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!]