The Office of Interfaith Relations of the Presbyterian Mission Agency partnered with Interfaith Paths to Peace, a local nonprofit interfaith organization, to host the first interfaith celebration at the Presbyterian Center in Louisville.
The celebration was held Oct. 2, purposely on the same day as Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, to honor the world’s peacemakers.
The celebration started with a musical prelude by the Sikh Society of Kentucky, followed by an introduction from Christine Hong, associate for interfaith relations of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, who welcomed participants from various other faiths.
The program included participation by Anne Walter from the First Nations tradition; Johny Alse, who represented the Hindu Temple of Kentucky; Geshe Kalsang Rapgyal, who represented the local Tibetan Buddhist center, Drepung Gomang Institute; Harem Mamasreh, a Palestinian Muslim graduate student from the University of Louisville; Cantor David Lipp from Adath Jeshurun Synagogue; and William McConnell, Executive Director of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians (PAM) who conducted and sang a hymn in Latin along with the Associate for Worship of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, David Gambrell.
The stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Gradye Parsons, gave a reflection on the pilgrimage to peace. He explained the importance of interfaith relations and how the pilgrimage to peace “means bringing peace from within and it means learning to treat other people not as others, but really as a brother or a sister.”
Hong added: “In sharing celebration, dialogue, and social justice work with our neighbors of different faith traditions, we experience firsthand their commitment to a better world. Interfaith activities help us come alongside one another as faith communities. In spaces like these, we are mutually pressed toward a deeper commitment to our respective faiths and traditions. For instance, hearing how my Hindu neighbors have historically pursued peacemaking causes me to reflect on the ways I can better pursue peacemaking as a Christian, both in my neighborhood and the world.”
The celebration concluded with the lighting of candles to honor peacemakers around the world. Each guest was encouraged to light one candle on behalf of a peacemaker. Among the participants was Ambassador Shabazz, who lit a candle in remembrance of her father, Malcolm X.
The occasion also served to honor the National Peacemaker of the Year. Terry Taylor, executive director of Interfaith Paths to Peace, presented the award to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Taylor also congratulated the PC(USA) for this event, “for being a powerful Christian witness.” Jesus himself always opened his doors to his whole community.” Taylor said “the fact that the PC(USA) would open its doors and its church home to people in the community from a variety of different religions says volumes about who Presbyterians are.”
Find resources to engage in interfaith celebrations in your church at pcusa.org/interfaith or download this resource: http://www.pcusa.org/resource/interfaith-celebration-prayer-and-worship/