View from the Pew
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Last Saturday's blessing of the new Community Empowerment Services offices included Catholic Sister Joan Chatfield, left, talking to Mir Ahmad Saidy, a Muslim, and Gregg Kinkley, a Jew, right. Business co-owners Aliman Sears and Jan Rumi were in the back.
Interfaith effort blesses health initiative
There's a familiar joke format that has been used and abused for ages by warm-up speakers at conventions, service club parties and even church events that starts, "A rabbi, a priest and a pastor" or variations on the theme.
The jokes poke fun at different religious perspectives. Sometimes they're hilarious, often they're lame, occasionally they're vicious. They can be humor at its best, a speaker laughing at himself.
The idea of those three theoretical clergy characters being in the same space speaking to each other is easy to imagine in the multicultural stew of Hawaii. Not so in a lot of this world, even in this country, and truthfully, not in some fundamentalist enclaves of believers in Hawaii, either.
The opening of the new offices of Community Empowerment Services last Saturday brought that opening line to mind not because it was funny, but because it was interfaith.
Jan Rumi and Aliman Sears invited a Christian, a Muslim and a Jew to take part in blessing their enterprise, which provides social services to mentally ill homeless people under a contract with the state adult mental health division.
Sears said they decided on the interfaith invocation because "mental illness strikes across all boundaries -- religious, cultural, economic."
Sears, a psychiatric social worker, and Rumi, an accountant, set the interfaith theme just by inviting their friends from the Subud meditation group. The local group is part of an international spiritual movement that draws practitioners from all religions. They gather twice weekly for meditative exercises seeking internal awareness of the Great Life Force, aka God.
But back to the Muslim, the Jew and the Christian.
Mir Ahmad Saidy read a passage from the Quran, invoking the kindness and mercy of Allah for the agency's staff "to help them solve problems and live in harmony" and for the people who will receive help from psychologists, social workers and vocational counselors.
Gregg Kinkley translated a Hebrew blessing describing the ways in which humans practice God's word: "Hospitality to strangers, visiting the sick ... making peace between our fellow men. All of these would apply to this business."
Catholic Sister Joan Chatfield said the agency's business "to bring back to health and well- being others who have lost consciousness of themselves or are frightened" is also a ministry. "All nature is a gift God has given us to treasure. Every time someone comes to this office and is helped to recover, they will come back to the beauty of nature, the treasure that the Creator gave us."
The gathering of more than 40 well-wishers segued into a party after a Sikh woman, an Orthodox Christian priest and a tardy Protestant pastor chimed in with prayerful postscripts.
"The interfaith prayers here are a demonstration of our respect for one another," said Chatfield.
It wasn't a joke, that lineup of Muslim, Jew and Christian. But that was a pretty good punch line.