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“Sacred Solidarity” in Chicago

Sacred Solidarity in Chicago

Sunday, June 10, 2-4pm

Federal Plaza, on the southwest corner of Adams and Dearborn

Eight Chicago Religious and Spiritual Communities to Pledge Interfaith Cooperation on June 10 

Sharing Sacred Spaces

The sacred spaces of the eight participating religious and spiritual communities

Sacred Solidarity” is a public event that is the culmination of an eight-month project called “Sharing Sacred Spaces” sponsored by the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR).

“Religious and spiritual communities standing with each other in the face of religiously-motivated defamation, hatred and violence is the meaning of solidarity,” says Dirk Ficca, Executive Director of CPWR.  “Grounding a pledge of solidarity from within their religious and spiritual traditions makes it sacred. That religious and spiritual communities in downtown Chicago have made such a pledge brings a sacred dimension to the civil space they share.”

In the past eight months, people from different Chicago religious and spiritual communities have forged bonds of friendship and trust through the “Sacred Spaces” series of events. The pledge they sign will symbolize their ongoing effort to honor and respect their different traditions, as well as committing to spread this effort to the surrounding community.

Representatives from the eight participating communities will gather to sign a pledge committing to work together to reduce social tension and build bridges of trust and hope in the city of Chicago.  These bonds were built as each of the eight communities invited others into their sacred space, engaged the visitors around matters of their tradition or practice and provided hospitality and conversation. Welcoming each other into their sacred spaces created appreciation of the various religious and spiritual traditions and a sense of community between the participants.

The public is encouraged to join in the pledge-signing event on Sunday, June 10th, 2-4pm, at Federal Plaza, on the southwest corner of Adams and Dearborn.

The solidarity pledge speaks to the many levels of understanding and respect that were built over the eight-month period among eight different religious communities in Chicago. The eight communities are the Midwest Buddhist Temple, Fourth Presbyterian Church, St. James Episcopal Cathedral, Chicago Sinai Congregation, First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist, Old St. Patrick’s Catholic church and the Downtown Islamic  Center. The pledge is as follows:

“Sharing Sacred Spaces” Solidarity Pledge

We, communities of faith and spirit serving in the Chicago metropolitan area, acknowledge and commit to these ideals:

  • that the work of cultivating the religious and spiritual life of human beings is an essential part of the strength and progress of our wider community
  • that supporting those who are committed to cultivating religious and spiritual life strengthens the entire fabric of our community
  • that we honor the wider traditions of those affiliated with and worshipping or practicing with the communities listed here
  • that we actively look for ways to stand in solidarity with each other and to serve our wider community
  • that we stand together against any public attempt to disrespect or harm the well-being of any community of faith or practice or its sacred space
  • and we celebrate our shared values of compassion, justice, peacemaking, and harmony in diversity.

The eight participating communities:

  • The Midwest Buddhist Temple, 435 W. Menomonee, 312-943-7801
  • The Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut, 312-787-4570
  • St James Episcopal Cathedral, 64 E. Huron, 312-787-7360
  • The Chicago Sinai Congregation, 15 W. Delaware, 312-867-7000
  • The First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington,312-236-4548
  • The Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist, 44 E. Wacker,312-236-4671
  • Old St. Patrick’s Church, 700 W. Adams St, 312-648-1021
  • The Downtown Islamic Center, 231 S. State, 312-939-9095 

Rev. Dirk Ficca, executive director of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, says the “Sharing Sacred Spaces” model of community building will be offered to other neighborhoods and suburbs of Chicago as well as to over 70 international Partner Cities. “Chicago is just the beginning,” says Ficca. “Together, we hope to chart a course that will strengthen bonds between diverse religious and cultural communities throughout the world.”

“Sharing Sacred Spaces” Leads to Interreligious Solidarity in Chicago

Sacred Solidarity in Chicago

"Sacred Solidarity," the culminating event of the Sharing Sacred Spaces program, takes place in downtown Chicago on June 10

by Sarah Fentem

For the past eight months, Chicago has served as the site of a pilot interreligious program designed to foster religious dialogue and understanding, using a resource most religious and spiritual communities already have at their fingertips—spaces to gather.

The last of eight hosted events of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions’ (CPWR) “Sharing Sacred Spaces” series took place May 12, wrapping up a program that intended to “deepen appreciation for the diverse religious and spiritual traditions by focusing on the spaces that are sacred to these communities.”

A final, culminating event, “Sacred Solidarity” will take place on June 10th in downtown Chicago, at which representatives from the eight participating communities with gather to sign a pledge committing to work to maintain the ties of trust and friendship built during the last eight months.

“At a time when hatred and violence erupts over religious differences internationally, [this] quiet collaborative effort in Chicago has forged alliances and fostered new friendships across religious lines”, said Rev. Dirk Ficca, executive director of the CPWR.

