Thursday, December 29, 2011

Interfaith Women Don Veil as Common Heritage | Womens eNews

Interfaith Women Don Veil as Common Heritage | Womens eNews:

'via Blog this'

This is what you think of when someone talks about "veiled women," right? I had been talking about veils in general, out in public the other day, when someone mentioned to me how the US ought to follow in the footsteps of France and other countries, where the veil is banned. I found I had to leave the area, because I disagree with this wholeheartedly! To ban an item is to give it power that it ought not have. Banning alcohol worked SO well, after all, right? How about banning drugs? That hasn't worked so well, either. Why would banning a piece of cloth be any different? After all, we're not talking about Saudi Arabia here, where it's LAW for a woman (Muslim or otherwise) to be veiled. It's not a choice there. Here in America (and in France and Britain and most other places) it is a choice, one that many women have made with a great deal of thought.

Widow's weeds.
After all, we in America have a long history of the wearing of veils, don't we? Europe does, as well. I don't think anyone forced this widow to wear a black veil; likely she chose to wear it both as a sign of her grief, and a sign of her fidelity to the one who had passed on. I've seen many images of frontier women wearing veils during or after funerals, and if you've ever watched Gone With The Wind, you'll note that Scarlet also wears a black dress and veil while in mourning (this clip captures it very well). That doesn't look so frightening, does it? In fact, I'd guess most women think it very attractive, especially the drape of the veil as it flies around her while dancing so passionately with Mr. Butler.  I know that I have envied that dress from the first day I saw it!

Wedding veil.
Then there is this type of veil, something that has come down to us from long past: the wedding veil. Would we ban all women from having the opportunity, the joy, of walking veiled down the aisle (if they so choose) to their husband (or wife!!) to be? Though it's not likely to happen, I know that if I were to marry again, I would very much desire to wear a veil (I did the first time, too - my mother's). I think they are beautiful, flattering, and full of deep and abiding meaning for the one wearing them.

So why is it that so many women are getting told that wearing a veil (yes, the perching of a piece of cloth, no matter the size) on their head in public is now a crime? It's because of that first image, of the niquab. It's because the (sorry ladies, but it's true) feminists of the world are scared, threatened even, by women who truly DO enjoy being that modest.

Mennonite veil.
Oh, I do know that isn't the only reason. There are plenty of others. But pressure from women's groups, claiming that the practice of veiling is abusive and oppressive, is what leads the charge. I've also noticed a few other things. I doubt anyone in France would get upset if a woman wore a wedding veil. I doubt they'd flip out and charge a Mennonite or Amish woman for sporting their veils. I think they'd find themselves in pretty hot water if they tried to take the yarmulka off the head of a devout Jewish woman. These laws are pointed at Muslim women who choose to use more extreme veils, and that has bled over into banning even head scarves and doilies. I find the targeted laws to be very, very disturbing.

I also wear headscarves occasionally. I'm actually wearing one right now (from the cold, rather than because of religious edict at this particular moment). When I worship the Olympian gods (specifically Zeus, Hera, or Aesclepius), I veil myself. I cover my hair, because it feels right, and because it was (and is) considered proper etiquette to do so. No one has forced me to do it, and in fact there have been other Hellenic polytheists who've taken objection to my veiling of myself. I admit to confusion over it. Why is it scary if I choose to cover a part of myself before exposing myself to my gods? Why is it so terrifying if someone else does it?

I do not agree with laws requiring veiling. To me, that takes away the religious joy of the action. When I veil, I do so because of the immense feeling of rightness that comes along with the action. Making it mandatory would remove that joy, make it a duty, a chore, a mere task. It would also mean that others (men or women) would be veiled without feeling the deep and abiding love of the gods that I do. That takes away from my own experience.

Surely, in a country like ours, we can allow people to make choices of their own. Surely we can let a woman decide if she wants to wear a headscarf or not. We should also educate, not just women but all people, that it IS a choice, a decision to be made by every individual to veil or not veil as they feel called.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wordy Wednesday - Dec. 28

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man." -- Benjamin Franklin

"Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us." -- Hal Borland

"The Old Year has gone. Let the dead past bury its own dead. The New Year has taken possession of the clock of time. All hail the duties and possibilities of the coming twelve months!" -- Edward Payson Powell

"The new year begins in a snow-storm of white vows." -- George William Curtis

"Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go." -- Brooks Atkinson

"We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives... not looking for flaws, but for potential." -- Ellen Goodman

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wordy Wednesday - Dec 21

"If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm." -- Mohandas Gandhi

"He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree." -- Roy L. Smith

"The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other." -- Burton Hillis

"One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly." -- Andy Rooney

"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall." -- Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas

"Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart." -- Washington Irving

Monday, December 19, 2011

Interfaith Celebration?

Interfaith Celebration Scheduled After Santa Asked to Leave

A school in Calabro has a long standing tradition of letting the students have pictures with Santa. A Jewish mother complained this year, stating "no other religions were present." I'm confused... the jolly red clad man really has nothing to do with *Christmas* at all. Why is it that the one Jewish set of children (or child... the article doesn't say) couldn't just sit out the voluntary pictures (anything that costs $1.00 is voluntary!). Now they have pictures with Santa, a menorah (for Judaism), or a Kwanzaa symbol. Um... now Christianity isn't represented. And neither is Solstice! Or Yule! I think perhaps someone, somewhere in Calabro has missed the point.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Interfaith Couples Face December Dilemma - - Westport, Connecticut

Interfaith Couples Face December Dilemma - - Westport, Connecticut:

'via Blog this'

This article is brief but interesting. The Rabbi involved in the discussion talks about how new parents who are Christian/Jewish mix can raise their children. She comments that parents should not try to blend traditions, but pick one or the other, something I disagree with strongly. There are most definitely things which should be held up as part of one tradition and not the other(s), but there are definitely appropriate times to blend things together, and to show children that more can be made of their connection with the gods in whom they believe.

A good example of this is the Christmas tree. The primeval roots of the Christmas tree to back long before Christianity or Judaism, to a time when worshippers of ancient gods saw the trees as representative of the spirits or gods of winter. Decorations came down through a variety of traditions including Italian, Greek, Roman, Jewish, Christian, and others. Presents, too, come from a wide variety of traditions. No one religion "owns" the decorated winter fir tree with the presents under it, and it can be a marvelous blending point.

In my own interfaith family (Hellenic polytheist, Christian, agnostic, and children still working it out), we celebrate Hannukah, Christmas, Yuletide, and just plain ol' Santa day. We express our love of each of these holy days separately, as well as touching on the ways they are similar and different. It always warms my heart to hear our largely Christian educated children saying, "Is it time for the 8 days of Hannukah? Is it time yet for the stories?" They love the quiet time of lighting the candles, sharing the stories of the oil in the temple of Jerusalem, and the contemplative silence afterward. They also look forward to the arrival of the Christ Child, and the wassailing of the trees in the forest by our house. And then there's Santa, our purely secular gentleman who bridges all traditions in our home.

