Interfaith Encounters Day 3

March 19th, 2013

The morning was wet and cold! So our first project was postponed until Thursday. But we took advantage of our free time together by engaging in a case study activity about the Wren Chapel controversy at the College of William and Mary.

Students discussed what they would do if they were president of the college. They also creatively displayed possible solutions to the controversy via “snapshots” that they acted out.

Soon after, we were joined by Bryan Miller, director of Heeding God’s Call. Heeding is a faith-based movement to prevent gun violence, uniting people in a sacred responsibility to protect. They embrace Dr. Martin Luther King’s hope for peace and safety;resist apathy to the epidemic of violence; and unite to bring God’s vision of a peaceable kingdom.

After an orientation with Bryan, the students split up into two groups to learn about and engage in advocacy on the streets of Philadelphia. The groups held signs and started conversations in front of Delia’s Gun Shop on Torresdale Ave. and Mike & Kate’s Sports Shopp on Oxford Ave.

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Part of the focus of their week is to learn about interfaith advocacy groups in Philadelphia–experiencing the work that people of all faiths [or no faith affiliation] are doing together to better their communities and promote peaceful change.
Though picketing was out of the comfort zone of some students, the group as a whole did an excellent job of being open and participating in the protest. Some students even had a long conversation with one of the gun shop owners.

After loading up the bus again, the group encountered another faith community: the Won Buddhist Temple of Philadelphia.

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Won Buddhism is considered a reformed Buddhism in that it embraces the original Buddha’s teachings and makes it relevant and suitable to contemporary society. It revitalizes and modernizes Buddhism, so that an ever increasing number of people can use Buddha’s teaching for practical and useful purposes.
The name Won Buddhism (Won-bul-kyo in Korean) is a compound word meaning the universal truth, enlightenment, and teaching. Won means unitary circle, which symbolizes the ultimate truth; Bul means enlighten to the Truth; and Kyo means to teach the Truth. Won Buddhism is a religion that teaches the ultimate Truth so that people can awaken to this Truth and carry it out in their daily life.

The members of the Won Buddhist community embrace and accept those of other faiths and have made a lot of effort in inter-religious dialogue to create the UR (United Religion) to build peace on earth.

Once inside the temple, we were greeted by members of their community and Rev. Sungsim Lee. Strikingly, Won Buddhist temples do not have a statue of the Buddha inside the prayer space. Instead, they have, at the center of the temple, the Il-Won-Sang, a circular symbol representing the origin of all beings in the universe, the truth that all buddhas and sages enlighten to, and the original nature of all living beings.
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The community was very welcoming to us. We participated in chanting and then silent meditation.

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Afterwards, as is their custom, we shared some light refreshments, tea, and wonderful conversation. Rev. Lee gifted us with dharmas on decorated bookmarks to take home as keepsakes.

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Josh grew up in Indiana and Iowa before completing a Masters of Divinity [M.Div.] at Princeton Theological Seminary [NJ]. He has worked in a variety of settings, including the Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ (UCC) in Philadelphia, Hawai’i, Mexico, and Michigan. Currently, he serves as pastor of Love in Action United Church of Christ, a progressive, Christian, LGBTQIA+ affirming and interfaith community in Hatboro, a suburb of Philadelphia. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre/Speech from Northwestern College (IA). Josh has worked with youth and young adult programs for 25 years regionally, nationally, and in Latin America. He is also a trained actor and performs regularly with the dinner theatre company, Without a Cue Productions, LLC. He has developed theatre arts curriculum for use in worship, youth groups, education, and group-building. Josh is also committed to promoting religious pluralism and partnering with people of all faiths and those who identify as atheist or agnostic to build bridges of shared values and cooperation. He is honored to work with the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia as a Fellow and a Consultant. Focus areas include: University alternative spring break and summer programs that incorporate faith encounters and service-learning for students; workplace diversity programs that promote understanding in organizations, corporations, schools, and hospital settings. Josh also enjoys playing basketball, strumming on the guitar, traveling, learning language, or making strange and funny faces. He lives in Center City Philadelphia and thinks vegan cheesesteaks are amazingly good.

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