“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Interfaith Worship at Christ Episcopal Church, Dearborn, Makes the News

This article appeared in the Detroit News today.



Interfaith worship provides education, understanding
The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski,Gail Katz and Eide Alawan

Imagine the primary Sunday morning service in a Christian church that begins with a 9-year-old Muslim boy offering the Islamic Call to Prayer, followed by a woman lighting candles on a table set with bread, wine and grape juice and offering the Jewish prayers that begin the Sabbath worship, followed by an Episcopal priest offering the "collect of the day."

So began the interfaith service over the weekend at Christ Episcopal Church in Dearborn. Parishioners specifically requested the service after reading about the national "Faith Shared" project, organized by Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First. The challenge in planning such a service was in knowing who from the other faith traditions to invite to help organize and participate in the service.

It was a serendipitous coincidence, in which the date scheduled nationwide for the service, June 26, happened to also fall at the conclusion of the 10th anniversary of the Worldviews Seminar, so the Rev. Terri Pilarski of Christ Episcopal Church had the chance to make contacts in the interfaith world and successfully organize the service.

Co-created by Christ Church, Episcopal Relief and Development, the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the Islamic Center of America, the seminar provides a weeklong course on world religions.

The service included portions of Muslim, Jewish and Christian worship, honoring each tradition in the process. Beginning with each tradition's call to prayer and worship, the service included readings from and reflections on the sacred texts of the Torah and the Gospels, plus a reading from the Quran, chanted in Arabic and translated into English.

Gail Katz, co-founder of Women's Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in Metro Detroit and member of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, brought her family's Sabbath candlesticks, and after lighting the Shabbat candles, she blessed them in Hebrew and welcomed everyone.

Yousif Makki, a member of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, chanted the Muslim Call to Prayer, and his brother, Younes, explained the meaning of the Arabic prayer in English.

Katz also shared the "Parashah" of the week — the Torah portion read that week in synagogues all over the world. Younes followed the sharing of the Torah portion with a reading from the Quran. Prayers over a meal were offered by each tradition, and the bread, wine and juice were shared among the gathered congregation.

Each component of the worship offered the comparable element from each tradition. To us, the only unusual aspect of the service was that the various elements were woven into a typical order for a Sunday morning worship service in the Episcopal Church.

Not every Jewish or Muslim worship experience would include all of these elements in one service, although they are each a component of faithful practice in the life of a Jew or Muslim.

Dearborn is a special community that honors its diversity and enjoys sincere hospitality and compassion among the people of this city. While this worship service was a first for the community, it is just one example of the many ways that Jews, Christians and Muslims work together and learn from each other, for the good of all.

Hearing each other's prayers and learning about our diverse faith traditions are ways to move forward to break down our cultural, ethnic and religious segregation, which is often far too pronounced in greater metropolitan Detroit. The more we learn about the faith-based practices of our neighbors who might dress differently, eat different foods and speak different languages, the more we find our commonality as human beings and underscore our similar missions of unity, peace, community-building and mutual understanding.

The purpose of this service, one of dozens nationwide inspired by the national Faith Shared project organized by the Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First, both based in Washington, D.C., was not to blend our diverse ways of worshipping God into one common service, nor was it an invitation to create one world religion.

Rather, it was decisively an opportunity to learn from one another and celebrate our differences as we honored our similarities.

The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski is rector of Christ Episcopal Church; Gail Katz is co-founder of WISDOM; and Eide Alawan represents the office of Interfaith Outreach of the Islamic Center of America. Email comments to letters@detnews.com.