How do you blend traditions in your household? What traditions do you encompass?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Rev. Eleanor Harrison Bregman: The Rituals of Mourning in an Interfaith Family

Rev. Eleanor Harrison Bregman: The Rituals of Mourning in an Interfaith Family:

'via Blog this'

This is a beautiful blog entry by Rev. Eleanor Bregman. She talks about how she goes about mourning her mother's death a few years ago, and how she commemorates that passing each year around this time. She is a Christian minister who is married into a Jewish family, and they celebrate many different rituals together. Her commentary about her children building bridges really touched my heart.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wordy Wednesday - Dec. 14

"The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?" -- J.B. Priestley

"When snow falls, nature listens."  -- Antoinette van Kleeff

"There's one good thing about snow, it makes your lawn look as nice as your neighbor's." -- Clyde Moore

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wordy Wednesday - Dec 7

“As far as her mom was concerned, tea fixed everything. Have a cold? Have some tea. Broken bones? There's a tea for that too. Somewhere in her mother's pantry, Laurel suspected, was a box of tea that said, 'In case of Armageddon, steep three to five minutes.” -- Aprilynne Pike, Illusions

“When the cold comes to New England it arrives in sheets of sleet and ice. In December, the wind wraps itself around bare trees and twists in between husbands and wives asleep in their beds. It shakes the shingles from the roofs and sifts through cracks in the plaster. The only green things left are the holly bushes and the old boxwood hedges in the village, and these are often painted white with snow. Chipmunks and weasels come to nest in basements and barns; owls find their way into attics. At night,the dark is blue and bluer still, as sapphire of night.” -- Alice Hoffman, Here on Earth

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How an interfaith family can celebrate the holidays - On Parenting - The Washington Post

How an interfaith family can celebrate the holidays - On Parenting - The Washington Post:

'via Blog this'

This article is a fairly good (though very short) one about how Jewish and Christian families can blend their holy days together. The idea is great, but I found some of the article to be a bit untimely. For instance, it's suggested that the couple/family start talking about things "a while before" the holiday in question. For me, that's the kind of thing I advocate people to discuss before marriage, before children, before truly forming a *family*. If you haven't discussed these things before moving in together, then I have to ask myself, what reason do you have for being together? These are basic, essential questions about faith and belief, regardless of the religions involved.

My own additions to the article's suggestions would be:

* start talking about religious beliefs BEFORE being serious, so that nothing blindsides you later on
* form your own family traditions, such as not turning on the Christmas tree lights until you are done with the Menorah lighting and prayers, or taking the time to honor different ancestors as candles or tree lights are lit
* involve your children, if you have them - this time of year is magical no matter what tradition you belong to, and allowing them to create rituals and traditions will warm their own hearts as well as yours
* don't be afraid to share "single tradition" stories, provided you're taking time to share various other stories at other times - read The Night Before Christmas on the 24th, and the story of the Oak and Holly Kings on the 21st, share the joy of Kwaanza stories on yet another night

I like to remind people that interfaith is not about picking one faith over another, nor is it (necessarily) making a messy smashed up version that bears no resemblance to any of the originating traditions. There can be times set aside for honoring each faith singly, as well as finding comfortable and honorable ways to blend them together into a true holy day season.

My own family celebrates many things at this time of year. Throughout December, we like to decorate, put up lights, and just generally feel festive. We sing carols from the Christian traditions, gather Yule logs from my pagan traditions, light the Hannukah menorah from the Jewish faith, and as much else as we can figure out. It's a beautiful time, and our children learn about the blend (of lights and song, of warm fires and joyous family togetherness) and about the single faiths (Christian, pagan, Hellenic, Jewish, agnostic).

What sort of family traditions have you created? Are they interfaith? multifaith? How did they come to be?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordy Wednesday - Nov. 30

"God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December." --
James M. Barrie

"There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you.... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself. " -- Ruth Stout

"Winter came down to our home one night, quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow, and we, we were children once again." -- Bill Morgan, Jr.

"Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home." -- Edith Sitwell

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wordy Wednesday - Nov. 23

"If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice." -- Meister Eckhart

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -- John Fitzgerald Kennedy

"Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow." -- Edward Sandford Martin

"Thanksgiving comes to us out of the prehistoric dimness, universal to all ages and all faiths. At whatever straws we must grasp, there is always a time for gratitude and new beginnings." -- J. Robert Moskin

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Writing Our Way Home blog: The River: Jan 2012

I just heard about this from another blogging friend, and I think I may need to participate. If you're a writer of ANY kind (poetry, prose, fiction, articles, whatever) then take a peek.

Writing Our Way Home blog: The River: Jan 2012:

'via Blog this'

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Interfaith service in Westford MA

This is a beautiful story of success. My own church does something similar a couple of times a year, getting together with Catholic, Baptist, and Fundamentalist traditions to share in thanks. What a wonderful interfaith vision of growth!

Interfaith service, Nov. 23, in Westford - Westford, MA - Westford Eagle:

'via Blog this'

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordy Wednesday - Nov. 16

"A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made. The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air." -- Eric Sloane

"If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It's a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it's time to reflect on what's come before." -- Mitchell Burgess, Northern Exposure

"Youth is like spring, an over praised season more remarkable for biting winds than genial breezes. Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits." -- Samuel Butler


I've always enjoyed reading quotations. Their pithy statements make me think about my life and how I relate to the world around me. At one time, I had some 500 quotes loaded into my email reader, a random one of which would be posted at the bottom of each reply I sent out. In a way, it was almost a kind of divination; I was always astonished at what quote would turn up at the end of which message.

This morning, I was checking my blogroll and You, Me & Religion had this quote to share:
You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call "failure" is not the falling down, but the staying down. -- Mary Pickford
This one comes under the "oh so true" category. I have fallen down the last few days, as I suffer from a sinus headache. My household chores have languished as I have managed to do just the bare minimum to stay ahead of Mount Washmore in the laundry room. Yet today, I can get a fresh start. I'm not back to 100%, but I can stand up and do a little more today than I did yesterday. That's what counts! It's not failure because I'm not staying down. Thank you Mary Pickford!

Due to my propensity for quotes, I have decided to create a weekly "Wordy Wednesday" posting. It will be a short quote, sometimes with commentary and sometimes without, depending on my level of busyness. I hope you enjoy the quotes as much as I do!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Giving Thanks for Holy Days

How it should have been.
There are several warm and fuzzy stories about "the first Thanksgiving" out there. In public school in Ontario, Canada, I was taught that some settlers ("the Pilgrims") were starving to death at Plymouth Rock, and the local Natives took pity on them and brought in food. Thereafter, the Pilgrims celebrated a day of giving thanks, remembering that wonderful year they were saved by their peaceful Native neighbors. There's another myth, this one taught to me in America, of the poor, savage "Indians" who had no idea how to care for themselves, and how the smart, civilized Pilgrims and other European settlers saved them from their ignorance and heathenry, and fed them. This became the first Thanksgiving.

