Thursday, December 13, 2007

Bristol Interfaith Midwinter Circle

We went to the Bristol Interfaith Midwinter Circle last night, and it was fabulous. Each community representative lit a candle on the main table before offering their contribution.

Muslim contribution – Samina Aslam & children – relating to the Prophet Ibrahim & the Hajj, also a Sufi poem by Rumi. This was great, because Samina told the story of Hagar / Hajar from the perspective of Islam, and it is slightly expanded from the Biblical version. I always thought it was sad that Hagar was sent away, so was glad to know that she was looked after (it mentions the spring and the idea that she was the ancestor of a nation in the Bible).

Progressive Jewish Congregation contribution – Rabbi Ron Berry – celebration of Chanukah, and about the Hanukiah. The Chanukah story is always rather moving, and also he lit a candle next to the Muslim candle, which was deeply symbolic in many ways.

Christian contribution – June Ridd – telling us about the significance of Advent. I never knew that each of the four Advent candles stood for something different: the first week is the Prophets, the second week is the Patriarchs, the third week is John the Baptist, and the fourth week is the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais contribution – Angela Parr – a reading & a poem. She read from Baha'ullah and then a poem by John Masefield, Laugh and be merry.
So we must laugh and drink from the deep blue cup of the sky,
Join the jubilant song of the great stars sweeping by,
Laugh, and battle, and work, and drink of the wine outpoured
In the dear green earth, the sign of the joy of the Lord.
Buddhist community of Lam Rim contribution – Mike Austin – he read from the Capala Sutra, which reminds Buddhists how to stay awake.

Hindu contribution - an explanation of the daily Aarti ceremony and how it employs the symbolism of the five elements (sky, air, fire, earth, water); a mantra that goes with it; and a reading about the spiritual journey in Hinduism, which culminates in moksha, union with the Divine.

Pagan contribution – Yvonne Aburrow and Nick Hanks – a brief overview of the Pagan customs of Yuletide, past and present. I talked about Saturnalia as the inversion of the usual social order; Yule as the turning point in the wheel of the year, and the oldest known symbols of Yule, which are the antlered man and the old woman; and the Pagan origins of decking the house with greenery and exchanging gifts. Nick talked about how Pagans celebrate Yule now, and about the symbolism of the Christmas tree.

Unitarian contribution – Bernard Omar read a piece about the interfaith significance of the scouting movement, and the interfaith commitments of Unitarianism. He also had the lights turned out during his reading, and read by candlelight, and invited us to imagine we were sitting around a large bonfire, like the Scouts!

Sokka Gakai contribution – Will Grealish led the chanting of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, a mantra from the Lotus Sutra.

Sikh contribution – Mr Singh Bisla & priests - singing accompanied by harmonium & tabla. This was very beautiful and full of yearning for the Divine.

No comments: