How Congregations Celebrate

HOW CONGREGATIONS CELEBRATE PLURALISM SUNDAY:

On Pentecost Sunday, June 8, 2014, the First Lutheran Church of San Francisco will hold a Global Mass created by its music director, Orion Pitts.  In the summer of 2013, over 12 weeks, the church invited people from the following traditions to speak to the congregation:  Muslim, Jewish, Baha’i, Wiccan, Sikh, Secular Humanist, 2 different orders of Sufis, Religious Science, Swedenborgian, Hindu and a woman ordained in the Roman Catholic Womenpriests movement.

On Sunday, February 13, 2011, the guest preacher at First Congregational UCC Long Beach, CA, was an incredibly articulate young Hindu student from the University of Southern California. Arin Ghosh preached about “The Faith Journey of a Young Hindu” and then led a forum after church. Planned for a Sunday later in the year is a sermon by Sherrel Johnson, Assistant to the Director of the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), sharing the story of her pilgrimage from Christianity to Islam – she too will lead a forum after the service.

On Sunday May 1, 2011, the “Conversations about Progressive Christianity” study group of Lynnhaven (VA) Colony Congregational Church, United Church of Christ is sponsoring its Second Annual International Pluralism Sunday. After the success of sharing with several of its local Buddhist communities last year, this year the church will be sharing time and attention with members of the Jewish community. Rabbi Israel Zoberman, Founding Rabbi of Congregation Beth Chaverim in Virginia Beach, will be the speaker for Pluralism Sunday at Colony Congregational. May 1st is also Holocaust Remembrance Day and the church will approach this solemn remembrance from an Interfaith perspective and the themes that follow for the whole human family. In addition to this special day of worship May 1st at 10:00 am and potluck meal at 11:00 am, several other learning opportunities are planned: a Shabbat service with Congregation Beth Chaverim on Friday April 15th at 7:30 pm and the community-wide Holocaust Remembrance Day service at 6:45 pm on Sunday May 1st at Ohef Shalom Temple in Ghent.

The Unitarian Church of Weymouth, MA, will feature a Pluralism Sunday sermon by the pastor, Richard Trudeau, on May 1 titled “More Like an Eddy than a Rock,” presenting the basic ideas of Buddhism, contrasting them with those of Christianity, and pointing out ways in which the two supplement each other.

Past celebrations of Pluralism Sunday:

At the Congregational Church UCC of Belmont, CA, the Jeff Taylor Jazz Group offered music, and a local Muslim imam spoke as well as a professor of Jewish holocaust history and a chaplain for Mission Hospice who is a New Thought minister.

Mt Hollywood Congregational UCC of Los Angeles, CA, hosted a performance in worship of the SHANTI interfaith student choir of the University of Southern California.

Unity Church of Monterey, CA, hosted a 4 week class on Islam during the month of May open to the public. The church used Karen Armstrong’s “Muhammad, A Prophet for Our Times” as a starting point and had local Muslims participating in a dialogue to promote understanding between diverse sacred paths.

At Pioneer Congregational UCC in Sacramento, an imam from the Sacramento League of Associated Muslims spoke at the worship service.

Rev. Laurie Manning of Skyline Community UCC Church in Oakland preached “on the power of the Holy Spirit as the reversal of the Tower of Babel, the divine translator and unifier, that brings all people, all cultures, all religions, races, all differences together in dialogue and harmony.”

Holy Redeemer Reformed Catholic Church, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, had a Muslim speaker present areas of agreement between historical Christianity and Islam, and incorporated various prayers of different religious traditions into its Mass.

University Place Christian Church in Enid, Oklahoma celebrated Pluralism Sunday with readings from various world religions included in the main worship service.

The Prince of Peace Progressive Christian Alliance in Anniston, Alabama, held a service that included readings from the Muslim and Buddhist traditions, with a guest speaker from a local mosque.

First Congregational Church, UCC, of Phoenix, AZ, used the Pentecost event and texts “God’s Spirit poured out on all flesh” in worship, as well as using the relevant passage of the Phoenix Affirmations (www.CrosswalkAmerica.org ), in the sermon, prayers, and preface for communion.