Neither of these stories is true. The facts are largely lost to time, but there is a lot of complex (and often horrific) history. The Natives of that area were enslaved by Europeans, and many were wiped out by smallpox and other European diseases brought over by settlers and slavers. There were war-like Natives who wanted nothing more than the ultimate death of the white devils who were stealing their land. There were innocents in both camps, and guilty sinners as well. I have no idea who shot the first arrow or bullet, and I don't think it matters in the grand scheme of things, to be honest. If you want a fairly decent (though I've no idea how accurate) version, you can find it here.

Horn of Plenty
We can't change the past. We shouldn't go back and re-write it (although people try, and that's why there are many myths). What we CAN do is make the giving of thanks (both at this time of the year and other times!) something that means much today. After all, we can't really touch any other day. Today is all we have.

We're hearing so much about protests and brutality, hoarding and looting, rape and burglary and other crimes, that it's often hard to think about what we're thankful for. That is the answer to all of it, though. We need to pause, daily, and remember that we're alive, and that (at the very least) is something to be thankful for.

The Horn of Plenty (pictured above) is a widely recognized symbol of Thanksgiving in most of North America. A wicker or woven horn is filled with the bounty of the autumn harvest, overflowing with winter squash, apples and pears, grain, nuts, and berries. It's a representation of the plenty that we live with every day. The poorest in America is still much more well off than most people in other countries, and many times moreso when considering countries like Africa or parts of Asia. The poverty level, per the International Banks, is considered about $1.25 per day in most of the world... and $10 per day in America. That says something right there.

Of course, their $1.25 goes much farther than it would in America, but the idea is there. It might be embarrassing to get food stamps, or to have to go to a food back (lord knows I've done it myself), and applying for Welfare is one of the most humiliating procedures know to man. But we HAVE food banks and stamps and welfare and other social structures in place to help out. Most communities in our country have a place for homeless to stay on cold nights, a place for those without jobs or money to get some food... It might not be as much as we WANT or even as much as we think our poor DESERVE, but it's there. The alternatives in other countries is often simply to beg or starve to death.

When I think about the "average" person in America (and most of North America in fact), I think of someone living pay check to pay check, barely making ends meet, struggling to put food on the table, worried about losing the lousy job they currently have. There are some better off, and some much worse off, but I see that as the average. I'm probably wrong on a statistical level, but for right now, the image works. I've been that average person for most of my life.

Despite being a person struggling to make a living wage, I've always managed to have food on my table. At Thanksgiving, I have always opened my doors. People show up, and it becomes a Stone Soup moment. Everyone brings something, and I manage to paste it together into a feast to celebrate what we're truly thankful for. And that, I believe, is the true meaning of this time of year.

It's not about serving enough food to kill a cow. It's not about how many plastic decorations you can paste to your wall. It's not about the size of the tree you may be putting up on the weekend after Thanksgiving. It's certainly not about glutting yourself with pre-fabricated food and drink that contains dubious ingredients and known carcinogens.

It's about love. It's about sharing. I don't have enough, and you don't have enough, and we're both hungry, but by pooling our resources we can make things a little bit better. By working together instead of against one another, we have the chance to have real things to be thankful for!

That's something our government can't supply, no matter how many free turkeys they give out at food banks. That's something you get only by creating community. I say creating specifically, because I don't mean the physical neighborhood you live in. That's not real community; it's just a place, a location. Real community is built with bridges of love, with garlands of hugs, with wreaths of helping hands. Your community knows you, and your community knows what you lack... and what you have excess of. In community, we can create Stone Soup, a lasting and share-able moment of thanks.

Rockwell's vision
In the spirit of the "occupy" movement, I suggest that this autumn/winter season, you Occupy Home. Don't buy that expensive CD of music - make your own (sing, play an instrument, use the radio)! Don't buy a cake or pie, but take the time to create something at home (even if you have to cheat and use a package, but TRY). Buy local if you buy at all, and know that you're helping out the community which you are a part of. Make gifts for your family and friends, with whatever talents you have. They don't have to be elaborate. Your mom loved it when you brought home fingerpaint artwork from grade school, and I guarantee she will still love it if you take the time to make something similar now, as an adult. What we are gifting is not the material item. Anyone can get or give money, after all, even if some of us have less of it than others. Only YOU can give the gift of yourself, though. And that's the most precious gift of all.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Turning of the Seasons

Wiccans see Samhain (pronounced "sah win") as the end of the year, a time between the worlds. Many indigenous religions believe that autumn (especially the time bridging autumn and winter) is a time of closing, of shutting down, of hibernation. It isn't difficult to see why. All around us, things are ending. The trees lose their leaves, grass dies back, cold weather comes knocking, and sometimes the snow comes to visit us a little early.  These are signs of the winding down of the living seasons, and the entrance before you is that of the time of sleeping, the season of rest, of introspection.

My pagan and Wiccan roots show most around this time of year, I think. In Christianity, there just isn't much going on right now. The pagan faiths (Hellenism, Heathenism, Religio Romano, Wicca, and hundreds of others) are more aligned with the seasons as they change, and so this is a sacred time. We see the remnants of those pagan traditions all around us. Those pumpkins are "new world" adaptations of the turnips and gourds carved by our European ancestors to scare off spirits who were known to wander the vicinity around October's end. Black cats and witches, goblins and ghouls, and of course our vampires and zombies all are representations of things from long past. The act of dressing up and trick or treating itself comes from ancient British practices of children wandering from door to door threatening a trick if they didn't get a treat, itself borrowed from even older practices of worrying that any knock at the door might be a dead ancestor come back to haunt you... or worse.

Too often today, though, we're removed from this changing of the seasons. Our homes are magically heated, and stay 70F all year round. Our cars, too, shield us from the chilly autumn temperatures. We eat foods that arrive from far off places that are definitely not ones we could eat locally (strawberries in autumn should be a treat, not a staple!). We've learned to hate our carbs without educating ourselves about the good ones versus the bad ones, and in doing so have thrown out the whole grains and oats that would traditionally nourish us in these cold winter months. We don't interact with the land outside our sealed picture windows. We don't taste the crisp air, smell fresh apples on the breeze, or crunch leaves under our feet. If we have to shovel snow, we often do it with electric or gas-driven devices that remove us from the very experiences we might gain from.

Here in our house, the general temperature is set to 60F when we're up and about. It's chilly, yes, but not inappropriate. We can wear sweaters, drink coffee and tea and hot chocolate, and get up off our lazy duffs and DO something if we're cold. At night it goes down to 55F, because we have warm blankets and one another to keep warm. It's an interesting experience. It's a wonderful experience.

