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Interfaith Council hosts multifaith worship services

Now operating with volunteers only, the Interfaith Council is focusing on educating people about its faith constituents. To do that, it is offering to present multi-faith worship services for interested congregations during their worship hour.

On April 22, Bethany Presbyterian held the first multi-faith service, and on Oct. 14, the Spokane Center for Creative Living held another one.

The service at Bethany arose as an initiative of the congregation’s worship committee. Connecting with the Interfaith Council for resources, they learned the council had a vision of doing something similar.

The Rev. Paul Rodkey of Bethany said the church wants to promote dialogue with faith traditions through doing such a service annually.

Prakash Bhuta
Prakash Bhuta

Aruna and Prakash Bhuta shared a Hindu song and story. Nooshin Aflatooni, a Baha’i formerly of Iran, chanted a Persian prayer. Elliot Fabric of Congregation Ner Tamid and Congregation Beth Haverim shared from the Jewish tradition.

“The service provided awareness of how our spiritual traditions touch the holy,” Paul said. “Our congregation welcomed the guests with receptive hearts. There are so many people. We need to connect with them, valuing, listening to and appreciating the holy each offers.”
He believes congregations need to set aside competitive concepts that “my God is better than your God” or that “only the way we do it is right, holy and perfect.”

“Those approaches are outmoded and dangerous. The faith community is called to higher levels of integrity,” he said. “We need to stop the wars among churches and faiths. When congregations and faiths continue to fight, they each lose, because they foster a demonic presence of fear that leads them to abdicate their mission, ethics and morality.

We have all fallen short,” he said, aware also that each faith expression brings powerful insights to other faiths. “We need to call each other, to remind each other of the big picture, so we do not become reduced to personal piety that divides,” Paul said.

Picking up on the experience at Bethany, the Interfaith Council has a goal of offering multi-faith services within the context of worship services of different congregations.

The hope is to share in worship with different faith traditions, to gain insight into the wisdom of those traditions and to understand how each tradition contributes to world community and reconciliation.

Each service gives a flavor of beliefs through song, chant or story, a short overview, like dipping a tea bag in water for five minutes,” said Joe Urlacher, a Baha’i member of the IC board.

“Given that conflict can come from differences, our goals are to inspire, educate and create understanding by encapsulating multi-faith elements in the worship service of the host congregation,” he said. “It’s more informal and intimate, in the context of one congregation, than the Thanksgiving or Easter community services.”

Joe believes each religion seeks to help believers develop good human relations and become good human beings by finding calmness and peace in themselves, their families and the national and international context.

Without inner peace, we cannot make real peace,” he said. “World peace cannot be achieved through hate or force.”

Joe commented that Baha’u’llah, who was the founder of Baha’i faith, encouraged his followers to “consort with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship.”

Joe Niemiec, co-pastor of the Spokane Center for Creative Living, said that in hosting the multi-faith service in October, he hoped to help his congregation see, understand and honor what different faiths believe.

His study for ministry included study of many religions, including Hinduism, which he practiced for a while.

Some churches and faiths consider it a sin to visit or participate in worship with other churches or faiths. We invited faith communities to come in mutual respect, share a little of their teachings, break bread at a potluck and intermingle after worship,” said Joe Niemiec, who came to Spokane in February from Redding, Calif.

The Interfaith Council will offer resources and people to help one congregation each month hold such a multi-faith service.

Joe Urlacher said they are seeking interested congregations.

Being run by volunteers, the council currently has no ministries. It is focusing on education, which includes displays at community events, as well as the services.

The board includes 10 members and associates who are Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic and Jewish. They have openings for other faith communities and congregations that would like to host a multi-faith service.

For information, call 599-2411 or email jurlacher@sisna.com.

By Mary Stamp, The Fig Tree - Copyright © November 2007