The following is a reflection from Jane Lee Wolfe, St. James, Woodstock parishioner and Director of Bog Chapel, Inc. an education not-for-profit organization that focuses on the spiritual health and spiritual fitness of human beings, from youth through old age.
The Parliament of the World’s Religions is the oldest global interfaith movement on record. It began in Chicago in 1893. It is held in different countries, returning this year to the USA after a 22 year hiatus. There will be another Parliament in two years – the increasing frequency of them due to the speed at which life is moving. The mission of the Parliament is to cultivate harmony – not unity – among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and to foster the engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.
10,000 people attended the Parliament in Salt Lake City from October 15-19, 2015. These people came from over 80 countries and 50 different religious and spiritual traditions. Being there was a wonderful, holy experience. As Parliament Board Chair Imam Abdul Makik Mujahid says, “Faith brings out the best in us, and interfaith brings out the best of our faiths.” My report is written in meditation form:
A JOURNEY: MEDITATIONS 12 – 22
I took a trip
My driver had moved from
The least human populated state
To the second-least.
Working his way up
The civilization ladder.
I took a trip
Sleeping in my seat
On both flights
Tired and free from
The grind of
Work and chores.
I took more trips
Driven by my beloved daughter
To her new house
To her community of humble friends
To a dinner of dumplings
We walked the dogs,
Went to sleep
In a comfy bed
In the beautiful house.
I slept a lot
As did my daughter.
I woke up
To do my work
To eat some noodles
We’d carried out
The night before.
Yesterday we went
Shopping for food
We bought lots of things
Frozen vegetables and fruit
Bread, milk and orange juice.
Yesterday we went
To the dog park
So the beagles could
Run around and sniff.
Then we came home
My daughter made a
I made a salad.
We watched TV
And went to bed.
Yesterday I took
Two flights and got
To Salt Lake City,
Michael and I.
I tried to put a quarter
In a slot machine in Vegas.
Bills only, the lady said
When I asked her where it went.
We are in town.
It is very clean. No litter
No leaves, no trees – a bush
Or two. We walk from
Our spotless nest on a spotless
Avenue to a spotless café
In the John Smith building.
“I’m from Vermont, just like him,”
I say to no one in particular.
The temple is across the street.
Entrance by interview, membership and
Tithing only. “There’s a model in
The museum,” the lady on the plane
Tells me. I take Michael’s picture
With the temple in the background.
We walk home, buy some groceries,
Find the night entrance and
Go to bed
In our spotless rooms in the
Spotless Episcopal Retreat Center.
Yesterday I walked,
Michael and I – we
Walked a lot: to the
Convention place, the mall,
The grocery store and home.
Out again for dinner.
In between I rested, Michael worked.
I visited the Cathedral, fussed
At the staff for being out of candles
To light, and for having a large Israeli
Display from a Holy Land trip;
No Christians, no Muslims,
Just blue and white.
Dinner was great!
One block off the sanitized
Routes to the temple
And convention sites, reality entered
Reassuringly: guns, graffiti, bars,
Pool and the Lebanese restaurant where
We had good food.
No dark pants, white shirts and neckties.
It’s funny to be on the cleanways:
The beggars seem like improv –
Colorful characters popping up
Here and there,
On roads where hurt and despair
Are not allowed.
Yesterday I was tired
I laid down a lot
Allowing life to
Wash over me.
I dealt with intense
Personal stuff and trivia
Exhausting myself with both.
It was ok.
Michael and I walked
To the convention center
To register. Delayed.
The exhibition booths were
Being set up.
We walked through what the
Program books says will be over
Twelve hundred booths.
Books, beliefs, single interests,
Homemade spiritual art,
I felt already small.
The registration line was a
Jolly mix of happy and
Frustrated people. We got our
Stuff, left, had dinner, walked home.
Joy was there on the telephone:
Zibilla had a glorious visit with
My heart rejoiced;
I’d had a lovely day.
Yesterday I went to
The Parliament of the World’s Religions
First ever Women’s Session.
There was great enthusiasm
From three thousand women
It was beautiful to see the energy
For lifting up women
And shaking out the fear
Of the patriarchy.
My friend Pam from
World Day of Prayer USA was there.
One speaker said that the way we treat
The earth is the way we treat women; and
Ultimately how we treat women will determine
How we treat the earth.
The evening opening plenary for all participants
Began with drumming, dancing, remarks and prayers
By the indigenous tribes of Utah.
Simple, profound, profoundly spiritual.
This was followed by a colorful and diverse group
Of religious reps offering the same.
Michael and I walked home and went to bed.
Yesterday was long –
Eighteen hours from start to finish.
Michael and I did our workshop
On Spiritual Tools and How to Use Them.
Twenty-five to thirty people showed up
Early in the morning – 8a.m.
It went well.
The plenary following was a feast
Of powerful women speakers from
Around the world.
Many calls to action,
Many claiming the earth for womankind.
They were supposed to pray,
But few did.
A discussion session by a group of
Israelis, Palestinian Christians, Druze
And Palestinian Muslims
Was my most holy experience that day.
Twelve years together.
They love each other in the
Matter-of-fact way of families.
They do things together now and then.
This is Peace to me:
Regular people, small acts, performed
In harmony, with quiet joy.
Yesterday was a blur
Of magnificent speakers
Talking about poverty,
Violence, refugees, migrants –
Discipline, courage, love –
On and on.
What is required of faith?
Based in love.
I had Michael take a picture of me
With one of them.
After he spoke I said,
“I had my picture taken with you
Beforehand. You were good.”
“That’s why I was good,” he said.
“No doubt about it,” I said.
“No doubt at all. Touched the hem
Of her garment,” he replied
And walked away.
The Sikhs serving lunch – Langar it’s called.
What a beautiful, holy day.
A massive work
Worth dying for,
Or dying anyway.
It was also about nuclear weapons
Which change the climate
By poisoning the air forever.
It was about being just.
About caring for the earth
By caring for other people
As well as the planet: Yes,
In order to care for the planet.
“Where are your wounds,” God said.
“I don’t know,” said the person just arrived
At heaven. “Was there nothing in your
Life worth fighting for?”
If our earth is not worth
Caring for, nor our brothers
And sisters on it,
Then what is the point.
We live and die as one people,
Yesterday the 2015 Parliament
Ended. Another one in two years,
I slept ten hours and
Missed one workshop and
The indigenous peoples plenary.
I attended the Sikh Langar
One last time, amazed at this holy gift.
A workshop on faith and media,
A choral concert and the closing plenary.
It did not conclude the influence
The impact of individual and community
Alive and committed to “reviving the
Heart of humanity,” stays with me.
Regular people, important people,
Experts of all sorts, were kind and joyful,
Happy to be free of ego domination, arrogance
A powerful peace untied everyone;
Justice, compassion and humility
Yesterday I returned
To Vermont from Salt Lake City.
Ten days of virtually
No responsibilities other than
To get myself from one place
I visited my daughter who I love.
I traveled with Michael who I love.
I spent my days among
Thousands of people living by faith –
The sub-connector below belief
That unifies us all.
I am so blessed!
I am so filled with grace.
I have absorbed the waters
Of justice and mercy, and
Thrown in a cup of forgiveness
Myself. I have lived in a better world.
Thank you, God.
My driver from the airport to home
Was a triathelete frm New Jersey.
He is going to be a physical therapist
Assistant; and run, and swim