As you celebrate whatever autumn festivals you do, take time to think about those who have passed on. Raise a drink to them, or better yet offer them a plate of food and a glass of milk on the front doorstep, something our ancestors did as much out of habit as out of fear. Go outside and interact with nature. Collect leaves and press them, or color them with your children. Shovel some snow by hand, if you're physically capable, or play in it for a few minutes if you're not. Put your thermostat down and save both money and peace of mind. Cook a stew and bake a loaf of bread!

However and whatever you celebrate, just be sure to celebrate. Happy Samhain, and have a blessed autumn season.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Religious, spiritual support benefits men and women facing chronic illness, MU study finds

I have to admit, I always find it mildly amusing when science manages to catch up with the knowledge of the rest of us. *Chuckle* This is an interesting study which includes information that is gender specific. I like that it notes that while women gain mental health benefits, men also gain physical health. I suspect that as men interact with those who care with them (rather than hiding in their caves as they generally do), they become more interested in their own health. This leads to much better outcomes all over. Of course, that's just my opinion. Enjoy!

Religious, spiritual support benefits men and women facing chronic illness, MU study finds:

'via Blog this'

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The death of a dictator

Public Domain Photo
Muammar Gaddafi is dead. An autopsy has confirmed his death, and the death of his son. There are graphic images scuttling about the internet of the death of this dictator and terrorist. I can't say that I am torn up about his death - he brought suffering and horror to thousands upon thousands of people, and it is time for him to be gone from this life. At the same time, I do not cheer his death, either. How could I? I am horrified at the stories going around, how he was raped with a dagger before they killed him, how they stored his body in a root cellar to humiliate him, and the scores of other stories that exist. I am not sorry he is dead, but by doing these things to him prior to death, and after his death, his killers prove only that they are no different than Gaddafi himself. It is a shame. Death should never be celebrated in this way.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Interfaith holiday cards from FOR | Fellowship of Reconciliation

I've been a naughty minister in regards to my interfaith postings. I discovered that weekly lumps of postings wasn't working for me. Especially right now, with so much going on with moving and cleaning and getting used to new schedules, I just can't devote that much time to a single day a week. However, I can post piecemeal as I find things of interest. And with that, I share these incredible interfaith holiday cards!

Interfaith holiday cards from FOR | Fellowship of Reconciliation:

'via Blog this'

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hindu Festivals - Alan Taylor - In Focus - The Atlantic

Hindu Festivals - Alan Taylor - In Focus - The Atlantic:

'via Blog this'

The images in this photo montage of Hindu festivals are absolutely stunning. I invite anyone and everyone to look the pictures over and truly feel the vibrancy of the celebrations depicted!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Interfaith News Roundup

Florida Religious Groups to Hold Memorial on 9/11 Anniversary

A decade ago, religion impelled people to hijack planes and commit mass murder. Yet this coming week, religion will be the setting for many services memorializing the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Two religious responses from the days immediately following the attacks of 9/11 demonstrate how religion has been both a divisive and unifying force in America over the last ten years. The first was from Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell . . . The second response was different. As soon as reports made clear that the terrorists claimed allegiance to the fundamentalist Islam of Osama bin Laden, many feared violence might be directed toward the American Muslim population.

Shayna Solomon found a common thread between Judaism, Christianity and Islam: they all are trying to save the world. So why not capitalize on a shared vision? Why not work together to help those in need? “When you bring people together to talk, it doesn’t do as much as when you bring people together to do,” she said.

In June of 2010, the three of us, Rev. Jerry Campbell, Imam Jihad Turk and Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, announced an agreement for our respective institutions to co-create the world's first inter-religious university -- a place where rabbis, ministers, imams and other religious leaders would each be educated in their own traditions, side by side, but also with classes in common. The new university would include academic schools for students who wanted to do world-healing work in non-religious fields as well.

The Duke Divinity School and the Faith Council hosted a panel discussion Wednesday to discuss the topic of faith communities and their responses to the terrorist attacks in 2001. Dean of the Duke Divinity School Richard Hays introduced the speakers—Muslim Chaplain Abdullah Antepli, Buddhist Chaplain Sumi Kim, Assistant Director of Jewish Studies Laura Lieber and Dean of the Duke Chapel Sam Wells. The speakers vocalized hopes for future interfaith unity.

Interfaith worship services have doubled in the decade since the 9/11 attacks, according to a new study released Wednesday (Sept. 7), even as more than seven in 10 U.S. congregations do not associate with other faiths. The survey by an interfaith group of researchers found that about 14 percent of U.S. congregations surveyed in 2010 engaged in a joint religious celebration with another faith tradition, up from 6.8 percent in 2000.

Interfaith is a term that should be avoided because it downplays uniqueness between various religions and faiths. It creates a contrived atmosphere, one driven by the politically correct world in which we live. By trying to encompass all faiths, the term interfaith loses any distinction between people. Instead, the term asks for the distinction between “religious” and “non-religious” people.

The House of Lords held a debate yesterday on 'interfaith' dialogue, focussing on how to improve communication between religious groups to improve social cohesion but also covering ‘faith’ schools and the role of religion in politics.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Interfaith News Roundup

I apologize for not posting last week's roundup! I let myself get involved in the "last week before school" frenzy with the kids, and ended up doing very little online besides a bit of playing games. I'm back now, though, with no excuses for not updating. The kiddies are back in school, full time and in kindergarten finally! Hooray for our smalls! That said, today's roundup will be a bit longer than usual, as I have quite the list of interesting articles stored up for your perusal.

Organic garden brings two faiths together to raise food for needy families - Last Monday, Brent Lowenberg delivered 48 pounds of organically grown heirloom tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, summer squash and okra to The Central Pantry, 1007 Big Bear Blvd. Lowenberg and Sean Ross, the pantry coordinator, sorted through the fresh vegetables and carried them out to pantry recipients.

Lexington Interfaith Clergy to Host Sept. 11 Gathering - A gathering for all people will be held on the Battle Green in Lexington at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon. The faith communities of Lexington, representing many traditions, will host the event, to be led by the clergy of the communities. People of all religious faiths and those of no particular faith are all welcome. The theme will be “Hope from Our Hearts.”

Geneseo Schedules Programs for White House's Interfaith Community Service Campus Initiative - GENESEO, N.Y. - The State University of New York at Geneseo is preparing a year of interfaith service programming on campus as part of an initiative by President Obama to engage college campuses in building understanding among communities and contributing to the common good. The year-long Geneseo Interfaith Service Project (GISP) will include programs to advance religious tolerance and a series of service projects, lectures, reflections and social activities surrounding the theme of energy and the environment. GISP is Geneseo's response to the president's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge.

Religions in Catalonia unite to promote global change - BARCELONA, Spain — A dialogue about how religions can contribute to achieving the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has come to fruition with a new publication in Spanish. In a significant interfaith initiative for Spain, Baha'is, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Christians – Evangelical, Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Universal Unitarians – gathered together to explore their beliefs in relation to the MDGs which all 193 UN member states and other international organizations agreed to achieve between the years 2000 and 2015.

East Bay religious groups promote peace throughout events - May peace prevail on Earth. It's a message that a coalition of East County-based religious denominations are hoping to share throughout the East Bay next month. The Interfaith Peace Project, an Antioch-based nonprofit group, and the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa will hold an 11-day celebration promoting mutual respect and tolerance. The event begins on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack and ends on Sept. 21, the U.N.-sponsored International Day of Peace. Activities will be held in Antioch, Pittsburg, Brentwood, Walnut Creek, Fremont and Oakland.

Interfaith dialogue necessary - How is it that the same issues of stereotyping, generalization, and overall misunderstanding between the major religions of the world still plague us as they did a thousand years ago? One would think with the world being diverse and having the largest wealth of knowledge ever, mutual existence would not be an ongoing dilemma. A mentality of “us” and “them” is still abound and arguably growing stronger, as the truth behind the tragedy in Norway, which was so starkly epitomized for the world last month. Following the mass shooting, which killed at least 85 people, many pundits were quick to judge, holding “Muslim extremists” accountable for the disaster. Instead, despite some speculation as to cohorts, Anders Behring Breivik, described by the Washington Post as a “right-wing anti-Muslim extremist and self-styled crusader,” confessed to being killer. The quickness with which the original conclusion was reached — and the minimal evidence that accompanied it — belie the shortcomings of religious tolerance campaigns.

Perfect Union - As we approach the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, a day that called on all Americans to dig deep in their hearts and come together as one nation, it would do well for "we the people" to take an annual checkup on the state of our more perfect union. When our Founding Fathers penned the words, "in order to form a more perfect union," they laid a framework for democracy that would depend on an active citizenry. We had overthrown the injustice of a monarchy, and set the course for a nation that would be the city on the hill, the beacon for the tired and poor and the hope of liberty for a world buried under injustice. These were our ideals.

Interfaith Commemoration - On Sunday, Sept. 11, from 3:30 to 6 p.m., Temple Sinai of Roslyn will host a program commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11, “Living as People of Faith in a Fearful World.” This interfaith perspective will feature leaders from a wide variety of religious institutions in the community, namely The Islamic Center of Long Island, the Sid Jacobson JCC, Temple Judea of Manhasset, Shelter Rock Jewish Center, Friendship Baptist Church of Roslyn, Temple Beth Sholom, Trinity Episcopal Church of Roslyn, Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation, Roslyn Presbyterian Church and Temple Sinai of Roslyn. The event will be co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Long Island, and is free and open to the entire community. No advanced reservations are needed.

Interfaith Understanding Remains Elusive 10 Years After 9/11 - In a post-9/11 bid to better relations with local Muslims, pastor Bob Roberts invited Muslims to his NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas, for Q-and-A sessions, a cooking club and to help on a few home remodeling projects. The result: Roberts lost "a bunch of church members," he said. In Denver, pastor Max Frost asked volunteers from his Roots Vineyard church to help paint a local mosque. Friends and family told him it was a bad idea. And at Hillsboro Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tenn., the Rev. Nancy McCurley started an interfaith Scripture study with local Muslims, only to be told by a critic that "in a year's time, this church will be a mosque."

After Sept 11 Religion Can No Longer Be Ignored - "Religion, at last, can no longer be ignored." That was one of five "unintended, unforeseen" consequences of 9/11, according to historian R. Scott Appleby of University of Notre Dame. Reporting on the spiritual impact of 9/11 has given me the chance to talk longer with Appleby and with theologian and psychologist Fraser Watts who raises the provocative idea that religion can be "healthy or unhealthy."

Interfaith Harmony - The Jogye Order, the nation’s largest Buddhist sect, has drafted a declaration of religious peace. It is meaningful for the order to initiate interfaith harmony. We hope Christianity, Islam and other religious denominations will join the Buddhist efforts to show tolerance and respect each other.  Last Tuesday, Ven. Dobeop of the Jogye Order made public the draft declaration saying the sect will hold other religions dear. The draft is the first of its kind in South Korea where exclusiveness has long dominated each religion. The religious exclusiveness has run deep in the minds of not only priests but also lay believers.

Conference on social networking promoting dialogue among religions -The role of the Internet and social communication media, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in promoting dialogue among religions, will be the theme of the Doha Interfaith conference, organizers said. "This year's conference will revolve around issues like interfaith dialogue, civilisations and cultures with a focus on the role of social communication media in influencing people's opinion," Ebrahim Saleh Al Nuaimi, the director of the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue (DICID), said.

Interfaith Voices - Youths plan to share cultures - I am a Christian, and could make a list of the differences between my Hindu friends and me. It might never stop growing -- as both religions offer their own viewpoints on the daily issues that we encounter in this world. But when all is said and done, the voices of peace and goodness still speak. If there is one thing I am sure of in this life, it is that the grace of God always wins over evil. So, what do we do when it looks like darkness is winning? How do we respond to an anti-Islam terrorists in Norway who claims to be a Christian and justifies 76 killings with what he interprets as the word of God?

Interfaith Engagement - Learn about the initiatives and resources dedicated to increasing cooperation and understanding across diverse religious identities and affiliations at UC San Diego.

Tree of Life Interfaith Seminary Classes to Begin - The Tree of Life School for Sacred Living in Amherst, NH is pleased to announce that they will be opening their doors for the 3rd year, welcoming the students of the Interfaith Seminary Studies Program. Classes begin on Saturday, September 10th and meet monthly.

Let's Talk About God: A Call to Interfaith Dialogue - Opening conversations with people of other faiths is becoming increasingly urgent in a world where people act out their religious prejudices by killing innocents and engaging in other terrorist acts of wanton human destruction. The recent tragedy in Norway reveals the horrors that can be done in the name of faith. Such episodes cause all of us to shudder, wondering how our distorted and sometimes twisted confessions of faith can contribute to such malicious, even psychotic behavior. The church cannot afford to brush aside these episodes, shaking our heads in disbelief. We, the Christian church, this community of devout believers who believe Jesus is the way, must enter this treacherous territory of confronting the evil that is being sown abroad in the name of God. If we fail to speak, we become complicit in contributing to the abuse of religion and failing to take responsibility for the evils being perpetuated in the name of the faith we affirm.

Stay the Course on Interfaith Dialogue - If all goes according to current reports, some time in September, the Palestinian Authority will submit a resolution declaring statehood to the Security Council of the United Nations. While the United States and possibly other Council members are widely expected to veto the resolution, the PA may take its case to the General Assembly, where the US does not have a veto. A vote in support of the resolution there, while not binding, would pave the way for member nations to recognize a Palestinian state. This is a highly charged and controversial matter in the U.S., no more so than for two groups, American Jews and Arab-Americans. The pending resolution is already splitting the American Jewish community, with many actively engaged in efforts to secure a US veto of the Security Council resolution, and some arguing that recognition of a Palestinian state could actually advance the peace process.

