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Archive for the ‘sacred space’ tag

Religious Communities Rally to Support Missouri Muslims After Mosque Arson

 

Imam Lahmuddin holds his hands over his face after a devastating fire destroyed the Islamic Society of Joplin mosque Monday morning, Aug. 6, 2012.
Photo from Joplin Globe/T. Rob Brown

by Roger McKinney
from Joplin Globe

JOPLIN, Mo. — Some local Christians and others who attended an event Saturday at the Islamic Society of Joplin mosque said they are saddened and dismayed about the fire that destroyed the mosque Monday morning.

The Rev. Frank Sierra, of St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, called Saturday’s gathering “a great event.”

“Instead of labeling people, we get to see them as fellow human beings — children of God — and that breaks down a lot of walls,” he said.

All were unanimous about their support for members of the Muslim community in their time of hardship and their outrage over the burning of the mosque.

“This is a threat to a group of law-abiding citizens in our midst,” said Paul Teverow, with the United Hebrew Congregation, who was at Saturday’s gathering and was at the mosque to offer condolences Monday morning. “The people of Joplin should share the same sense of outrage.”

He said such incidents are something much deeper when a place of worship is destroyed.

“I just feel a lot sadder,” he said.

He said ties between the mosque and synagogue go back many years, and that the connection would continue.

“This strikes very close to us,” he said. “They’re our extended family.”

Jill Michel, pastor of South Joplin Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), echoed the sentiment.

“They’re our brothers and sisters,” she said. “These are caring and compassionate people who are making a difference in our community. Their grief must be ours. It just has to be. That’s what our faith tells us.”

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Sacred Space: Amal Ali on Islam and the Mosque

 

Amal Ali discusses Islam, prayer, the mosque, and the practice of her religious tradition.

July 24th, 2012 at 4:45 pm

From Steeples to Domes, Architecture Reflects Religious Diversity

Photo Credit to John Gillis from The Daily News Journal

The pinnacle of Shri Krishna Pranami Mission Hindu Temple in Christiana.

from The Daily News Journal
by Scott Broden and Doug Davis

Religious architecture is all about helping believers worship.

Whether it comes to church bell towers, steeples and crosses or mosque minarets and domes, the designs are ways for the congregation to keep the faith. The Daily News Journal recently visited a number of these houses of worship throughout Rutherford County to learn how architecture plays a role in their religion.

Located in rural Christiana, the 12,799-square-foot Hindu Shri Krishna Pranami temple completed in 2009 is, on the surface, a stark contrast to the traditional homes and farms that make up this tight-knit community. But it’s that rural quality, that “incredible natural beauty” that made the community an ideal fit for the temple and its followers, according to Vippin Aggarwal, speaking on behalf of Temple President Hasmukhbhai Savalia.

The Sharing Sacred Spaces Project

 

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

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions’ (CPWR) “Sharing Sacred Spaces” project conisted of “open house” type events at eight spaces of local religious and spiritual communities, with the intention 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,” took place in downtown Chicago, at which representatives from the eight participating communities gathered 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.

View photos and learn more about Sharing Sacred Spaces

Sharing Sacred Spaces Creates Interreligious Solidarity

Eight communities in Chicago sign solidarity pledge after visiting each other’s sacred spaces.

by Sarah Fentem

To Suzanne Morgan, the scene Sunday afternoon in Federal Plaza—a bright, white tent, a podium and lectern placed in front of folding chairs, the blindingly bright springtime sun—had the feeling of a graduation.

And for good reason. The stage was set to celebrate the completion of the eight-month Chicago “Sharing Sacred Spaces” program, a series of interfaith events during which eight participating Chicago communities of faith and practice invited others into their sacred space, engaged the visitors around matters of their faith, and provided hospitality and conversation. Morgan, a retired architect, designed the program, which was sponsored by the Council for the Parliament of World’s Religions(CPWR).