Chicago architect Suzanne Morgan, inspired by her work with liturgical architecture, served as the impetus of the program. Since mosques, churches, synagogues, and temples are in a sense a spiritual group’s “home,” sharing them would lend a sense of kinship and community not unlike when neighbors visit each other.

“Spaces become sacred through the meaning they have for their communities,” said Morgan. “Sharing that meaning can build bridges of trust and reduce social tension and cultural misunderstanding.”

Chicago served as the inaugural city for the event, with one of eight participating communities opening its doors every month to give a tour of their community’s “home,” explain their traditions, and answer questions for visitors.  The program kicked off in October at the Midwest Buddhist Temple, an experience Sacred Spaces visitor Gale Kryzak said was “bridge-building at its best.”

The interreligious fellowship carried on through the fall, where visitors were touched by the Fourth Presbyterian Church’s spirit of reform and reinvention and St. James Episcopal Cathedral’s blend of history, music, and tradition.

In January, visitors were impressed by the Chicago Sinai Congregation’s intricate blending of architecture and faith. The First United Methodist Church and Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral both showcased how intricately a congregation’s history can be combined with the City’s past and present. The Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist and the Downtown Islamic Center offered clarity to traditions that are sometimes underrepresented or misunderstood.

While each venue was vastly different, visitors saw common threads running through each community. “Each time, I was struck by just how different the spaces, rituals and practices are from what I am accustomed,” said Peter Rubnitz, a member of Chicago Sinai who attended most of the events. “At the same time, I was equally struck by how similar the commitment to faith, values and community is to what I see at Chicago Sinai.”

“Whenever you see people who are earnestly striving for truth and living truth, there’s a heart bond here regardless what the theology or doctrine is,” said Lois Carlson, a member of the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist.

Carlson mentioned how learning about other traditions helped her grow in her own faith.

“Theologically, I learned something that contributed to my prayer life from every one of the events”, she said. “I didn’t expect that. I expected to be educated, but I didn’t expect it to touch my heart in the way that it did.”

“I was very touched when the Muslims explained the proportion of their ten-minute prayer period was nine minute praise for 1 minute of petition. I saw myself checking my conversation with God to make sure it’s weighted on the side of praise.”

Sacred Solidarity,” the culminating event of the “Sharing Sacred Spaces” program, will take place on Sunday, June 10th at Federal Plaza at the intersection of Adams and Dearborn in the Loop from 2-4 PM.  The event, which is open to the public, will feature the signing of a pledge of solidarity that the communities composed together as a result of their experiences of sharing their sacred spaces over the last eight months.

Said Ficca: “Chicago is just the beginning. Together, we hope to chart a course that will strengthen bonds between diverse religious and cultural communities throughout the world.”



A Church, a Shul and a Mosque Try Faithful Experiment

By Naomi Zeveloff
From The Jewish Daily Forward

Deep in America’s heartland, a Reform synagogue, a nondenominational mosque and an Episcopalian church are all putting down roots on a 37-acre tract of land that once belonged to a Jewish country club. A body of water called Hell Creek runs through the development, over which the faith groups plan to build “Heaven’s Bridge.”

Fantastical as it sounds, this interfaith campus is currently in the works in Omaha, Neb. Slated for completion in 2014, the Tri-Faith Initiative is an experiment in religious coexistence in a city better known as a hub of corn-fed conservatism.

“The only other place where such a thing exists is Jerusalem,” said Dr. Syed Mohiuddin, chairman of the Creighton University School of Medicine. Mohiuddin’s organization, the American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture, is building a mosque on the campus. “Jerusalem is so important to these three faiths. We are sort of reproducing that model.”

If the experiment works, the city of Omaha — with a metropolitan area population of about 900,000, including 5,500 Jews, 6,000 Muslims and 4,500 Episcopalians — will become a beacon of cooperation in a world of interreligious strife. But before that can happen, the three groups still need to navigate fears, stereotypes and bureaucratic hang-ups.

The story of the Tri-Faith Initiative began with a simple quest for a parking lot. Temple Israel, the largest synagogue in Omaha, is located in the city’s congested downtown district. On the High Holy Days, the Reform congregation borrows parking space from its two neighbors, the Omaha Community Playhouse and the First United Methodist Church. When Temple Israel’s leaders decided to relocate the congregation to West Omaha, where many of the synagogue’s members now live, they reached out to Mohiuddin, who was planning a nondenominational mosque in the same neighborhood.

“It wasn’t a directive from the rabbi to say, ‘Go get with this group of Muslims,’” said Jon Meyers, a board member at Temple Israel. “Having said that, we realized: ‘Hey, this is a really cool thing. Why don’t we look at exploring this?’”

