INTERFAITH WORK THE JORDANIAN WAY
The other day someone shared an e-mail with me from a man who had just returned from a trip to Jordan in which visiting Christians attended lectures and seminars on interfaith and related matters. One of the speakers was Jordanian Prince Al Hassan bin Talal, who some years ago was instrumental in creation of a group called the Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies. I frankly didn't know much about all of this and was glad to learn. Then just yesterday I discovered this press release that describes a two-day conference on religion and reform under Prince Hassan's sponsorship. (I will warn you that the press release has not been translated into English very clearly.) At any rate, the prince appears to be an interesting force for religious understanding in the Middle East, and worth learning more about. Any of you familiar with him and his work?
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SACRED SPACES AROUND THE U.S.
As I've mentioned here before, every month or two, I take members of my church on a tour of sacred spaces in the Kansas City area -- churches, synagogues, mosques, temples.
My family, of course, is aware of my interest in the architecture and geography of religion, so for my recent birthday I received a wonderful book that I recommend to all: House of Worship: Sacred Spaces in America, by Dominique Browning. The Rev. Peter J. Gomes of Harvard University has written the introduction.
Although no Kansas CIty structures are included, the book is a beautiful collection of words and pictures describing sacred space in many parts of the country -- from a cathedral in, of all places, Fargo, N.D., to America's oldest synagogue in Newport, R.I. Well, I say no Kansas City structures, but two are included (back to back in the book, in fact) that are close by.
It pleases me, as a Presbyterian, to say that one of my favorites in this collection is First Presbyterian Church of Stamford, Ct., an astonishingly beautiful sanctuary, the entire walls of which are stained-glass windows. (The link to the church's Web site shows some recent restoration but no really great pictures of the breathtaking sanctuary.)
As Gomes says in his introduction, "All worship spaces, from the great cathedrals to the smallest storefront Penecostal temples, suggest something more than the private agenda of those who visit them. . ."
To me, they suggest our acknowledgement that we are a small part of a sacred history that began long before we arrived and will continue long after we're gone.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.