The Pluralism Sunday service at Bethany United Methodist in San Francisco, CA, included a litany that was written for the 2007 Rocky Mountain Annual Conference Holy Communion Service with some adaptions. The sermon was preached by Rob Herrmann and entitled, “What I Learned About God From My Mother” The sermon explored the relationship between a fundamentalist parent and a progressive son using their differences as a parallel to religions different approaches to God. The Revised Common Lectionary supplied Numbers 11:24-30 as a reading which was used to explore different experiences of God as real.

Mizpah United Church of Christ in Hopkins, MN, did a pulpit exchange with Bet Shalom Temple (Jewish).

The Congregational Church of Fullerton, UCC, in Fullerton, CA included people from the local Buddhist community to participate in worship and be part of a forum on Christian-Buddhist beliefs and relations.

Barbara Currie, pastor of the Congregational Church in Deering, NH, preached about how Jesus is the church’s gate to God, yet there are other equally important and creditable gates to God for other people.

Epiphany Community Universalist Unitarian Church of Fenton, Michigan, invited a Zen Buddhist with a Christian background to be the preacher that day “so that we could experience the similarities of our faith paths,” said Anne Lerche, the pastor.

At Brea (CA) Congregational UCC Church, Rev Dr. Jeanyne B. Slettom will preach on Dr. John Cobb’s idea of “mutual transformation,” in the context of peace. The service included prayers for peace from different faith traditions, and a soloist will sing the Hebrew “Shir Lashalom” (Song of Peace).

Christ Community Church in Spring Lake, MI, conducted a study group leading up to Pluralism Sunday, focusing on the book, “The Faith Club”, about three women, a Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew, who seek to find bridges between their religious traditions.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Penn Yann, NY, had a Jewish, Muslim, Bahai and Christian “dialogue” sermon. The Hebrew Scriptures were read in Hebrew and the cantor wiled singing during the service. There was a reading from the Qur’an and from the Bahai writings. The Prayers of the People included prayers from these other religious traditions. After church there was a discussion forum with the guests and the rector doing a panel discussion on pluralism.

The United Church of Christ in Richmond Beach, WA, conducted its worship in its social hall with a feast of food from many cultures around the world, as a Pentecost “birthday party” for the Christian church, integrating the theme of religious pluralism. Its pastor, Rev. Joy Haertig, preached that “we can celebrate and give thanks without being better or more right or true than others.”

Pluralism Sunday worship at Paradise Hills United Church of Christ in San Diego, CA, included a presentation from a Buddhist, an overview of recent church field trips to a Buddhist Sangha and Jewish temple, and a Jewish liturgy and (hopefully) a Muslim Iman.

The Congregational Church of Fullerton, CA, invited a local Muslim leader to be part of their worship service and to speak at a luncheon following.

Spirit of Peace UCC Church of San Antonio, TX, invited its fellow members of PRO San Antonio, an interfaith faith-based community organizing group, to a special Pluralism Sunday event from 5-6 pm. Members of different faith traditions spoke about their traditions, offered prayers, and provided visual symbols of their faith.

Robert Abdul Hayy Darr, a Muslim and a translator of the mystical poetry of Rumi and Hafiz, was the preacher at Sausalito (CA) Presbyterian Church. Chants from the religions of the world were sung by the congregation in worship.

University Place Christian Church in Enid, OK, participated in Pluralism Sunday with a liturgy conducted in multiple languages and readings from various world religions. Its pastor, Rev. Jerry Ray Galbreath, teaches comparative religion at Northern Oklahoma College.

Mitzpah United Church of Christ held a pulpit exchange with the Bet Shalom Reform Jewish congregation, also in West Metro Minneapolis.

Evangelical United Church of Christ in St. Louis, MO, focused its worship on the book “Does God Have a Big Toe?” by a Jewish rabbi, Marc Gellman.

At Plymouth Congregational Church in Plymouth, NH, Dr. Joan Roughgarden, evolutionary biologist at Stanford University,preached about Christianity and science. “The tensions between scientist and theologians (people of faith and people who research life) is also a form of pluralistic understanding that is needed in this polarized culture of ours,” said the church’s pastor, Rev. Judith Gooch.

St. John’s Episcopal Church in Williamstown, MA., welcomed to its pulpit Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser, spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, MA, and was the special guest at a forum afterward.

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