Interfaith Encounters Day 3

The group’s morning began with another visit to the HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy.

Then, at lunchtime, they journeyed to the East Falls neighborhood of Philly to volunteer at SHARE. The SHARE Food Program is a nonprofit organization serving a regional network of community organizations engaged in food distribution, education, and advocacy. SHARE promotes healthy living by providing affordable wholesome food to those willing to contribute through volunteerism.

SHARETheir motto:

“Do Good. Feel Good. Eat Good.”

SHARE relies on volunteers and donations to help pack boxes and organize the tons of food that arrive at their warehouse so they may distribute the food to the thousands of food pantries, shelters, and soup kitchens in the region.  Sadly, malnutrition and food deserts are a serious problem in Philadelphia. Many, many people especially do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

And so we worked in the warehouse–preparing boxes full of various food items that will be delivered to those in need. 

The students worked well together and showed great enthusiasm. We also met up with a teacher of an alternative high school in Philly who brought some students with him to learn and to volunteer.

Tuesday night ended with a wonderful experience at Won Buddhist Temple.

IMG_6255Won 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.

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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Inside the temple, we sat down in a circle to prepare for meditation.

One of Won’s community leaders and Rev. Lee led us in some chanting and then we practiced silent meditation for about 25 minutes.

After some stretching exercises led by a member of their community, we engaged in informal conversation and fellowship.

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There were many memorable and meaningful moments.

Perhaps what I will remember the most is a reading from their scriptures and an interpretation of it during the dharma talk and discussion:

We should consider others and all living things as part of our body. Only then will we cease to attach to hate.

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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.

One thought on “Interfaith Encounters Day 3

  1. Thank you for visiting Won Buddhist temple and share precious time with us. I will look forward to another time to get together. Thank you Rev. Josh for your wonderful job.

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