Participating communities included a Buddhist Temple, a Jewish Reform Congregation, the Downtown Islamic Center, an Episcopal Cathedral, and United Methodist, Christian Science, Presbyterian, and Catholic churches.


photos by John White

By Sunday, all the communities had shared their sacred space with one another, and were gathered together for the first time not to focus on an individual space or religion, but to celebrate the harmony and diversity of the group as a whole.

“It really solidifies what we’ve done,” Morgan said of the event.

“This is the beginning of the journey, not the end,” said Dirk Ficca, the Executive Director of the CPWR. Ficca announced the success of the program “exceeded expectations” and the Chicago pilot program will be used as a model for 80 partner cities around the world.

Of the program, Morgan said herself she had “No clue how it would turn out,” explaining the success of the “Sharing Sacred Spaces” depended on the public’s involvement.

“We were amazed at how people took this up,” she said. “They wanted to connect, to share something.”

The diversity and harmony among the participating communities was underscored by the signing of the “Sacred Spaces” Solidarity Pledge, the focal point of the event.

The Solidarity Pledge speaks of the bonds of mutual respect and trust forged among the eight participating faith communities during the last eight months. By signing the pledge, they promise to support and respect each other, stand together against public disrespect or harm of any faith community, and to celebrate “shared values of justice, peacemaking, and harmony in diversity.”

As a representative from each location took the stage to sign the pledge, they also read a personal statement explaining what the pledge meant to their community. The statements were as diverse as the communities from which they came.

“We commit to this pledge because as Jews we know the history of bigotry and intolerance,” said Rabbi David Levsinky from the Chicago Sinai Congregation. Syed Khan, from the Downtown Islamic Center, referenced the “pledge of mutual support and defense” the Prophet Muhammed made with the citizens of Medina before he signed the pledge. And Kwang Oh, the representative from the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple, said “We as United Methodists believe there is a God who loves us and calls for us to love one another, who insists we work with all people.”

The communities’ declarations showcased the philosophy at the heart of “Sharing Sacred Spaces”—that what makes us different ultimately can be what brings us together.

 

Learn more about Sharing Sacred Spaces

 

Sacred Space: Balwant S. Hansra on Sikhism and the Gurdwara (Video)

Dr. Balwant Singh Hansra discusses Sikhism, the Gurus, the gurdwara, langar, and the practice of his religious tradition.

“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.”

 

 

CPWR’s “Sacred Space” Program Visits Historic Old St. Pat’s Catholic Church

Sacred Space Event attendees view the beautiful architecture and learn about the Catholic faith at Old St. Pat's Cathedral, April 22nd.

by Sarah Fentem

On the chilly afternoon of April 22nd, visitors climbed the steps of a well-known Chicago landmark in the West Loop, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, otherwise known as “Old St. Pat’s.” The cathedral, located just West of Union Station on Adams Street, was the second-to-last venue in the Council for the Parliament of World Religion’s “Sharing Sacred Spaces” program.

“Sharing Sacred Spaces” was started in 2011 by architect Suzanne Morgan as a way to foster interreligious dialogue among different faith communities in Chicago. Each month, one of eight Chicago congregations opens its doors to participants in order to showcase their religious space and speak to the public about their beliefs and traditions.

Like most of the “Sacred Spaces” events, the Old St. Pat’s event began with an introduction to Catholic faith and beliefs, given by Keara Ette, the Director of Youth Ministry at the cathedral. Ette explained that “Catholic” means “relational”. Stemming from their belief in the Holy Trinity—a tri-personal God made up of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit—Catholics believe that God “is one that teaches life is all about relationships.”

Other beliefs that would be pinned to the Catholics’ “letter jacket”, as Ette humorously described the Catholic dogma, would be the belief in Jesus as the savior of humanity, the sacredness of the Scriptures, and the belief in a God desperate to reveal himself to humankind.

Catholics, said Ette, also love “stuff.” The Holy Sacraments—sacred rituals like matrimony and baptism— are a way God uses “the stuff of the world to become present to us.”

