Relating, Creating, Transforming

Posts tagged ‘immersion’

Interfaith Encounters Final Day

Our week came to an amazing close on Friday. We started with a visit to
Bait-ul-Aafiyat Mosque – Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is a dynamic, fast growing international revival movement within Islam. Founded in 1889, it spans over 206 countries with membership exceeding tens of millions. Its current headquarters are in the United Kingdom.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that the long-awaited Messiah came in the Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, of Qadian, India (1835-1908). The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believes that God sent Ahmad, like Jesus of Nazareth, to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstitute morality, justice and peace. Members of this community recognize the teachings of various religious founders and saints, including Zoroaster, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, and Guru Nanak.

Further, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community strives to be an advocate for universal human rights and protections for religious and other minorities. It also champions the empowerment and education of women.

We entered the prayer spaces and participated in jumu’ah prayer. It is always beautiful and calming to hear the call to prayer sung and this was no exception. The Imam then gave a message that focused on the repeated mistakes of humanity in ignoring the universal messages of the great prophets who consistently taught love, compassion, and care for the vulnerable. He stated that religions sadly distort this message and often lead us down a path to violence, separation, and unjust actions.

After the prayers we went downstairs for a nice lunch and had some good conversations with members of the community. Then, the Imam, the president of the community, and some other leaders, led a Q&A session for the students.

After a quick stop in Chinatown for some bubble tea, we headed over to Congregation Rodeph Shalom for conversation with Rabbi Eli Freedman and then the Shabbat service.

Rodeph Shalom is a synagogue of the Reform tradition of Judaism. They strive to create profound connections by awakening the human spirit to the possibilities within and between. Rodeph’s communities does this through transformative study, prayer, and urban engagement.

Rodeph’s vision:

  • Welcome all who come to explore or deepen their connection to Judaism and God
  • Find strength in our diversity of perspective, age, gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, family constellation, and socio-economic background
  • Welcome interfaith families with open arms
  • Rejoice with each other in times of joy and comfort each other in times of sadness
  • Lift our voices in prayer, embracing the faithful and the skeptic
  • Wrestle with the many faces of the Divine on our journeys of growth and spirituality
  • Engage in the lifelong study of Torah, adding our voices to the generations of interpretation
  • Repair the brokenness in our neighborhood and the world
  • Celebrate our connection to Israel and Jews globally, providing a forum for learning and discussion
  • Draw inspiration from the beauty of the musical, visual, and performing arts
  • Cultivate a commitment to Jewish life and Jewish identity in the next generation
  • Reflect, renew, and innovate in the spirit of Reform Judaism  

Rabbi Eli shared with us a bit about Reform Judaism, Jewish identity and practice, and the history and practice of Rodeph Shalom.

Afterwards, we ventured back into the beautiful sanctuary for the Shabbat service, which included a lot of music sung in Hebrew, the bringing out of the Torah scroll, prayers, a message from Rabbi Eli, and community greetings.

There is no way to adequately express how fantastic it was to spend a week with this student group from Messiah College. As they headed back to the Harrisburg area, I sent them my encouragement and blessings to keep engaging others on their campus [and beyond], building more and more bridges of understanding and cooperation across lines of difference.

Real change can happen when we do this together. I’m grateful to be able to mentor students in this way and to be transformed myself by their curious, courageous and honest words and actions.

Advertisements

Interfaith Encounters Day 1

This week I am facilitating an alternative break program with students from Messiah College students through Interfaith Philadelphia. During the week the students and I will visit five faith communities, participate in four service-learning projects, and learn about religious pluralism, interfaith cooperation, and identity.

On Sunday [day 1], we were fortunate enough to visit Philadelphia Sikh Society.

There are over 20 million Sikhs around the world today. Sikhism began over 500 years ago in the Punjab area of South Asia, which now includes the vast territories of Northern India and eastern Pakistan. Guru Nanak, born in 1469, founded the Sikh religion on the principles of love, understanding, and the rejection of blind rituals. Sikhism is about devotion to and remembrance of God at all times in life–behaving truthfully, embracing the equality of humankind, standing for social justice, and cooperating with people of all faiths.

Image result for sikhism

As with any religious tradition, a few paragraphs cannot adequately inform you. I encourage you to read on your own or visit a Gurdwara to learn more.

