Center for Interfaith Cooperation

Hoosiers of Many Faiths in Community

A look back at 2015 — Spaces Both Sacred and Intimate

The Center for Interfaith Cooperation seeks to provide opportunities for people of different faiths and cultures to talk with each other. This can be through tours of sacred spaces and places of worship. It can be through the intimate settings of our Living Room Dialogues. Or it can be through our discussions of how a Spiritual Trail in Indianapolis can bring a sense of quiet contemplation to CIC’s neighborhood.

Sacred spaces and spiritual discussions

Sacred Space tour of Al Huda Foundation

On April 26th CIC’s Sacred Space tour visited al Huda Foundation in Fishers. Thanks to our Butler interns Dania Saltagi and Rebecca Rendall for organizing it.

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Jane Gehlhausen on learning about Navaratri at the home of the Patels

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Group dialogue

Vimal and Kusum Patel graciously opened their home to several dozen individuals to learn about the Hindu Festival of Abundance known as Navratri Celebration.

As one walked in the door to their home, you can clearly see the Patel’s live and practice their faith everyday. Their home décor is devoted to their Hindu faith. Every room was adorned with Hindu artwork, the fireplace mantel displayed many Hindu deities. The interfaith peace flag which hung in their dining room, immediately made me feel welcomed, as believer of another faith tradition, yet one with humanity on this earth.

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Hosts: Vimal and Kusum Patel

They have dedicated a sizable room to their own personal Hindu temple. Vimal explained that all Hindu’s have a temple space in their home. Each day the Patels begin their day in the temple room to say prayers. In the evening, they return to the room again and offer prayers.

The evening on October 20, celebrated Navaratri which is a 10-day celebrations . Vimal explains:

This is a very auspicious period as we celebrate various forms of Goddess Durga or the energy principle that makes the manifestation of this cosmos possible. This union of creative energy principle with consciousness principle is the very essence of Hindu vision of manifestation of the Universe and its highest expression in Human form which is endowed with the Divine potential to realize that Purusha in one’s own self. This is the Festival of Abundance, the abundance of Harvests that mother nature has provided for our physical, mental, and spiritual sustenance. The festival culminate on 10th day, known as Vijyadasmi or 10th moon calendar-day representing victory of good over evil.

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Peace Flag in their dining room

The evening ended with homemade dinner especially prepared by Kusum consisting of typical Indian foods, such as samosa’s, chickpeas, rice, and Indian style vegetables.

It was a special evening experiencing their passion and their commitment to their faith as it clearly guides their life in humility and service to others.

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Temple room

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Indian deities on the fireplace mantle

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Peace flag in the dining room

Do you find yourself curious about how others live and practice their religion? Join CIC for a future living room dialogue.

Kusum lights candle of Mother Divine

Kusum lights candle of Mother Divine

Jane Gehhausen on Sukkot in a sukkah

Our hosts Miles and Amanda Siegel

Our hosts Miles and Amanda Siegel

I recently had the privilege to attend a CIC (Center for Interfaith Cooperation) Living Room Dialogue to learn more about the Jewish faith in the home of a Jewish family in our community. The living room dialogue program is offered by the Center for Interfaith Cooperation to share and learn more about each other’s faiths in a more personal home setting. Miles and Amanda Siegel of Congregation Beth El-Zedeck graciously opened their home to a small group so we could see up close and personal how a family celebrates this special holiday in their home. In this case, we learned their practice in celebrating Sukkot, a joyful and celebratory Jewish holiday that follows Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Sukkot are decorated with dried foods and other meaningful items

Sukkot are decorated with dried foods and other meaningful items

The holiday lasts 7 days. Many synagogues and families build a sukkah, a temporary hut, which has 2 meanings. It hearkens back to the ancient fall harvest festival, and also reflects the dwellings that the Israelites lived in for 40 years as they wandered through the wilderness after leaving Egypt. We started our visit in the sukkah built by the Siegel’s. In years past, the Siegel’s indicated they have had progressive dinners with other Jewish families in their neighborhood spending time in each of their sukkot (plural of sukkah). Sukkot must have at least 3 walls, with a roof made from material found in nature, and porous so one can see the stars above.

Rabbi Hal Schevitz explains Sukkot to our group

Rabbi Hal Schevitz explains Sukkot to our group

It was interesting to learn that, following a Jewish mystical practice, on each day of the seven day holiday, Jews welcome famous biblical figures: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph and David to visit the sukkah.

We then gathered inside to learn more about the weekly Shabbat (the Sabbath) and other Jewish rituals performed in the home at other times during the year.

Rabbi Hal explains the four species that are joined together and shaken on Sukkot: Lulav (palm branch), Hadas (myrtle), Aravah (willow), and Etrog (citron).

Rabbi Hal explains the four species that are joined together and shaken on Sukkot: Lulav (palm branch), Hadas (myrtle), Aravah (willow), and Etrog (citron).

As a Catholic interested in understanding other faiths, this was a very special experience. I encourage you to attend a CIC Living Room Dialogue. Our community is blessed with wonderful folks who are open in sharing their faith traditions, so we can enrich ourselves personally through these experiences. Indianapolis is a city rich with diversity. What a wonderful program to both learn about other faiths and celebrate with our neighbors.