Interfaith 'quiet day' and labyrinth walk - A day for quiet reflection will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 10 at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1006 3rd. People of all faiths are invited to pray or meditate silently, with no digital devices turned on. Healing prayers will be offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The church's labyrinth will be available for meditative walking and a selection of books are offered for reading. Visitors can also bring their own books or a quiet hobby.

Observances planned - Messages of religious tolerance and unity will be heard throughout South Florida on Sept. 11 when area rabbis and clergy of different faiths come together in programs to remember those who died in the terrorist attacks on the United States on that date 10 years ago.

Amerindian Heritage Month - The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs this evening held its annual interfaith service at the Umana Yana, Kingston to usher in Amerindian Heritage month. Heritage month, this year will be celebrated under theme “Our Culture, Our Heritage, Our Life: A Fusion of Indigenous Diversity”. The service saw the recital of prayers and songs from religious leaders of the Bahai’, Muslim, Hindu and Catholic faiths. The interfaith service was attended by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai, other members of the Cabinet and Government, Members of Parliament and head of international agencies in Guyana.

York Interfaith series explores diverse beliefs - The Rev. Bill Niehaus said he hopes the York Interfaith Dialogue Forum will show people the diversity of the local faith community. The forum is presenting three symposiums that will feature discussions about a total of 12 faith affiliations, said Niehaus, the forum's vice president and co-pastor of San Damian Chapel, an Independent Catholicism congregation in York City. The first of three symposiums will be held 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6, at the Jewish Community Center, 2000 Hollywood Drive in York Township.

Salt Lake County Council to have its first Hindu Invocation - Council of Salt Lake County (Utah, USA), settled in 1847, will reportedly have its first Hindu invocation on September 20. Hindu statesman Rajan Zed will deliver invocation from ancient Sanskrit scriptures before the Council. After Sanskrit delivery, he then will read the English translation of the prayer. Sanskrit is considered a sacred language in Hinduism and root language of Indo-European languages.

Eitan Press of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development - For the last several decades, many of the world’s major religions have looked inward to explore what their ancient teachings and ethical systems have to say about people’s relationship with and responsibility to the environment. Now, an organization called theInterfaith Center for Sustainable Development in Israel is bringing these conversations together for a cross-cultural, interfaith look on environmental protection. The reasoning? If two minds are better than one, then many minds (and hearts) are even stronger – especially when it comes to something as important as climate change and a healthy environment.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Precious Lord...

Hello everyone! Just a head's up - I will be singing with my sis at church this Sunday morning. We'll be worshiping at the Universalist Heritage Foundation in Winchester, NH at 10:00am, on Sunday, Aug. 28th. If you'd like to hear some old timey gospel (we're singing Precious Lord, Take My Hand), or a really well-preached sermon by our pastor, Rev. David Hughes, please come on out! All are welcome at our church!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Interfaith News Roundup

Interfaith Strides: Moving Forward Together Since 9/11 - How religious understanding has been strengthened since 9/11 -- and how your community can grow during this year's anniversary.

Habitat for Humanity's Interfaith Build Coming Up! - "The idea behind this special build is to involve a diverse group of different faiths in the Mobile area churches, synagogues, mosques, congregations and faith-based organizations, bringing them together to fund and build a house in partnership with a family in need of decent affordable housing," said Brenda Lawless, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity Southwest Alabama.

Iftar Dinner Unites Muslims and non-Muslims - On Monday at the Islamic Center of the South Plains, however, some members of Lubbock’s interfaith community also tasted the sweet relief from hunger and drank in the cool deliverance from thirst. In anticipation of the evening, some non-Muslims had fasted all day, too. One such woman declared the date to be the best she’d ever tasted.

Interfaith Observance Set to Mark Ramadan - Muslim and Christian students will join a dawn-to-dusk "fast-a-thon" Thursday at St. John's Jesuit High School, a one-day interfaith observance of Islam's requirement to fast during the holy month of Ramadan. After sunset, the students along with teachers and parents will gather for a meal. This will be the fourth annual Break-the-Fast event at the Catholic high school for Ramadan, the month in which Muslims believe the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.

National Communicators Group Calls for High Ethical Standards for 9/11 Anniversary - An interfaith association called the Religion Communicators Council is asking journalists, bloggers and people who speak on behalf of faith groups to adhere to the highest ethical guidelines in presenting religious faith and values coverage about the 10th anniversary of 9/11. 

Wiccan Days Included on Tenn. University Calendar - Vanderbilt's Office of Religious Life recently sent professors a calendar of 2011-12 "religious holy days and observances" and a related policy on student absences. The faith listed next to four of the days on the calendar is "Wicca/Pagan."

Interfaith Prayers Illuminate Window Near World Trade Center - LOWER MANHATTAN — The lines of prayer unfurl silently, projected in light against a dark background. Facing a bustling block of Church Street just north of the World Trade Center, a display in the window of the Christian Science Reading Room quotes the leaders of the world's major religions, along with ordinary New Yorkers, in their wishes for peace.

Religious Leaders Call for Support for Hunger Walk - Local leaders from a wide array of religions gathered at the Dare to Care Food Bank office on Thursday to call for public support for next month’s Hunger Walk. The Sept. 18 walk will be the 34th to be held on behalf of the needy in Louisville and beyond. Roman Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist leaders were among the representatives speaking out in support of the walk.

Faith Groups Unite for Peaceful Dialogue - Too often religion and spirituality are connected in the media with violence or stereotypes. We do not always see the goodness and wellness that religion and spirituality bring people. Yet when different faith traditions and spiritual communities work together, we see what we share and can work together on hunger or homelessness, drug and alcohol addiction or violence. By focusing on common goals, we build community, and through community, we create harmony. It takes courage to do this.

Monday, August 22, 2011


One of the joyous things about living temporarily at the parsonage of my church is that I have access to a thousand books on Christianity and other religions. It's marvelous to be able to look over and pull out a book on sermons or prayer or children's faith, or any other topic I can think of. I love to read, and the ability to access all this knowledge is just such a treat!

While going through my pastor's bookcase the other day, looking for something a little lighter to read (I just finished one of Borg's books, and am also working my way through one on modern evangelism), I discovered three little notebooks that were untouched (in other words, no one had written in them). They obviously go together and are a set, and I felt compelled to peek at them and see what they had to teach me.

The first is entitled, "My Prayer Notes," and like all three it is spiral bound. Inside are pages which hold a bible quote, and then a place to write the date, prayer requests, personal prayers, God's answers to those prayers, and things said to praise God. This is a small journal designed to allow the person engaging in deep prayer to keep notes on how and when their prayers are answered. What a wonderful little tool!

I say prayers several times a day, but I don't usually write about them. Part of this is my early training as a Wiccan, when it was impressed upon me that talking about faith workings lessened them somehow. I no longer live by those rules, though, and there's nothing wrong with talking to myself about these things regardless. While I don't want to spoil this particular notebook (it does belong to my pastor, after all!), I think I will metaphorically take a note from his notebook and start keeping a journal about my prayers and the responses to those prayers.