Upon entering the Gurdwara, we were warmly greeted by various leaders in the community. We put on head scarves, took off our shoes, and then washed our hands and wrists in the large basin just outside the prayer space. We sat with others in the prayer hall, listening to beautiful prayer songs in Punjabi.

Then, we were led into the kitchen space for the langar meal.

langar

Langar is a community meal that Sikhs offer to all people, free of charge.
It is an expression of equality, as all people sit together on the floor and enjoy the food as one communal experience.

After a great meal we headed over to their educational building for an overview of the history of Sikhism and the day to day life of a Sikh. Q&A followed. the Messiah College students had some great and curious questions, including how Sikhs are committed to non-violence and how their scriptures encourage non-violence.

Afterwards, we headed to the offices of Interfaith Philadelphia for the opening workshop. We had the chance to get to know each other a little better and to share why each of us decided to participate in this program. I was impressed with the students and their commitment to learning and interfaith cooperation. After that, we defined what “curious” questions are and what “judgmental” questions are. We thought about the various communities we will visit throughout the week and what types of questions we may have.

Day 2, here we come!

Interfaith Immersion Day 6

Friday

Our week comes to a close today. It’s a packed day!

First, a visit to the Islamic Society of Greater Valley Forge for jumu-ah prayers.

This particular community is situated close to a Jewish synagogue next door and a Baptist church across the street. This intentional grouping of faith traditions has led to increased awareness, cooperation, and sends a powerful message to the community. Read more here and here.

Before prayers, we headed downstairs to their community hall. Other students from Villanova Univ. were visiting and joined us. After some brief introductions and an orientation, we all participated in the Friday prayers and listened to a message by one of the leaders of the community. It was right on point–he talked about seeking justice for those who have none, and of helping the marginalized and those who are different than you/not part of your particular community. Pretty much what this week was all about.

After prayers we went downstairs for Q&A and pizza. Fabulous conversation. I so appreciate this community!

file5-1.jpeg

We were pressed for time, so we piled into vehicles and immediately made our way back into Center City Philly for our visit to Congregation Rodeph Shalom.

Related image

We were greeted immediately by Rabbi Eli Freedman. The place was abuzz with activity in preparation for the Shabbat service. Rabbi Eli brought us into the sanctuary.

Image result for rodeph shalom

The architecture is uniquely beautiful. Here’s a closeup of where the Torah scroll resides.

Image result for rodeph shalom

The students had a quick Q&A with Rabbi Eli.

file6-1.jpeg

He talked about Rodeph Shalom being a “Reform” Jewish congregation and more progressive in its social stances and commitment to justice for marginalized communities. Rodeph Shalom is also extremely active in interfaith work and a leader in interfaith cooperative projects in Greater Philadelphia, including POWER and PICO.

Rabbi Eli shared a bit about what to expect in the Shabbat service and about the importance/significance of the Torah in the lives of Jewish people.

file8-1.jpeg

Afterwards, a few moments to munch on Challah bread and fruit and then it was time for the service to begin. We were greeted with “Shabbat Shalom” as more and more people started to arrive and make their way into the worship space.

file12-1.jpeg

After the service, we made our way just a few blocks over from Broad St. to the Mormon Meeting House for the production of Savior of the World, a musical depicting the birth and resurrection stories about Jesus of Nazareth, as told in the Christian Gospels.

Image result for savior of the world

Whew! What a day, what a week! All of us exhausted, we called it a night. The students return to Ohio on Saturday morning. Look for some guest bloggers soon, as some of the students will share their experiences. Thanks for joining me on this journey!

No matter what religion you practice [or if you don’t practice], we are better together. Meeting people who are different than you, honoring and learning about their sacred spaces and practices–will lead you to more understanding and opportunities for personal growth. I also think it enables us to work towards a more just and peaceful world.

Interfaith Immersion Day 5

Thursday

Depaul - Homelessness has no place
Day 5 included a visit for service-learning at St. Raymond’s House.

St. Raymond’s, part of Depaul USA, provides permanent housing and case management to help individuals meet their health and life goals. They provide 24-hour care, meals, and assistance. Here are some of the stories from their residents from their wall of fame…

file1-1.jpegfile-1file1-1

The group worked hard. They started out preparing seeds for the eventual Spring planting in St. Raymond’s outdoor garden.

Afterwards, some of us went outside to prepare the beds for planting–adding mulch and turning the soil. Others organized a library, an office, and did some major cleanup.

What a great place to learn, help, and connect!

file4-1

The last day is tomorrow. See you then!

