Spiritually Speaking

God’s October Surprise

(Source: White Plains Watch)

In a series of events, Westchester faith communities are noting the rare confluence of religious events during October and November. It has been named “God’s October Surprise,” which refers to the proximity on the 2005 calendar of significant holy days in different traditions. The Muslim sacred month of Ramadan, the Jewish sacred month of Tishrei (which includes Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), and the Christian World Communion and feast of St. Francis all occur at the beginning of October. The Shalom Center in Philadelphia, a leader in interfaith dialog has identified this confluence, or coming together as an invitation for members of different religious organizations to pray with or alongside each other and to work together for peace, justice, human rights, and the healing of our wounded Earth.

As part of ongoing activities, on Oct. 2, Memorial United Methodist Church, on Bryant Avenue, hosted a special service for World Communion Sunday. The service was capped off with the planting of a Peace Pole during an interfaith ceremony. Prayers around the Peace Pole came from several religious backgrounds. A traditional Jewish prayer was spoken by Julie CafTan, Interfaithful of ‘Congregation Kol Ami. There was an Iraqi prayer for peace, a Buddhist meditation by Bernadette Pye from the Memorial Meditation Sangha, and a Quor’an reading by Zena Mikdadi of the American Muslim Women’s Association.

The message on the Peace Pole, which says “May Peace Prevail on Earth,” was read by children in each of the different languages presented on the Pole- Arabic, Hebrew, Kru, Spanish, English, Korean, Dutch and Wampanoag. Over 200,000 Peace Poles, which act as silent prayer and messages for world peace, have been planted in 180 countries around the world.

The Feast of St. Francis, a Christian monk who opposed the Crusades, learned from Muslim teacher and was deeply dedicated to kinship with the earth and living creatures; was celebrated Oct. 2 at All Saints Episcopal Church in Harrison.

Continuing “God’s October Surprise,” on Oct. 13, from sunrise to sunset on a day that for Muslims is one of the fast days of Ramadan, and for Jews is the fast day of Yom Kippur, Americans of all religious; ethical and spiritual communities are called to observe a Fast for Reflection, Repentance and Renewal. People of all faiths are called to join creatively in this Multi-religious Day of Fasting in their of way, and take visible steps to seek peace, feed the poor, or heal the earth.

Other celebrations open to the public during “God’s October Surprise” include Breaking of the Fast Dinner (Iftar), Oct. 16, sponsored by the American Muslim Women’s Association. This event is held annually and will take place at sunset in Yonkers. Reservations were requested by Oct. 1. For more information, call Zena Mikdadi, (914) 693-0920, or write mail@amwa.us, and leave your name and address.

Sukkot, Oct. 18 to19, marks the Jewish feast of ingathering. Sukkot celebrates the yield of the harvest and the abundance of blessings, while acknowledging the fragility of life. During this time the homeless and many others on this planet whose “permanent” dwelling is less secure than the sukkah (fragile and temporary booth) we dwell in for this week are remembered. On Oct. 17 Sukkot will be celebrated at Congregation Kol Ami, 252 Soundview Ave., White Plains. Call 949-4717, ext.111 for more information.

In the first two weeks of November, a cultural series, “The Spirit of Andalusia,” will celebrate a harmony that existed among Jews, Muslims and Christians in medieval Spain. Contact: www.cjcmu.org for scheduled cultural events around Westchester County to which the public is invited. On Nov. 5, a Hungry Ghost Ceremony will be held at the Empty Hand Zen Center, at Community Unitarian Church, 468 Rosedale Ave. (www.empty-handzen.org). In this traditional fall ceremony in the Zen Buddhist tradition, offerings are set out to feed the “hungry ghosts”-the representation of insatiable greed and neediness. Participants have the opportunity to acknowledge their own clinging and greed, and thus begin the release of suffering. Bring small offerings of seasonal fruit for the “hungry ghosts” as well as some canned or packaged food for the hungry humans (to be distributed at a local food pantry). School-age children are welcome. Contact:susanjion@aol.com