Thursday, June 27, 2013

Patchwork Interfaith Community


"Come, come, whoever you are,
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
Ours is no caravan of despair!
Come, yet again, come." 
 -- Rumi

Paganism 
Patchwork Interfaith Community is proud to announce its launch on June 27th, 2013, as well as our first two services. On July 7th and July 21st at 1:00pm, please join us at the Cathedral of the Pines, down at the St. Francis of Assisi chapel.  Rev. Allyson Szabo will be leading worship services dedicated to bridging gaps, smoothing communication lines, and raising spiritual awareness. There will be song, prayer, poetry and holy words from a variety of religions and spiritual paths.

Christianity
Patchwork has been created by Rev. M. Allyson Szabo as a gathering for developing communication between the various religions in the southern New Hampshire area. All religions have the well-being of their followers in mind, but not everyone is suited to attend a formal church. At the Cathedral, we'll be outside in a beautiful, natural setting with Mt. Monadnock behind us. This "church not made with hands" is nestled within the Cathedral of the Pines, an interfaith-oriented place of worship as well as a memorial for all those who have died in service to our country.

Hinduism
"The Cathedral has been an integral part of the Rindge, NH religious community for many years now," shares Rev. Allyson, founder of Patchwork. "They provide an open, affirming place for people of all religions and beliefs to visit, worship, and find peace. It is the perfect place for Patchwork to be formally birthed. We hope people from the surrounding communities will join us for worship!"

U.U.
Patchwork Interfaith Community is a brand new ministry, founded by Rev. Allyson. Its mission is to provide a place for mixed-religion families, those who are not a part of a formal religious body, and those who wish to have more community oriented services in addition to their own, to come and worship together. Building bridges of communication between various religions' adherents is a goal that Rev. Allyson hopes to see fulfilled as Patchwork grows. 

Judaism
The first two services offered by Patchwork will be held in July as previously noted. However, Rev. Allyson hopes to midwife Patchwork into a more steady, weekly worship service that will appeal to a broad section of the local community. If she gathers enough interest, services may continue over the winter, and could even include an interfaith 'Sunday School' for younger children.

Islam
"Interfaith service is what I am called to," Rev. Allyson admits. "I hope to help teach the people in my community that all faiths have similar ideals, morals, and joys. The rituals may look very different, but the underlying awe and love for a Creator of some kind is a thread that runs through almost all religions." You can find Rev. Allyson on the internet at her website or her blog.

For more information about the Patchwork Interfaith Community, please visit the Patchwork FaceBook page, or contact Rev. Allyson at revallyson@gmail.com or (978) 616-9654.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

When people ask for prayer

Fervent prayer (1)
Prayer is a part of all religions and many spiritual traditions. People pray to their gods, to saints, to ancestors, to spirits of the elements. The words said and actions done are often wildly different from one another, but the actual act of prayer itself is almost identical.

At some point, I think everyone whispers a prayer. Sometimes it's just a series of heart-felt words that are said to the sky, with a hope that whatever is out there receives the communication. There's a joke that says so long as there are exams in school, there will also be prayer in school, and it's funny and very true at the same time. While they might not be the most orthodox, those prayers are just as real as the ones said in a church, synagogue, or temple.

Artistic prayer (2)
As a minister, people often come to me and ask for me to pray for them. There are several ways I accomplish this. The first is to simply stop what I'm doing when a request arrives, and to say a prayer to the Divine that is appropriate to the request. This is the most simple, and often the most real of my prayers. There's no planning, no time to search for fanciful words. There's just a strong sense of wanting to help another person in whatever way I can. There's a lot of power in that instant response.

Another method that I use for praying for others is a prayer bowl. I sometimes keep a bowl on my altar that I fill with prayer requests. These might be printed emails, jotted names from church or temple, or a more formal prayer list shared by another. Once a week, I will sit down with the bowl, and take out each paper, and read the important parts out loud. It might be just a name, or it might be a story with a plea for help. It doesn't matter. I ask the Divine to give to these people the healing they require, and to bring a measure of strength and joy into their lives.

Formal prayer (3)
If I am blessed with preaching in a church or other formal gathering, I will lead the people in a formal prayer for healing. I often include the names of people who are important to the world (Nelson Mandela comes to mind at this time), and also the names of any people in the gathering who have requested prayer. I ask for healing, for patience, for happiness, for acceptance, and sometimes I even ask for miracles.