The second little spiral-bound notebook is called, "My Bible Study Notes." Within is the requisite quote, and a place to write the date, the Scripture passage read, the key verse studied, and the personal application of the study. While this particular one is Christian, I again am struck by the ingenuity of this little notebook. Why could I not have something like this which contained quotes from a variety of religions, or having quotes from spiritual people that are not any particular religion? There are "scriptural" passages from many people, both in the Bible and elsewhere. All sacred texts are worthy of study, after all, and having a notebook of this type to keep track of how those sacred words touch me could be very useful on a lot of levels.

As I poked through this one, I was thinking how amazing it would be to have this kind of a journal to look back over in a few years, to see where I was and where I'm going. It might provide me with insights I'd forgotten over the years, or perhaps seeds for important sermons. It might even contain a nugget of wisdom that could be passed on to our children, or to those in my pastoral care. Again, this is such a profoundly simple and yet elegant idea that I feel I must claim it for myself!

The third and last notebook is called, "My Sermon Notes." Based on looking at the other books, I had thought this one would be for the pastoral or clerical student learning to write sermons, but I was wrong. This is for anyone attending and listening to sermons. The page has a space for the date, place, speaker, theme, and key scriptures mentioned in the sermon. There is then a large spot for notes taken during the sermon, and a smaller end area to answer the question, "How can I apply the message of the sermon to my life?"

I often take notes during sermons. I scribble them in a little notebook I keep in my purse, or sometimes on the back of the Order of Service. I jot down the names of books I want to look up, and key phrases that really struck me as important. I make note of any historical or spiritual information I want to look up for myself. How much neater it would be if I had this little book instead, where it could all be easily organized and kept neat and together. That way I wouldn't be pawing through the mess in the bottom of my purse to find out what was so important about last week's sermon that I barely remember taking notes at!

As I think about these simple tools, it makes me think back to the last two years in seminary. These notebooks would have been invaluable to me as I went from one religious service to the next, learning and taking in everything I could. Today's interfaith seminary students should seriously consider purchasing or creating a notebook or three like these, to allow them to take notes and keep track of them. It would be a resource that allowed students to compare the similarities and differences between services, looking at the various parts in a compact and organized way. For many, this would aid in the understanding of the interfaith process by highlighting the things that are similar in all religions and most faiths.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Interfaith News Roundup

Interfaith dialogue generates goodwill
By Hussain Mohi-ud-Din Qadri
An excerpt: "The important principle Islam has worked out in this regard suggests the need for creation of harmony among people and not religions, because differences between religions are natural and cannot be wished away. The world needs to grasp and implement this principle as a way out of our present-day predicaments. The followers of every religion have their unique set of creed and beliefs and no one has the right to denounce them under any pretext."

San Mateo peace camp teaches kids nonviolence
By Janis Mara
An excerpt: "The aim of the five-day summer camp was to educate children about other faiths and how to solve problems peacefully instead of resorting to violence, said Bonnie Rambob, a clergy intern from the Pacific School of Religion who organized the camp. "It's based on a model that began in Oregon called Peace Village Inc.," Rambob said. Peace Village, a national organization founded in 1996, develops curricula for teaching nonviolence to children and adults, emphasizing a multicultural, interfaith approach."

Interfaith ceremony to install Peace Pole at ferry terminal
By Maura Grunlund
An excerpt: "STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — An Interfaith Gathering for Reflection and Hope will help dedicate a message of peace at the St. George ferry terminal later this month.  On Aug. 28, the Building Bridges Coalition of Staten Island will present the Peace Pole — which has the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth” written in English, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Russian, Arabic, Hindi and Mandarin. It has been traveling to various borough houses of worship since it was first presented at an interfaith celebration for Thanksgiving 2010."

Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain Hosts Interfaith Dialogue Program During Weekly Iftar
An excerpt: "Bahrain is a multicultural, multiethnic, multi-religious society," Ambassador Nonoo said. "During the Holy Month of Ramadan, we at the Bahraini Embassy seek to promote inclusive religious dialogue that celebrates our common beliefs and commitment to one another."

August 11 day to reaffirm commitment to promotion of interfaith harmony: Zardari
An excerpt: ISLAMABAD, Aug 11 (APP):President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday said August 11 is a day to reaffirm commitment to continue working for promoting interfaith harmony in the country and to strive for progressive and tolerant Pakistan as envisioned by Father of the nation.Addressing the Minorities Day function held at Aiwan-e-Sadr here, the President reiterated the government’s commitment to protect minorities and to ensure that their constitutional rights were safeguarded at all costs and they are fully drawn in the mainstream of national life.

Pastor, Rabbi To Exchange Pulpits for Interfaith Partnership
by Jennifer Pinto
An excerpt: The friendship between two local religious leaders has grown in the past year to include occasional pulpit exchanges at each other’s houses of worship. Christian Pastor Keni Ashby of Covenant House Of Faith International (CHOFI) and Jewish Rabbi Steven Sirbu of Temple Emeth have their third pulpit exchange scheduled for 8 p.m. Aug. 12 at Temple Emeth.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Interfaith News Roundup

Interfaith unity in Tottenham as riots continue

A representative from the board of Deputies of British Jews joined a mulltifaith "vigil of hope" on Monday evening in Tottenham. The event was arranged following the death of resident Mark Duggan and the violent protests and riots that followed. As riots again erupted across London, faith and lay leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities gathered at a church to call for calm. Tottenham MP David Lammy also attended.

Bethel Participates in White House Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge

Bethel University President Jay Barnes and faculty members Sara Shady and Marion Larson traveled to Washington, D.C., on August 3 to help the White House kick off President Obama’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. Bethel is one of more than 250 colleges, universities, and seminaries that have submitted plans to the White House for yearlong interfaith service projects.

Houston teens tout interfaith understanding

The 50 students who attended Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston’s youth camp last month were just average kids—loud, goofy, iPhone-touting teens. But this isn’t just a generation in love with technology and Justin Bieber. They had some meaningful things to say about their own faith, religious differences and how to promote interfaith understanding.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Interfaith News Roundup

 In Which One Interfaith Family Sings Gospel… - All four members of my family got up onstage at an outdoor Roots Festival in West Baltimore recently and sang some flat-out gospel numbers. We had joined up with about a hundred other singers to help the Alternate Roots organization stimulate healing in a neighborhood ravaged by bad urban planning (including the notorious “Highway to Nowhere“). The dynamic Tony Winston, of Payne Memorial AME church, led us in the gospel numbers. We also sang African songs (led by Fred Onovwerosuoke) a labor song (led by Charm City Labor Choir Director Darryl! L.C. Moch), and peace, love and understanding songs (led by Elise Witt, who happens to hail from a Jewish/Christian interfaith family, which was somehow no surprise to me, since she’s a classic bridge-builder). With only two rehearsals, we had more enthusiasm than precision, and were very thankful that Tony Winston brought in some ringers from his choir.