Click here to read the full article.

December 21st, 2011 at 10:45 am

Sharing Sacred Spaces in Chicago

St. James Episcopal Cathedral

by Susan Schwendener

Approximately 65 Chicagoans of different religious and spiritual communities gathered on Nov. 6 in St. James Episcopal Cathedral, 65 E. Huron, to learn from members of its congregation about their faith tradition and the sacred space in which they practice their beliefs.

The visit was part of an eight-month voyage to eight Chicago places of worship that is designed to unite people of different faiths through a sharing of each other’s beliefs and the places in which they gather to worship.

“Sharing Sacred Spaces,” was organized by the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. The voyage will continue through May, 2012.

Retired architect Suzanne Morgan conceived the idea of the journeying through the downtown Chicago places of worship.

Morgan, the Council’s Sacred Space Ambassador, is a liturgical design consultant who brings to the Sharing Sacred Spaces project professional experience, interreligious knowledge and theological understanding.

“Spaces become sacred through the meaning they have for their communities,” Morgan believes. “Sharing that meaning can build bridges of trust and reduce social tension and cultural misunderstanding.”

“I want to encourage interreligious dialogue by using sacred spaces for education,” Morgan said of the project. “Sacred spaces can be healing places.”

Visitors to St. James Episcopal Cathedral agreed.

“I was impressed that the cathedral had a small chapel that is open during the day for people to come to pray,” said Rev. Ron Miyamura of Midwest Buddhist Temple.

“People who are walking along Michigan Avenue or who are at Northwestern Hospital can easily come into the chapel,” he added.

Other aspects of the visit were also compelling, Miyamura said.

“I was impressed with the emphasis on making music a part of the liturgy,” he said. “That is something we don’t have. Buddhists do not have a musical tradition.”

Miyamura also noted the use of limestone from Joliet, the Illinois town in which he was raised, in the lower level.

“The cathedral carries so much history,” he said. “Here is an Episcopal cathedral that was built with Joliet limestone after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The use of Joliet limestone is part of what makes it a Chicago building.”

Dr. Edward Traisman, of Chicago Sinai Congregation, said he also enjoyed learning about the cathedral building and about the history of the Episcopalian faith.

“The afternoon’s guides gave a very simple and straightforward explanation of the English origins of the faith and how the Episcopalian church in America grew after the American Revolution,” he said.

Patricia Kendall of Fourth Presbyterian Church said that she had attended the first three Sharing Sacred Spaces events, including the Oct. 2nd visit to the Midwest Buddhist Temple and the Oct.23rd visit to her church.

“We are blessed in Chicago to have such beautiful architecture in our places of worship, and that is part of the draw of the Sharing Sacred Spaces events,” she said. “The opportunity to combine the history of a faith, its Chicago worshippers and their unique architectural spaces is an enriching experience.”

“It’s unique to meet people of other faith traditions who have a similar interest in the interfaith traditions,” she said.  “We are building momentum in beginning to recognize each other at these events.”

“There are so many different cultures and ethnicities in Chicago,” said Traisman. “It’s good to get to know other religions and to see how we all share common thoughts and practices.”

Miyamura agreed.

“There is a sense of community building in these events,” he said. “We are building a sense of brotherhood and peace that is invaluable. It’s hard to dislike people who you like.”

“I feel closer to Fourth Presbyterian Church and St. James Episcopal Cathedral because I know some of the worshippers,” Miyamura said. “I hope people feel the same about the Midwest Buddhist Temple.”


A schedule of the Sharing Sacred Spaces events is listed below. For engaging information about each of the sacred spaces participating, go to the Sharing Sacred Spaces web page on the Council for a Parliament of World Religions website.

Sharing Sacred Spaces

Schedule: Chicago 2011-2012

October 2, 2011
Midwest Buddhist Temple
2-4 pm, 435 West Menomonee Street, Chicago, IL, 60614,
October 23, 2011
Fourth Presbyterian Church
2-4 pm, 126 E. Chestnut Street, Chicago, 60611-2094,
November 6, 2011
Saint James Episcopal Cathedral
2-4 pm, 65 E. Huron Street, Chicago, 60611,
January 29, 2012
Chicago Sinai Congregation
1-3 pm,15 West Delaware Place, Chicago, 60610,
February 19, 2012
First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple
2-4 pm, 77 West Washington Street, Chicago, 60602,
March 18, 2012
Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist, Chicago
2-4 pm, 55 East Wacker Drive Chicago, 60601,
April 22, 2012
Old St. Patrick’s Church
2-4p m, 700 West Adams St., Chicago, IL 60661,
May 12, 2012
Downtown Islamic Center
1-3 pm, 231 S. State Street, Chicago, 60604,