Interfaith Immersion Day 4

Wednesday

At noon we journeyed to Repair the World,

Repair the World

The organization partners with local and community-based organizations like the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children and Broad Street Ministry as it seeks to build a kinder and more equitable city. Repair the World works to inspire American Jews and their communities to give their time and effort to serve those in need. Their aim is to make service a defining part of American Jewish life.

Our group participated in a workshop with Mary Holmcrans, one of their food fellows. She presented information about food security and justice issues, including food deserts and food sovereignty. The students had a chance to reflect about those terms, as well as an opportunity to read some passages from the Torah [mostly from Genesis, Deuteronomy, and Exodus] and to reflect on how these passages speak to the issue of hunger and justice.

After the workshop, we went to Reading Terminal Market for some fun and well, eating.

Image result for reading terminal

Then, a quick stroll up and down South St. to glance at the Magic Gardens and one of the urban gardens in the city that provides fresh produce for those who do not have access to nutritious food.

Image result for magic gardens south st

And finally, the obligatory run up the Art Museum steps all the while humming the tune to Rocky.

Image result for art museum steps rocky

See you tomorrow.

Interfaith Immersion Day 3

Tuesday

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

Image result for Calvary Center for Culture and Community

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.

img_0994.jpgIMG_0995img_0996.jpg

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.

IMG_1004

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?

IMG_1005

See you tomorrow.

 

Interfaith Immersion Day 2, Part 2

Monday Eve

Image result for LDS church philadelphiaOn Monday night we headed to Center City Philadelphia for a visit to the Church of Latter Day Saints [Mormons]. We started out at their meeting house where many meetings, classes, and other organizational business take place.

There were also rehearsals going on for the upcoming theatrical performance of “Savior of the World.” We met first in the chapel, where members of this community worship.

Our host Amanda introduced other leaders who were present, including missionary couples and executive level leadership in the Philadelphia regional grouping of the LDS church. One such leader shared a bit about how Mormons view the history of their faith and how it relates to the Jewish scriptures [the Torah, the prophets, the wisdom literature], the Christian scriptures [the New Testament], and the Book of Mormon [a historical and spiritual record of the culture and community called Mormons].

Soon after, we moved to another room where classes take place. Other leaders answered questions and shared from their personal experiences as a Mormon. The two groups of students from Ohio Wesleyan and Jefferson had great questions about the structure of the Mormon church and the influence of modern culture, youth retention, etc.

Later on, we moved into another space [like a conference room] and had more interactions and Q&A.

Oh yes, and cookies.

Finally, we moved to the newly-built temple which is only accessible by card-carrying Mormons [those who are practicing Mormons in good standing with the LDS church].

One of the regional leaders shared a bit about the space, its various purposes, and the history of how the temple was allowed to be built in Philly. This is where we were.

Philadelphia Pennsylvania Temple - Foyer Entry Computer Rendering

We learned about the spaces in the temple where people are baptized and married.

Image result for LDS church philadelphia

Baptismal Font

Image result for LDS church philadelphia

Marriage Ceremony Space

All in all, it was definitely a whirlwind tour, but once again, I was impressed by the students’ thoughtfulness, curiosity, and emotional intelligence. Looking forward to tomorrow!

Tag Cloud

Cranky But Cultured

Home of horror, literary, and romance author Lucas Mangum

My Journey 2 My Peace

Overcoming Anxiety and learning to live Positively

Deeper in me than I

eloquia oris mei et meditatio cordis mei

Mind Squirrels

Religion | Education | Health

ArabLit

Arabic Literature and Translation

Silence Teaches Us Who We Are

Silence, Centering Prayer, Contemplative Prayer, Jesus, God, and Life.

Casa HOY

On the road to change the world...

myrandomuniverse

a philosophical, analytic, occasionally snarky but usually silly look at the thoughts that bounce around....

"Journey into America" documentary

Produced by Akbar Ahmed

Interfaith Crossing

|||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

Prussel's Pearls

An Actor's Spiritual Journey

a different order of time

the work of a pastor

learn2practice

mood is followed by action

Imago Scriptura

Images & Thoughts from a Christian, Husband, Father, Pastor

the living room.

117 5th Street, Valley Junction__HOURS: M 9-5, TW 7-7, TH 7-9, F 7-7, S 8-5, S 9-4

the view from 2040

theological education for the 21st century