Unlike some religions, which preach separating oneself from material items, Catholics have a distinct love of accouterment. From the reading of the scripture and praying of the rosary to the taking of the Holy Eucharist, items, art, and iconography play a huge part in the religious lives of the faithful.

Indeed, Old St. Pat’s brims with “stuff” symbolizing, celebrating, and reflecting Catholics’ relationship with God. While a popular conception of cathedrals paints them as dark, imposing places, when one walks into Old St. Pat’s, they feel as if they have walked inside a giant Easter egg. The walls are painted a pale pinky-taupe, so as to draw attention to the elaborate Celtic knot motifs that decorate nearly every surface, including the ceiling. Splendid windows, which appear to be made of melted jolly ranchers in every flavor imaginable, depict likenesses of the saints. (The famous triptych in the rear, representing faith, hope, and charity, is known as one of the finest examples of Celtic Revival art.) Even the pews are curved in a way that represents the ribs of Christ.

“Art is one of the ways we believe we can connect with the Great Creator”, said Ette.

Notable not only for its decorative interior, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is also known as an institution whose history closely parallels that of the City of Chicago. Old St. Pat’s docent and tour director Jim McLaughlin explained the church was built to cater to Irish immigrants who settled in Chicago during the mid-19th century.  As more immigrants flooded into the area to escape the Great Famine and find work building the Illinois and Michigan Canal, the congregation grew so much that a new, bigger Cathedral had to be built. The present building, completed in 1856, stands as the oldest public building in Chicago.

Two of the most seminal events in Chicago’s history are tightly interwoven with the 1956 building: The first, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, was arguably the biggest disaster the city has ever seen. Miraculously, though, St. Patrick’s escaped destruction-a change in wind carried the conflagration back across the Chicago River and away from the cathedral.

Secondly, the city hosted The World’s Columbian Exhibition in 1993, which brought visitors from all over the country to the Windy City. For the cathedral though, the most important visitor to the Exposition already lived in the city-a Chicago newspaper artist named Thomas A. O’Shaughnessy. Inspired by the Celtic art he saw at the fair, the young artist spent the next decade researching Celtic imagery and perfecting the art of stained glass. In 1912, 15 magnificent windows were installed, each inspired by images O’Shaughnessy found in the Book of Kells, one of the world’s oldest gospels. The “Faith Window” at the rear of the Church has been called “the most spectacular window around.” McLaughlin pointed out there were more than 2000 different tints of color represented in the windows.

Despite O’Shaughnessy’s unduplicated work, attendance dwindled in the mid-century, caused mainly by the neighborhood’s decline and the Cathedral’s proximity to Skid Row.  Two women were stabbed while staying in the church’s rectory. One Christmas mass had only 12 people in attendance.

The fate of the church started to turn with the arrival of Fr. John Wall, who came to Old St. Pat’s in 1983 when church attendance was at its nadir. Within 15 years, Fr. Wall revitalized the congregation through youth outreach programs, most famously founding the St. Patrick’s block party, the world’s largest, which brings thousands of young Christians downtown.  The young people started bringing their families, and by 2012 the cathedral boasted congregants from over 200 zip codes.

Today St. Patrick’s is considered one of the most famous churches in the city. The newly restored building not only mirrors the history of Chicago and its people, but also celebrates the space where the human and the divine intersect.

Impressive stuff indeed.

 

Click here to learn more about Sacred Spaces and join us at our next event!

Sharing Sacred Spaces: Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist

Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist, Chicagoby Sarah Fentem

It’s a building many people in Chicago recognize. Across the Chicago River from famed landmarks Marina City and the Tribune Towers, on East Wacker Drive, the 17th Church of Christ, Scientist resembles the shell of a giant tortoise, an upside-down cereal bowl or perhaps a concrete UFO.

The Christian Science faith is an institution much like the building itself-many people have walked by, but few have entered, so to speak. On March 18th, however, visitors were treated to an intimate introduction to this relatively new, American-born religion, the latest to be featured in the Council for the Parliament of World’s Religions “Sharing Sacred Spaces” project.

