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Interfaith Trolley affords inspiration and a whirlwind tour of faith in America

CHICAGO (RNS) — In America’s third largest metropolis, it’s potential to get a crash course on the earth’s religions in a journey of only a few miles — from the College of Chicago’s majestic, ecumenical Christian Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on Chicago’s South Aspect to the common-or-garden Masjid Al-Taqwa, which meets in a transformed steady, nonetheless below renovation a 15-minute trip to the south.

On Orthodox Christian Easter (April 24), 70 or so passengers took that trip on the Interfaith Trolley, a tour of sacred areas impressed by this month’s convergence of Ramadan, Passover, Easter, Vaisakhi (celebrated by Sikhs), Ridvan (noticed by Baha’is) and Ram Navami (a Hindu vacation).

Maybe extra paying homage to speed-dating than a comparative faith course, the tour made temporary stops at 5 non secular websites throughout southeast Chicago, listening to from a collection of religion leaders and lay folks from totally different non secular teams.

Sponsored by native religion establishments corresponding to American Islamic School, the Lutheran Faculty of Theology, the Parliament of the World’s Religions and the Hyde Park & Kenwood Interfaith Council, the trolley was supposed to advertise interfaith understanding and cooperation.

“This was an attractive occasion, way more stunning than I anticipated,” stated Kim Schultz, coordinator of artistic initiatives on the InterReligious Institute, a part of Chicago Theological Seminary. “The phrases shared and the group shared actually struck my coronary heart.”

Individuals collect to hitch the Chicago Interfaith Trolley Tour, April 24, 2022. RNS photograph by Bob Smietana


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“That is an unbelievable alternative to come back collectively to coach our communities and form the general public narrative about what it means to reside nicely collectively amidst our non secular and cultural range and distinction,” organizers stated in saying the occasion.

Chicago Interfaith Trolley Tour participants stop at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel at the University of Chicago, Sunday, April 24, 2022. RNS photo by Bob Smietana

Chicago Interfaith Trolley Tour individuals cease at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel on the College of Chicago, April 24, 2022. RNS photograph by Bob Smietana

On the Rockefeller Chapel, Mayher Kaur, the chief of the Sikh Scholar Affiliation gave an outline of Sikh practices and defined that Sikh gurus labored to beat India’s caste system. A Hindu scholar informed individuals about Ram Navami, a Hindu vacation that fell on April 10 that celebrates the delivery of Lord Rama, whose story is informed in Ramayana. Shradha Jain, a Jain scholar spoke of her religion’s beliefs and the April 14 competition of Mahavir Jayanti, marking the delivery of Jainism’s founder.

At Ebenezer Baptist Church, Patricia Butts, the church’s clerk, recounted the congregation’s musical historical past — Thomas Dorsey, composer of “Take My Hand, Treasured Lord,” based an early gospel choir there within the early Thirties earlier than shifting to Pilgrim Baptist Church, the place the previous bluesman was music director for half a century. Assembly in a former synagogue, Ebenezer stays identified for its gospel music and its annual efficiency of Handel’s “Messiah.”

Butts additionally informed guests in regards to the church’s Easter observances, together with the seven final phrases of Jesus, and about its vibrant and devoted congregation.

“Our senior deacon is 102 years outdated and nonetheless going sturdy,” she stated.

On the Claret Heart, which affords “sources for the human journey,” passengers discovered in regards to the heart’s choices of religious route, meditation and acupuncture, then heard a quick meditation from Heiwa no Bushi, a BodhiChristo instructor from North Carolina, whose religious educating merges Buddhism and Christianity. Bushi inspired his listeners to “love wastefully” quite than filling their minds with fear.

“If you happen to love wastefully, you might be dwelling totally,” he stated.

Heiwa no Bushi, center left, a BodhiChristo teacher from North Carolina, addresses the Chicago Interfaith Trolley Tour during a stop at the Claret Center, Sunday, April 24, 2022, in Chicago. RNS photo by Bob Smietana

Heiwa no Bushi, heart left, a BodhiChristo instructor from North Carolina, addresses the Chicago Interfaith Trolley Tour throughout a cease on the Claret Heart, April 24, 2022, in Chicago. RNS photograph by Bob Smietana

At KAM Isaiah Israel, a Reform Jewish congregation whose Hyde Park neighbors embody President Barack Obama, Rabbi Frederick Reeves defined how the congregation was fashioned over a long time as a number of Jewish synagogues — one among them the oldest within the state of Illinois — merged, gathering of their present constructing within the Nineteen Twenties. He additionally informed guests in regards to the Jewish observance of Passover, noting that one among its key components is that it’s celebrated at dwelling, which means each household makes Passover their very own.

“If you happen to go to 2 Seders at two totally different homes, you’ll have two totally different experiences,” he stated.

The tour ended up on the Masjid Al-Taqwa, a predominantly Black mosque whose members are renovating their very own constructing after worshipping in rented house for years. A lot of the renovation is being executed by members of the group.

“You’ve bought to dig deep. After which you must roll up your sleeves,” Imam Tariq El-Amin informed his visitors.

On the trip again to the Chicago Theological Seminary for an interfaith iftar, Saba Ayman-Nolley, a retired professor and president of the Hyde Park & Kenwood Interfaith Council, gave an outline of the Baha’i celebration of Ridvan and of the interfaith council’s charitable work. That work consists of meals pantries, help to the homeless and resettling of refugees.

In a chat interrupted by a sidewalk hip-hop group that started singing about “divine prophecy” whereas the trolley was stopped at a purple gentle, Ayman-Nolley stated that Ridvan celebrated the “springtime awakening of people,” the place folks can lay down their weapons and embrace a message of affection and brotherhood.

Tariq El- Amin, imam of the Masjid Al-Taqwa, addresses the Chicago Interfaith Trolley Tour at the mosque, Sunday, April 24, 2022, in Chicago. RNS photo by Bob Smietana

Tariq El- Amin, imam of Masjid Al-Taqwa, addresses the Chicago Interfaith Trolley Tour on the mosque, April 24, 2022, in Chicago. RNS photograph by Bob Smietana

Again on the seminary, Timothy Gianotti, president of American Islamic School, gave a quick meditation on the which means of Ramadan earlier than an interfaith iftar dinner, the place he and different Muslims broke their quick as they gathered with these of different faiths.

Ramadan is a time of revelation and a time of disruption, he stated, wherein Muslims draw close to to God by breaking away from the distractions of the world.

“We quick from all of the issues which might be getting in our means,” he stated. “We quick from our personal sense of selfish centrality within the universe. We quick from the habits of thoughts and habits of being that get in our means — or in different folks’s means — when it comes to the religious life.”

Among the many passengers on the trolley have been Emily Heitzmann, a Lutheran pastor on Chicago’s North Aspect, and her mother, Barbara Heitzmann, who was visiting from Dubuque, Iowa. Emily Heitzmann stated the occasion was a reminder of our widespread humanity and that individuals of various faiths nonetheless had a lot in widespread. Her mother agreed.

“We’re all striving for peace, being centered, and  holiness,” stated Barbara Heitzmann, who stated she solely wished that the go to to every non secular website had been longer.


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