Relating, Creating, Transforming

Posts tagged ‘Messiah College’

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 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!

Interfaith Encounters Day 4

Our day began with outdoor gardening work at the aptly-named urban oasis, Girarden, so named because of its location on Girard Ave. in West Philly.

Muneerah and Sue, our two wonderful hosts, walked us through the work to be done–weeding, trash detail, prep for planting.

The group got a lot done and we enjoyed the beautiful sunshine!

After that, we traveled to Interfaith Philadelphia to meet up with Andrew, Communications Director and overseer of the Alternative Break program. Andrew shared a bit about Interfaith Philadelphia and some upcoming programs, including Civil Conversations.

Then, I led a workshop about pluralism with the students. They had such great insights and shared some of the obstacles to embracing active engagement in interfaith work. We reflected on Eboo Patel’s passion for pluralism in place of tolerance and what we can do to truly know our neighbors and to work with them side by side.

Soon after, we journeyed to the NW suburbs of Philadelphia to
Bharatiya, a multi-deity Hindu and Jain temple.

We were incredibly fortunate to be there for the Holi Festival.

Holi Festival

The festival of colors is vibrant and considered one of the major festivals in India. It is celebrated in the month of Phalgun on full moon day according to the Hindu calendar. It takes place at the start of spring. This festival also celebrates the eternal love of Radha and Krishna. Holi teaches humankind to transcend above caste and creed. It is a festival to forget old grievances and to meet others with great warmth. Celebrants light a bonfire on Holi eve and then the next day, people greet each other with Happy Holi and the colors fly!

We were fortunate enough to experience this all in one night! What fun it was! Such an amazing experience! So much community and celebration!

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.

IMG_6261

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!

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!

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