“Sharing Sacred Spaces” is an interreligious project focused on fostering cultural and spiritual understanding among Chicago’s faith communities. Each month, one of eight local congregations opens its doors for an afternoon to showcase its “sacred space” and unique spiritual traditions.

Upon arrival guests were ushered upstairs to the Church’s main auditorium, a large, tiered meeting space more akin to a university lecture hall than a traditional church sanctuary, save for an enormous organ whose pipes soar up to the high ceiling above the pulpit. While not overtly religious, the setting started to make sense after an introduction to the faith by congregation member Carol Hohle. Hohle began the program by sharing what her congregation had learned from the other participating “Sacred Spaces” communities.

“We’ve learned so much from previous Open Houses and found much that resonated,” she said. “To our Buddhist friends–we loved your spiritual grace and poise. And to the Presbyterians–we cherish that your faith is ‘reformed and always reforming.’ At Chicago Sinai, we were humbled by your practice of praying in a room with windows to remind you of the need to engage with humanity. At St. James, we learned about your All Saints Service and felt the power and comfort of remembering loved ones who have passed. And to our friends from Chicago Temple–we want you to know we have six hymns in our hymnal by Charles Wesley!”

 

A commitment to lifelong learning is one of Christian Science’s central beliefs. In fact, proponents of the faith are referred to as “Students of Christian Science.” For the faithful, God is not “distant and unknowable”. Christian Scientists believe it is possible for each individual to become intimately related to a God that is “always present and all-good.” Founded in Boston by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879, the religion has an American flair, celebrating ideals like democracy, equality, and autodidacticism, or self-teaching.

The Christian Scientists’ most distinctive belief, though, concerns the healing power of God’s love. In the words of Baker Eddy herself, “health is not a condition of matter, but of mind.” This tenet revived the lost Christian element of healing-both physical wounds as well as spiritual and emotional ones.

The practice of the religion requires only two texts: the Bible and Mary Baker Eddy’s “Science and Health with the Key to the Scriptures”. Christian Scientists are encouraged to study the texts both individually and as a congregation. A Sunday service for the Church of Christ, Scientist consists of readings from both texts by elected readers (the church has no designated minister or preacher but instead elects two lay people from the congregation to lead the service.)

The two scriptures are represented in large engravings at the front of the auditorium: on the left, from the Book of John, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” On the right, a quote from Mary Baker Eddy: “Divine love always has met and will always meet every human need.”

The auditorium (as well as the building itself) is intended to provide a “quiet oasis for prayer and study”, said Chicago architect Laura Fischer, explaining the 44-year-old building’s architecture and history to the audience. As a nod to the Church’s democratic policies, architect Harry Weiss modeled the auditorium after a Greek amphitheater, with no seat being farther than 50 feet from the readers’ podium. The four-story worship space was topped with a large cupula, or “lantern” that let the light of the bright spring day into the building. From the outside, the lantern looks a bit like a crown perched atop the seven-story building.

After Fischer’s remarks about the building and its architecture, guests broke into small groups led by members of the congregation, who talked about their personal experiences as students of Christian Science and answered questions from the “Sacred Spaces” participants.

Not surprisingly, most guests were curious about the members’ experiences with healing.

Lois Rae Carlson, a member of the congregation and a Christian Science Practitioner, is devoted full time to healing others through spirituality. She described many of her own health problems, including a broken bone in her arm and a growth in her stomach, that were healed through what she described as “a byproduct of an interaction with God.”

Experiences with healing are not only physical, however. Through proper study, emotional and spiritual wounds can be healed as well. Carlson spoke about healing a troubled relationship with her mother as well as learning to love and care for herself emotionally.

The Christian Science perspective is not unlike that of the “Sacred Spaces” project; the belief that by breaking down barriers, letting go of preconceived notions about identity and spirituality we are not only able to heal what ails us, but to thrive.

Click here to learn more about Sharing Sacred Spaces and join us at our next event!