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Interfaith program gives overview of welcoming, coming of age traditions

Recognizing that each faith has ways to celebrate birth, honor children and recognize a coming of age time, the Spokane Interfaith Council held a panel presentation in October at the Cathedral of St. John to discuss those traditions.

Spokane Interfaith Council
Shonna Bartlett and Joe Niemiec at the Spokane Interfaith Council panel presentation

In addition to presentations by representatives of Baha’i, Latter-Day Saints, the Center for Spiritual Living, Catholic, Muslim and Hindu traditions, 30 participants engaged in one-to-one discussions on their traditions.

Baha’i traditions
Joe Urlacher, active with the Interfaith Council for many years, said the main teaching of Baha’i is that all religions are one and represent aspirations of humankind. Their prophets and manifestations of God all receive God’s Word, he said.  Baha’i, which started in 1844, has no ritual for welcoming children, said Joe, an East Valley elementary school teacher.

“We teach children virtues.  The first is unity,” he said.  “The second is love.

“We believe children from four to six years already possess a pure, kindly, radiant heart,” he said.
He said Baha’i help children internalize God’s word in Baha’i sacred writings and learn about different religions.

“In time, they own God’s word for themselves,” Joe said.  “At age 15, the Baha’i faith recognizes children as spiritual adults.  They can make a declaration of their faith, affirming how they will recognize their purpose in life to follow God’s word and Baha’i laws of fasting and prayer.”

Latter-Day Saints traditions
Dave Ross, co-director of public affairs for the Inland Northwest Area of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, said the family, with the church’s help, orients children to believe in Jesus Christ as savior.

“Babies are not baptized in the first few weeks but are blessed at a service and have their names recorded in the church records.  Children attend primary classes from ages three to 12, and learn principles of goodness and belief in the Bible as God’s Word and in the Book of Revelation of the Book of Mormon, another testament of Christ,” he said.

Eight is considered at the age of accountability when they are baptized for the remission of their sins and become full members.

At 12, there is a “coming of age” when girls enter the young women’s program and boys enter the young men’s group.  Young men are ordained to the priesthood and can serve the sacraments during Sunday services, he said.

Dave added that when young men turn 19, they are encouraged to serve a two-year mission.

Science of Mind traditions
Joe Niemiec, co-minister of the Center for Spiritual Living, said his faith is based on the Science of Mind and writings of Ernest Holmes.  While some in the New Thought community consider themselves Christian, others see Jesus as a great teacher and study the Bible metaphorically.
“We consider that a child is born perfect, not with original sin, so we introduce and welcome a child to the spiritual community by sprinkling the child with water to acknowledge his or her perfection,” he said.

The center has primary classes for children up to 12 and a youth group for 13- to 19-year-olds.  The youth experience includes an annual summer week of intense seminars, part of a coming of age process men and women do separately.

Roman Catholic traditions
Shonna Bartlett, program director of Gonzaga University’s Ministry Institute and member of St. Ann’s parish, said Roman Catholics have prayers of blessing for pregnant women, new babies, cribs and all aspects of life.

While once baptism was viewed as a sacrament to protect a newborn from going to Hell, it is now about welcoming a baby into the community of faith, and about the parents, godparents and community promising to raise the child in the faith, she said.

Full initiation into the Roman Catholic Church includes three sacraments:  baptism, first Eucharist and confirmation.  At seven, considered the age of reason after a child has done some study, a child has first Eucharist, formerly first communion.  Confirmation, which was once a sacrament for junior or senior high youth, is now offered at the first Eucharist.

“Then children at St. Ann’s can be lectors, Eucharistic ministers and do other liturgical tasks so they know they are part of the community,” Shonna said.

“There is not a coming of age ceremony in the Catholic Church itself, but ethnic groups have welcoming ceremonies, such as the Quinceañera celebration of Hispanic cultures when a young woman turns 15 and makes a profession of faith,” she said.

Muslim traditions
Nasreen Shah, a student at Eastern Washington University and member of the Spokane Islamic Center, said Muslim traditions vary, because people coming to the center are from so many national and cultural heritages.

When a baby is born, parents recite the Asan, or call to prayer, in the baby’s right ear:  “God is the Greatest.  God is One. Mohammed is the last and final messenger.  Always come to prayer.  God is the Greatest.  God is One.”

Parents choose a child’s name from the Koran.  In some cultures, such as Pakistani, parents may sacrifice a lamb or goat and give the meat to the poor.

Coming of age for Muslims, she said, is at 14 or 15.  Then a young person is treated as an adult and expected “to participate in more of the regulatory traditions, such as fasting during Ramadan.”
Parents teach prayers and the Koran, having children recite teachings in the Koran, she said.

Growing up in Spokane, Nasreen attended Sunday classes with children of four other families at a North Spokane house, the Spokane Islamic Center’s former meeting place.  Because the Muslim community is larger today, they use a curriculum.

“We learned Suras—Arabic prayers—so we had to learn the alphabet.  We learned in the Koran of stories of Noah, the prophets, Moses and Jesus,” she said.

Hindu traditions
Sreedharani Nandagopol, a Hindu, who teaches math at Spokane Falls Community College and leads the South Asia Cultural Association, said she could not briefly summarize 10,000 years of Hindu tradition, because it “is not a structured religion.”

Children are considered children from birth to five, and then are youth.  Teachings are through home life.

“Hinduism represents one billion people in India with more than 1,000 languages,” said Sreedharani, who is from South India and does not know North Indian traditions.

The main traditions include a baby shower and blessings in the seventh month of pregnancy.  From then through birth and after, the mother is not left alone because of difficulties in late months of pregnancy and early months after birth with the possibility of postpartum depression.

Grandfathers take a baby outside and sit in the sun on days one and two, to relieve jaundice.
“Hinduism is a practical faith combining science and religion,” she said.

The 10th day, a baby is named, often for a Hindu god or goddess, so names of gods and goddesses are always on people’s tongues, she said.  A child is taken to the temple from then on.
There are celebrations of the first solid food, haircut and other firsts, Sree said, “because we like holidays.”  The Saturday after the 10th day is a festival to the goddess of education. Children learn first to respect their mothers, second their fathers, third their teachers and fourth their guests.
Children learn at home as they hear parents and grandparents chanting prayers at home every day and see how they live.

Boys come of age between seven and 15, and girls, at their first menstrual period.

For information, call 534-1011.


Copyright © January 2011 - The Fig Tree