[editor’s note: this is an older letter by Rev. Leland Steward from Nov., 2015. Sorry, I was not able to update the site for a while]
Relating to the Parliament of the World’s Religions
“The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us.” –Nelson Mandela, quoted in Science and Spirituality, page 169
Many people who are interested in the Parliament and its development went to Salt Lake City in mid-October to take part in the sixth Parliament of the World’s Religions. It was a five-day event, and it brought together about eight thousand people for what some said was “a heavenly experience”. The event was educational, inspirational, and action-oriented.
There was a plenary session almost every day, and there were a huge number of workshops throughout the five days. It was held at the Salt Palace, a large building in downtown Salt Lake City which required a great deal of walking in order to take in the different workshops and plenary sessions. The Sikhs offered a free lunch each day, which drew large numbers of people who found their food most tasty.
One of the major focal points of this Parliament was the sessions focusing on women and women’s issues. Some of these were on the day before the Parliament opened, but there were also sessions on opening day and beyond. Indigenous issues were also a major element. Likewise there was a plenary on war, violence, and hate speech.
Outside of the Salt Palace was a tepee, which became a focus for Native American activity and prayers. There were numerous Native American leaders at the Parliament, and various workshops and plenary sessions also included them.
One workshop especially appealed to me, and that was Matthew Fox’s Cosmic Mass. Not only is the Cosmic Mass interfaith in its inclusiveness, but it involved active participation on the part of those who attended. There was an overflow crowd for this workshop and an enthusiastic response from those who were present. Although the Cosmic Mass was highly technological in its presentation, it also has a direct application to the worship experience on an ongoing basis. We could learn a great deal that could be utilized in our Sunday morning gatherings.
The Parliament had an outstanding plenary on the final day, which included reflections on what had taken place plus projections into the future. The most major new development that was announced at that time was that future Parliaments will occur every two years. This step indicates how the interfaith movement has expanded in the last few years and the energy which propels it forward. It will be interesting to see how this step works out and what kind of participation it will generate.
Spirit is One; paths are many!!!