Sunday, September 12, 2010

Circle of Hands: A Multifaith Celebration of Diversity and Friendship

On Friday, September 10, 2010 between 5:00 - 6:30 pm, people from religious communities from around the Silicon Valley gathered at the Jim McEntee Plaza at the Santa Clara County office building, 70 W. Hedding, San Jose, CA, to demonstrate our support of religious freedom and to celebrate the relationships we have built with one another.

My estimate is about 200 peopled joined us as a variety of faith leaders spoke prayers and exortations to peace and compassion and respect.  A priest I spoke to thought it more like 400 people. It was a good turn-out in either case.

The space where we met is at a lovely circular dove mosaic created just this year as a "Gathering Place for Peace" in honor of the late Jim McEntee.  McEntee was Director of Human Relations for the County of Santa Clara for 27 years and did much to develop the relationships between different religious and ethnic communities that allowed us to meet in friendship today. McEntee's widow, Ann, was among the celebrants.

We opened with a "Blessing Bell Chant" from Shifu Jian Di of the Chung Tai Zen Center of Sunnyvale. He had along a young monk with a stunning voice who carried us all to a place of peace and blessing for all beings in all worlds.

The Rev. Rebecca Kuiken, the Director of the Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice (WPUSA) was the MC for the event.

Opening remarks were offered by Rev. Chuck Rawlings, the Executive Director of the Santa Clara Council of Churches and by Supervisor Dave Cortese of the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Cortese mentioned that he has kept the Ramadan fast in solidarity with the Muslim community for the past four years.

Multifaith prayers were then offered by Rabbi Melanie Aron of Congregation Shir Hadash in Los Gatos; Girish Shah, Interfaith Coordinator of the Jain Center of Northern California; Rev. Alan Jones of the Campbell United Methodist Church; Fr. Francisco Rios of St John Vianney Catholic Church of San Jose; and Shifu Jian Di, Abbot of the Chung Tai Zen Center of Sunnyvale.

The next section were leaders speaking of their hopes - Imam Zaid Shakir,  co-founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley; Ben Field of the South Bay Labor Council; Shafath Syed of the South Bay Islamic Association; and Delorme McKee-Stovall, Manager of the Office of Human Relations of Santa Clara County.

I admit I was particularly moved by Ben Field's hopes for a world where Walter Reuther's fight for social change for the downtrodden is realized.

Then Samina Sundas, Founding Executive of American Muslim Voice, got us all into a concentric circles whilst Andrew Kille, of Interfaith Space; Ann McEntee and Rowan Fairgrove, of Covenant of the Goddess led a litany Rev. Kille had written.

I wanted to share this line:

We bring the wisdom of our religious heritage -- our scriptures, our traditions, our teachers and sages, our ancestors, our devotion, our faithfulness and prayers. (Response: We are all one family)

I thought he did a lovey job of capturing many different traditions with that collection of heritages.

Another particularly lovely line:

We bring a hospitality that opens space in our hearts, giving us a willingness to welcome the "other" to make the strangers a guest, and to turn the guest into a friend. (Response: We are all one family)

Then Imam Alauddin El Bakri offered Asr (late afternoon prayer) and Shifu Jian Di led a Dedication of Merits Chant and Rev. Rebecca Kuiken offered us Deep Peace.  The Muslims then put out mats and shared afternoon prayer, folks visited and accepted the lovely scarves that the Muslim community had brought as Eid gifts for us all.

I chatted with Samina who said that she thought that the media was responsible for giving this little guy in Florida, Terry Jones,  too much attention... just like they gave this little guy Osama ben Ladin too much attention and a megaphone to spew hate. She didn't think either was a good representative of their respective faiths. I thought that was a brilliant analysis.

If you want to follow Andrew Kille at he blogs about San Jose Interfaith matters. He will probably have something to say about today's gathering too. 

Bright blessings,

Rowan Fairgrove

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