Solidarity Pledge One Year Later, Sharing Sacred Spaces Wraps Year Two
June 10 is the first anniversary of the signing of a powerful solidarity pledge on the Federal Plaza in Chicago by the eight Sharing Sacred Spaces: Downtown Chicago religious communities who participated in a pilot program of interreligious community building. The project was created in partnership between the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions and Suzanne Morgan of Sacred Space International. This weekend also the completion of the second year of the work of these eight congregations building solidarity for mutual support and neighborhood service.
How Did The Sacred Spaces Solidarity Pledge Come About?
Morgan says the idea of the solidarity pledge was ignored when it was first put on the table. “I would say they were challenged to do something they had not done before; even though they may have said they wanted to stand together, they had not yet thought of actually making a public declaration and signing a pledge that committed them to that action. ” Six months into the project, a template was finally considered. “It was one person from the Seventeenth Church of Christ Scientist who woke up in the night and put together an entire pledge, which was then unanimously accepted by all eight representatives.”
The following steps required each congregation seek formal approval by their individual congregational governance structures, then declare their commitments to state their tradition’s ability to work with other religions for peace, which was a brand new process for many of the involved congregations. “For [my Sacred Space], this was a complex process and took a couple of months,” Morgan says.
How Suzanne Morgan Measures The Impact Of The Solidarity Pledge
The fact that all eight congregations got up at the podium, read their tradition’s declaration and signed the pledge on behalf of that tradition, along with Vance Henry of the Mayor’s office, and the CPWR, was amazing and touching. The proof of its effect, for me, was when a man working on the stage and sound setup came up to me afterward. He said to me, ‘My wife and I are having problems; Monday we are going to a marriage counselor. Well, after what I have witnessed here today, people of these different faiths, known by their fighting around the world, agreeing to work together in the face of any defamation or threat to their religions, certainly, I can work things out with my wife!’
That did it for me!
Deep Connections Over Year Two Programs
Congregation Sinai invited each of the communities to view thought provoking documentaries with a presentation by a panel of speakers and Muslim-led open dialogue. Chicago Sinai also invited each of the communities to an educational Seder dinner fostering love of neighbor and interfaith understanding.
During UN designated World Interfaith Harmony Week, The Downtown Islamic Center demonstrated the hospitality of Abraham by hosting a meal and dialogue workshop: Beyond Separation, Seeds of Change, Dialogue Skills for Cultivating Interreligious Cooperation. A Program of Dialogue for the Common Good, LLC. In addition, Islamic prayers were explained, followed by open dialogue to respond to curious participants.
Also during World Interfaith Harmony Week, the Midwest Buddhist Temple and Sacred Spaces jointly hosted a New Year celebration programmed to release the hardships and limitations of the past and to plant seeds of hope and peace. All the religious communities were invited to share and present at this experiential interreligious New Year’s ceremony, dining on symbolic Japanese cuisine and refreshments.
Fourth Presbyterian Church invited the Sacred Space communities to the Community Grand Opening of their newly constructed Gratz Center followed by an Open House. Guests enjoyed lively conversations together, appetizers, and live music. Fourth Presbyterian Church also hosted an event with world-renowned speaker Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Chairman of the Cordoba Institute and member of the Interfaith Center of New York.
Old St. Pat’s Catholic Church invited the Sacred Spaces religious communities to their annual Memorial Service for the homeless attracting so much attendance it became a standing room only event.
Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist invited the religious communities to participate an intimate experiential Mid-Week Prayer Meeting focused on “How Can We Feel Safe in the Face of Danger.” The evening began with sacred readings from Holy Scripture and Mary Baker Eddy’s works, and progressed into quiet time in between open dialogue, as participants felt compelled to share.
Saint James Episcopal Cathedral ended the second year of events with a Concert & Photographic Display, “Portraits and Voices” by Michael Nye on Mental Health Disorders in the United States.
Sharing Sacred Spaces in Hyde Park, Chicago Launched, Too
The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religion’s Sharing Sacred Spaces program has two objectives for interreligious community building in a neighborhood or city: (1) to facilitate a collection of diverse congregations to become comfortable with each other and enthusiastic about signing a pledge of solidarity agreeing to stand with each other in the face of antireligious defamation or threat and then (2) to see that newly bonded group select a humanitarian issue in their neighborhood/city to address, and articulate a way to implement a solution together.
A May 5 event at First Unitarian Church completed a yearlong program from the Sharing Sacred Spaces project in Hyde Park. Six South-Side Chicago congregations agreed to each hold an event at their sacred space for the purpose of interreligious engagement for those attending, including KAMII congregation, Ellis Avenue Church, Chicago Theological Seminary, Augustana Lutheran Church, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church
The Sunday afternoon events began in October of 2012 and were completed this May. A second year of events is being planned to continue the engagement. The Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council has been in existence for over 100 years, mainly consisting of Christian denominations in the Hyde Park area. With the SSS program, they plan to widen their vision to include additional traditions in new ways.
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