I don't know if there's any particular magic behind prayer. I just know that it does no harm at all, and that it often brings about startling results. There are studies that show prayer helps people to heal, even though science hasn't explained why. Whether it's an act of Divine guidance from above, or a miracle, or even if it's just the placebo effect, it doesn't matter. What matters is that prayer has the ability to make people feel better, act better, and BE better.

What do you do when people ask for you to pray for them? Do you have a special way you pray for others?

Check back often for book reviews, prayers, ceremonies and more. If you have questions or comments, please write to me below. I love to answer questions! You can follow the blog via Network Blogs and Google Friend Connect. If you purchase items I have linked through Amazon or the ads on my site, I receive an affiliate portion of the sale. If you find the items are useful, please purchase from my site! 

You may also be interested in:

Grace Bombs
Mary Magdalene - the mystery woman
Working at Cathedral of the Pines
What does it mean to be holy?
Cathedral of the Pines

1) Image by ensignmedia / morgueFile
2) Image by iamagoo / morgueFile
3) Image by xenia / morgueFile

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Grace Bombs

Fireworks - happy bombs (1)
Our world is filled with a lot of uncomfortable and downright disturbing things right now. Terrorism, rape, forced marriages, genital mutilation, and hundreds of other horrible acts are being committed across the globe. Some are done in the name of religion, and some are just happening for no particular reason. It goes across culture, gender, age, orientation... there is violence everywhere. Even when we look away from the media, we still hear about people with botched surgeries, families losing babies at birth, tornadoes and hurricanes wiping whole cities off the map, and freak weather causing damage to crops all over. There seems to be no end to the number of upsetting things you can read in a day. And in a way, you don't really want to ignore it, because to do so seems to be sticking your head in the sand, or putting your fingers in your ears and humming, "La la la!"

New focus (2)
There's a line from a silly movie called Death to Smoochy: "You can't change the world, but you can make a dent." - Sheldon, aka 'Smoochy the Rhino' (IMDB) While Sheldon is a bit of a nutter, he's an honest guy. He knows he can't change everything. He's not going to stop world hunger tomorrow. Instead, he focuses on doing his little bit, what he's able to do. If everyone did just a little bit, the world would be a much better place. Imagine every person in the world doing one good deed a day. The whole focus of the world would change, overnight. If we stopped worrying about how we can't possibly affect the Big Picture, and started doing something about what's local to us, change would simply happen.

Smile, make people wonder (3)
Today, I was introduced to a group called Grace Bomb Ministries. What they do is create Grace Bombs, which, ". . . can consist of many elements: cards, letters, e-mails or social media notes, audio and video messages, care packages with gift cards or other gifts, a mix tape with positive music, etc... which are all created and sent to express to someone that they are loved and supported." (GBM main page) They collect up all the items and letters and pictures, and send them to the person who needs the emotional boost. Anyone can participate, and anyone can ask for help. The flood of support that comes in to a person who is low for whatever reason can make a huge difference in how that person copes with their personal tragedies and tribulations. Becoming a part of the Grace Bombing by sending something in also provides a lift for the person helping, as we're well aware that helping others helps ourselves.

The sun will come out soon (4)
On their project page, they list a couple of on-going ministries. You can pick or choose if you'd like to participate. There is no coercion. This is done by you for your own reasons. You don't have to give your name if you don't want to. You just send whatever you're sending, and they see that it's delivered. You give a gift of grace, a gift of love, a gift of much-needed attention to someone who was lacking. You make a dent, as Sheldon would say. What a fantastic type of ministry, open to all religions (and none), to people of all races, genders, creeds, colors, orientations...

No one is excluded. Everyone is included. Hurt is acknowledged and soothed. This is, I believe, the ultimate expression of interfaith love. I plan on joining this movement today, and will be sending a little letter off to the two people currently listed. I hope you'll consider joining the movement as well, whether by sending a letter to these two or by helping someone in your own community that you know needs a lift.

Give the gift of grace to someone who truly needs it. Feel free to share with us how you felt when you did so (though please use only initials of people so that they are not unduly exposed).

Check back often for book reviews, prayers, ceremonies and more. If you have questions or comments, please write to me below. I love to answer questions! You can follow the blog via Network Blogs and Google Friend Connect. If you purchase items I have linked through Amazon or the ads on my site, I receive an affiliate portion of the sale. If you find the items are useful, please purchase from my site! 

You may also be interested in:

Mary Magdalene - the mystery woman
Working at Cathedral of the Pines
What does it mean to be holy?
Cathedral of the Pines
Accepting yourself

1) Image by dantada / morgueFile
2) Image by Darren Hester / morgueFile
3) Image by dhester / morgueFile
4) Image by Irish Eyes / morgueFile