Relating, Creating, Transforming

Posts tagged ‘Alternative Spring Break’

Interfaith Encounters Day 5

On a rainy Wednesday, we were fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Repair the World, Wepac, and W. C. Longstreth School.

WePAC’s mission is to promote childhood literacy by engaging volunteers in Philadelphia public schools through re-opening and staffing libraries and academic mentoring. In their vision, every Philadelphia student will be empowered with the literacy skills vital to the success of the child and the prosperity of the community.

Our service-learning coordinator Rel from Repair the World, gave us various tasks in the library like sorting books, alphabetizing, computer work, and shelving.

After the library work, Rel led us in a reflective time to learn about literacy and libraries in Philadelphia and the lack of librarians in the city. We learned about the necessity of volunteers for programs like Wepac, and how they impact the lives of children in the area. And, we will all admit, while we were working, it was really hard not to read the books!

It was indeed a rainy day, but the group decided to explore Reading Terminal Market and the Art Museum in Center City Philly.

Another great day. Tomorrow, Friday, is our last one together and it will be packed. See you then!

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Interfaith Encounters Day 3

Our third day began with service-learning at SHARE Food Program in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Share Food Program

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.

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 insecurity are serious problems in Philadelphia.

The students from Messiah College joined a student group from Lincoln HS in Philly and a group from the University of Connecticut.

And…don’t underestimate the satisfaction that comes from using the box crushing machine…

Thanks, SHARE, for all you do! Thanks, Messiah students, for giving your time and energy!


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

Won Buddhism is considered a reformed Buddhism in that it embraces the original Buddha’s teachings and make them 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.
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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Upon entering the temple, we participated in chanting for 5 minutes, seated and silent meditation for 25 minutes, and then walking meditation. A leader of the sangha then gave a dharma talk about fear and mindfulness and then there was a Q & A time.

Looking forward to Day 4!

Interfaith Encounters Day 2

On Monday, we journeyed to Bartram’s Garden in West Philly to work with City Harvest at Sankofa Community Farm.

Image result for city harvest philadelphia

Our service-learning session was organized and led by Repair the World.

Repair the World
The PA Horticultural Society City Harvest program taps into the skills and energy of urban gardeners and entrepreneurial growers to make fresh, nutritious produce more widely available to neighbors in need.

The program is creating an infrastructure of agricultural supply and education centers, as well as expanding fresh food production, distribution, and consumption in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, thereby creating a healthier future for thousands of city residents.

First, Alex led us through a walk-thru of the outdoor space around us, asking us to listen to the sounds we heard and to experience the place.

He then connected gardening work and the natural world to expressions of faith traditions like Judaism and Christianity. He shared about this week marking the start of Purim for Jews, a time of costumes and the story of Esther and when many Jewish people reflect on the revelation of what is hidden–discovering new things that have always been there, even the discovery of the presence of Yahweh. Alex did a great job of also connecting the natural world and the experience of the seasons of winter and spring to the Christian season of Lent. He asked the students from Messiah to reflect on what Lent means to them. Then, we headed into the greenhouse to start prepping the seeds that City Harvest folks had planted in pots to germinate; now they had grown into small, green vegetable plants.

Great attitude and enthusiasm on the part of the students! Looking forward to a packed but amazing day 3!

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