Interfaith Immersion Day 3

Tuesday

Our morning and early afternoon was spent at Calvary Center for Culture and Community in West Philly.

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CCCC is housed in the 1906 Calvary United Methodist Church building at 48th & Baltimore Avenue. The Center serves over 5,000 community members yearly, acting as the “town hall” for one of the nation’s most vibrant and diverse communities.

These communities include: the local community association, refugee groups, Twelve Step programs, the historic preservation society, art and cultural activities,peace and social justice organizations, educational classes, and several religious congregations.

CCCC’s mission is to:

 

* Nurture and support efforts to improve the quality of urban life

* Encourage creative and performing arts that enrich the community

​* Preserve, restore and renew the historic Calvary Church building

Our host Kari was amazing. Kari shared with us a brief history of the community, took us on a tour, and talked about what CCCC is currently doing to make a positive social impact in its community.

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After the tour, the groups got to work. They cleaned various parts of the building, helped organize the office space, moved furniture, dealt with trash, and helped recycle old documents.

Clearly, CCCC is engaged in interfaith social justice work for the sake of the common good. This community faces many challenges as they seek to truly be a welcoming, interfaith community, with the neighborhood around them always on their minds.


Tuesday Eve

In the early evening we journeyed to the NW suburbs of Philadelphia for a visit to Bharatiya Temple and Cultural Center, a Multi Deity Hindu and Jain Temple.

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I have been to Bharatiya many times and have always had a good experience. Our group consisted of 3 students who identify as Hindu, so that added another layer of meaning to this particular visit.

As always, at Bharatiya, we were greeted with smiles and conversation. First, we met downstairs where the cultural events take place for Q&A. Sorry to be a broken record, but I was really impressed by the students’ questions and reflections. Also, our hosts were gracious, honest, and accommodating. There is no way to cover Hinduism [and Jainism, for that matter] in a blog post. So please explore. And visit temples and talk to Hindus and Jains. This is the way to learn. This site is a great place to start also.

After the Q&A it was time to go upstairs into the prayer space for the Tuesday evening prayers.

Image result for bharatiya temple chalfont paWe were able to participate as we wished in the pujas [ritual prayers]. Everyone got a chance to hear about the various representations of deities in the prayer space and what they mean to Hindus and Jains. While we were walking around the prayer space, priests were leading devotees in chanting and singing, candles were lit,  a bell was rung, and fruit and water were given to those who participated in the puja.

What did I take away from this visit? Well, there was a certain comfort in hearing that to define “what is a Hindu” is not really an important question. One student from Mumbai, India, asked if one could be an atheist and also considered a Hindu. The answer, emphatically, was yes.

The wisdom gained from this evening was that no matter one’s religion [or lack thereof] it is how a person lives their life that matters most.

How do they treat people? Are they loving and caring and compassionate? Are they justice-seeking?

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See you tomorrow.

 

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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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