Tonight I had the privilege of participating in an interfaith service at the Sikh Gurdwara (temple / house of worship) in Oviedo. The service was organized by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida (ICCF) in response to the shooting last week at a gurdwara in Wisconsin. Other members of First Unitarian Church of Orlando attended and members of our Tuesday Nite Band presented their beautiful version the song “(Something Inside) So Strong.” (The song, so appropriate for the situation, was inspired when the songwriter, Labi Siffre, saw a documentary about apartheid in South Africa featuring a white soldier firing on black children.)
Participants in tonight’s moving service represented Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Roman Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity, Seventh-Day Adventist, the United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalism, and, of course, Sikhism. There were songs, chants, prayers, readings, and stories, as well as words of affirmation and support in different forms and various languages.
We received a warm and gracious welcome from our Sikh neighbors and friends. We learned a lot about Sikhism and its message of universal peace and equality. We learned about Sikh customs and traditions. And we learned a lot about each. Most importantly, we affirmed our commitment to stand together in solidarity whenever acts of ignorance or hate bring violence into our world. Although it was a tragedy that inspired the evening, the gathering brought a loose-knit group closer together and, in so doing, provided a glimpse of the world that is possible when our response to our diversity is to turn toward one another with curiosity and love.