The group gathers inside

The group gathers inside

Tara Cravens on IRSC’s visit to An Loc Temple

The Immigrant & Refugee Service Corps is the CIC’s AmeriCorps program that extends access to services to Central Indiana’s population of newcomers. The recently visited a Buddhist temple formed by Vietnamese refugees. New IRSC member Tara Cravens files this report. [See a report about a walking meditation in An Lac Temple by Cic’s Moira Frazier here.]

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​ On the second of October as part of enrichment our group of Immigrant and Refugee Service Corps members was scheduled to tour the An Lac Vietnamese Buddhist Temple, located near the intersection of 30th street and Emerson. I was eager to learn more information about the existence of a Buddhist temple founded by refugees in Indianapolis as I had been trying to get in contact with one of the nuns associated with the temple for a few weeks prior.

Without knowing what to expect, we spent some time exploring the site while waiting for the whole group to arrive. It was fascinating to walk around the outside of the temple in the peaceful silence discovering the multiple components of the temple complex. Countless milky white sculptures depicting representations of Bodhisattvas and prominent figures in the tradition’s lineage were arranged throughout the entire complex. A koi pond with giant lily pads provided an area of reflection and contemplation. Many large, white stones with rust colored Vietnamese quotes carved into their faces helped to highlight the sacredness of the space. I found the experience to be very interesting due to my academic study of Buddhism and personal interest in the beliefs. Though the complex is developed through the Vietnamese lens, the environment invoked nostalgia for the time I spent living in Thailand while completing research for my undergraduate thesis. After removing our shoes and stepping across the threshold into the physical temple, I felt completely at ease and reminisced about the many temples that I visited while traveling through Southeast Asia.

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Our gracious guide, Apostle David A. Scott, provided us with an interesting perspective through his experience as a Christian minister and a practicing Buddhist. [View images from Apostle Scott’s Amama House here.] Throughout our tour of the temple and surrounding gardens he provided several examples outlining the connections between the two religions. I found it to be very intriguing that he mentioned how wonderful it is that he and the master of the temple engage in educational dialogue regarding their respective religions. He discussed the mutual benefits possible if similar dialogue or even a synthesis existed between practitioners of both Christianity and Buddhism. Furthermore, learning about the history of the site and how it grew from one tiny house to a large pagoda with surrounding gardens was captivating. It was also quite moving to hear from one of the nuns about the difficulties the refugees faced when they were first becoming established and the numerous challenges that arose as the years have passed and the order has grown.

Though we only spent about an hour and a half at the An Lac Buddhist temple, I spent the rest of the day thinking about the plethora of Buddhist art I saw and the stimulating discussions that I heard. The peacefulness and warmth that embraced me while I was there remains with me still.

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Spiritual Trail — pilgrimage & brainstorming

One of the leading scholars on pilgrimages if IUPUI Anthropology Prof. Ian McIntosh. On a chilly Saturday morning Ian led more than a dozen people on a brain-storming walk from the Indiana Interchurch Center, through Christian Theological Seminary, to Butler University’s Holcomb Gardens, and back to the Interchurch Center along the canal. The purpose: imagining what a Spiritual Trail would be. Joining the group: Mark Kesling of the da Vinci Pursuit, who helped design a Spiritual Trail for CTS; local history buff Tim Nations; interfaith leader and CIC board member KP Singh (who took most of these pictures); Molly Trueblood of Butler’s Center for Urban Ecology; Charlie Wiles of the Center for Interfaith Cooperation.

The group prepares to set off at the Indiana Interchurch Center

The group prepares to set off at the Indiana Interchurch Center

The Interchurch Center's versions of peace poles ... Faith, Hope & Love poles

The Interchurch Center’s versions of peace poles … Faith, Hope & Love poles

Mark Kesling of the Da Vinci Pursuit guided the group along the part of the Spiritual Trail he helped design for CTS

Mark Kesling of the Da Vinci Pursuit guided the group along the part of the Spiritual Trail he helped design for CTS

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The group looked out over the Canal and White River in front of CTS’s Sfera con Sfera bronze sculpture

A discussion point on campus was Butler's peace pole

A discussion point on campus was Butler’s peace pole

Ian McIntosh tries to keep Butler's increasingly unstable peace pole from toppling over

Ian McIntosh tries to keep Butler’s increasingly unstable peace pole from toppling over

The group reflected on StreamLines, a new science/art installation by Mary Miss

The group reflected on StreamLines, a new science/art installation by Mary Miss

A few days before the pilgrimage, 300 dance students from Butler performed a work commemorating StreamLines

A few days before the pilgrimage, 300 dance students from Butler performed a work commemorating StreamLines

No visit to Butler's Holcomb is complete without stopping by the statue of Persephone

No visit to Butler’s Holcomb is complete without stopping by the statue of Persephone

At the end of the pilgrimage, the group was joined on the canal by Freewheelin Community Bikes's "Bee Like Nancy" riders

At the end of the pilgrimage, the group was joined on the canal by Freewheelin Community Bikes’s “Bee Like Nancy” riders