 1 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
The three-day event is expected to draw couples from at least 14 countries who have previously been to marriage encounters. Its theme is "Journey Together to the Father."
Marriage Encounter is intended to help couples improve their marriages through better communication. "The weekend is a positive and personal experience which offers the couple a technique of loving communication that they can use for the rest of their lives," spokeswoman Terri Rogers said. She added that the movement is not intended to save troubled marriages but to improve good ones.
Backers of the movement, which has taken root in 83 nations, said its success is in part a response to high divorce rates. Rogers said the weekend is open to people of all faiths. She noted that in addition to Catholics, 11 Protestant denominations have been involved in marriage encounters.
A Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Sunday by Bishop Jerry Loft of the Solomon Islands. Author and psychologist Clayton Barbeau will speak Saturday at 11 a.m. Live entertainment will include a gospel choir and folklorico dancers. Registration at the door. $120. Los Angeles Convention Center.
Actor Martin Sheen this week received the 1999 Pope Paul VI Teacher of Peace Award from Pax Christi USA, the national Catholic peace movement. Pax Christi national coordinator Nancy Small said Sheen has "crossed the line numerous times in the struggle to end oppression in Central America, to halt the nuclear arms race, to say no to war, to close the School of the Americas and to take a stand against injustice in many other forms."
* Astronaut and moon walker Buzz Aldrin and actor Anthony Hopkins will headline Westwood Presbyterian Church's 14th annual Mission Benefit Musicale on Sunday at 5 p.m. at the church, 10822 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood. Both will speak and participate in a question-and-answer session with the audience. A social hour with wine and cheese will follow. Suggested donation $25 or more. Call (310) 474-4535.
The latest film release of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn.'s World Wide Pictures will be screened Sunday at 6 p.m. at Granada Heights Friends Church, 11818 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada. Titled "A Vow to Cherish," the film is about a couple devoted to each other and then tested when the wife is diagnosed with a devastating illness. Call (562) 943-7255.
* Hiromichi Mukaibo, who was seriously injured in an automobile accident in Japan when he was 21, will tell his story of facing physical paralysis for the rest of his life, thoughts of suicide and his eventual appreciation of life following the teachings of Shinran Shonin. Mukaibo will speak at 1 p.m. today at Los Angeles Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, 815 E. 1st St., Los Angeles. Free. Call (213) 680-9130.
* Michael Horan and Jane Regan will speak on "Challenging Self, Serving Others: Spiritual Adulthood in a Clumsy Church," on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at St. Monica Church's Trepp Centre, 725 California Ave., Santa Monica. The event is sponsored by the theological studies department of Loyola Marymount University. $5. Call (310) 338-7772.
* Marie Egan, professor of Christian ethics at Mount St. Mary's College, will speak on "Assisted Suicide: A Solution to Suffering?" on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the college's Doheny Campus, 10 Chester Place, Los Angeles 90007. $5. Call (213) 477-2640.
* Life Church of God in Christ will hold its fourth annual Koinonia Conference next Saturday through Aug. 7 with a "gospel explosion concert" featuring Shirley Caesar and preaching by Bishops Charles Blake, Carlton Pearson and G.E. Patterson and by Pastors Mark Chironna and Michael Pitts. All services are free. For times and details, call (909) 684-5433.