Delaware sees interest in interfaith dialogue, Muslim man discusses similarities among faiths. - BRANDYWINE HUNDRED, Del. — Not many Muslims get invited to be fill-in preachers at Christian congregations, but that's what happened to Semab Chaudhry at Silverside Church. Last month the pharmaceutical audit manager stepped into the pulpit for a Sunday talk explaining the reverence that Islam gives to figures such as Mary, Jesus, Abraham and Moses. "It's remarkable how much commonality there is among our faiths," says June Eisley, a member of the Brandywine Hundred congregation. "I wish all Christians could learn this."

Ramadan 2011 is time of interfaith relations for US Muslims - Muslims and their compatriots in the USA alike will remember the ill-fated Tuesday when 19 al-Qaida terrorists hijacked and flew two commercial jet airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, another into the Pentagon, and crashed a fourth headed toward Washington, D.C., in a field in rural Pennsylvania. The attack left 3,000 people dead. The vitims were mostly civilians and belonged to more than 70 countries. US Muslims begin the holy month of Ramadan with fasting and observing restrain, control and patience. This Ramadan will also see the dark anniversary of carnage ten years ago that sullied the image of the religion practiced by nearly 1.3 billion people worldwide.

Interfaith minister visits Nyack park to join same-sex couples - NYACK -- Nora and Tina Lopez-Chiaffarelli walked into a gazebo, holding hands and flower bouquets. The same-sex Nyack couple, together for a year and a half, proclaimed their love for each other amid a community of friends and family. Their wedding ceremony was the first of the day at Nyack's Memorial Park.

[ Note: Rev. Sala Saran, who joined Nora and Tina, is one of my classmates! Congratulations to Rev. Sala as well as to the couple!]

Monday, July 25, 2011

Interfaith News Roundup

Local food pantry gains grant - BENNINGTON -- American Baptist Churches USA has awarded a $10,000 grant to The Kitchen Cupboard, a food distribution program of the Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services Inc. The Kitchen Cupboard is a food pantry which opened earlier this year at the corner of Gage and Bradford Streets. "The grant was for infrastructure development at the Kitchen Cupboard, and specifically items that we have in mind are a handicapped access ramp that we desperately need and additional cooling... capacity," said Sue Andrews, who directs the cupboard and other GBICS programs. "We have a lot of freezing capacity, but we need more coolers."

Holy Land clerics launch interfaith Earth forum - Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in the Holy Land joined forces Monday to launch a multi-faith environmental campaign, citing religious injunctions to protect the Earth across their three faiths. Among their plans are the convening of an international conference of religious leaders in New York ahead of the 2012 UN General Assembly, a North America public relations campaign and training future clerics on the importance of environmental issues, one of the organisers said.

Patheos Partners with Memnosyne Foundation's Interfaith Service Network to Create The Interfaith Service Hunger Resource Allocation Network - DALLAS, July 25, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Murry McKenzie, coo of Patheos, the world's premier online destination for global dialogue on religion and spirituality, announced today that, "Patheos is excited to partner with Memnosyne Foundation's Interfaith Service Network to develop a regional Hunger Resource Allocation Network (HRAN). This network, to be created and piloted in North Texas, will provide the online communication infrastructure that will help hunger agencies and food providers reach the hungry in the most efficient manner."

Muslim country hosts largest interfaith wedding - 4500 couples were married at an interfaith event in Indonesia that invoked Christian, Islamic, Hindu, and Buddhist ceremonies, depending upon the preference of the couple. Organizers are claiming it is the largest interfaith marriage ceremony ever.

Interfaith youth initiative opening minds and hearts at Brandeis - WALTHAM - Over the past week, 60 youths, seminarians, rabbinical students, and Brandeis University staff spent their days trying to exemplify Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision of a “beloved community” and “the world house,” performing community service, praying with those of other faiths, and focusing on peace.

Three Utah Councils to have first Hindu opening prayers in over a century - Nevada (US), July 24: In Utah (USA), the councils of Salt Lake County, West Valley City and Sandy City will reportedly have their first Hindu invocation on September 20, which is more than a century after these were established.

His Holiness and the Art and Science of Interfaith Cooperation - What's the Dalai Lama's secret? He's got over two million Twitter followers, people buy his books in droves, his speeches sell out stadiums. In a highly cynical age, he's held the public's attention for over two decades with some pretty elementary ideas: the essence of human nature is to be happy, human beings are happiest when they help others attain happiness, all major religions nurture the most basic ingredient of happiness, namely compassion, but you don't have to be religious to be compassionate, you just have to live up to the basic goodness of your human nature.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I'll be preaching - Sunday, July 17th, 2011

 On Sunday, July 17th, at 9:30am I will be preaching at The United Church of Winchester. My sermon title is "Exodus - A time in the Desert." You might wonder what brings me to write about such a thing as exodus, mass leavings, and the like. Think about life right now, though, and you might find some clues.

In the past year, almost everyone I have met has been going through some sort of crisis. Whether it is one of faith, of housing, of finances or medical issues doesn't really matter. In a way, each of us is dealing with the idea of exodus, of being coerced into the desert of our own being in order to try and find a new way, a new life, a new type of Being. It is almost as if we are all being prepared, as a race, for the scary things to come in the next little while. I, for one, am ready to move on. Yet I was suffering deeply, spiritually and emotionally, only a month ago. My family and my faith, my seminary classmates and my clergy friends are what got me through that dark time. Come on over to the church and join us for a Sunday discussion of Exodus.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Gay Couples Marry Free!

Rev. Allyson and Rev. Annie
Rev. Annie is a friend of mine and Alumni at The New Seminary. I highly recommend her for all your wedding needs in the NYC area! To that end, I share her press release with you!

DATE: 7/26
SUBWAY: A/C/E to W. 4th Street, N/R to 8th Street
CONTACT: Rev. Annie,
COST: $0

Here's the details: 

Well-known Gay-Friendly NYC Wedding Officiants Rev. Annie Lawrence ( & Rev. Will Mercer ( are ready to tie the knot with you! Tuesday, July 26, 2011, 9:00 am-5:00 pm in Washington Square Park in the heart of Greenwich Village in Manhattan they will officiate your Wedding Ceremony the first week that Same-Sex Marriage is legal in New York. This service is a gift of Love to all gay couples with a Marriage License, and your personal ceremony is free of charge!

To request Rev. Annie for your 15-min time slot, please email her with your Names, phone #s, and requested time:

To request Rev. Will for your 15-min times slot, please email him with your Names, phone #s, and requested time:

You can begin to apply for your Marriage Licenses at all Marriage Bureau locations in the 5 Boroughs of New York City on July 5, 2011, and begin to pick up your licenses on Monday, July 25. You must wait 24 hours from the date and time noted on your Marriage License before your Ceremony can be legally performed:

We look forward to celebrating your Love and Marriage in NYC!