Interfaith Gathering

We encourage you to read the published guidelines below in preparation for planning an interfaith gathering.

So you want to worship together? Guidelines for multi-faith gatherings for members of the Uniting Church in Australia (1996)
Prepared by UCA National Assembly Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths
pdf version | large print pdf version |

Guidelines for Multifaith Worship: Australian Consultation on Liturgy (1995)
Prepared by the Australian Consultation on Liturgy
pdf version |

Guidelines for Multifaith Gatherings: A document prepared for Christian communities and for all people of goodwill who want to organise a multifaith gathering. (2004)
Prepared by the Commission on Living Faiths - Dialogue and Community of the Victorian Council of Churches, in consultation with representatives of other faiths.
pdf version |

‘One Faith - Multifaith': A theological basis for multifaith gatherings (2005)
Prepared by Faith and Order Commission, Victorian Council of Churches

word version | pdf version |

 

Praying with people of other faiths reinforces our awareness that the divine mystery transcends all doctrines. Yes, we cherish the Christian faith, but with a heightened awareness that God is not ours, or anyone else's, to possess. That humility, together with a respect for the integrity of each faith on its own terms, is where we start.

The best policy when choosing music, prayers, symbols, and other elements for your gathering is always to ask for the input of the people of other faiths who will be participating. However we offer a few general guidelines and tips:

• Prayers should be just that - not show-and-tell moments in which different religions display their wares, but devices that help participants pray.
• Don't be afraid to use prayers and songs from particular religious communities, acknowledging where each originates and inviting people of other faiths to enter in to the extent that they may be able.
• The Book of Psalms can usually be used without offence among the Abrahamic Faiths. We especially recommend Psalm 23. The Lord's Prayer is also often acceptable for use among Abrahamic faiths but be sure to ask.
• For music (and prayers) it is often best to invite guests to bring something from their own tradition to share. There is a balance between allowing people to share things that are unique to their faith tradition, and also respectfully communicating to help people realise when something they offer from their own faith tradition may be offensive or alienating to people of other faiths.
• Silence often speaks louder than words. Let it.
• Look for symbols (candles, flowers, water etc) and gestures (worship, prayer, blessing) which may carry religious significance for all.

Here are some examples of what others have done during such gatherings. But what was right for them may not suit you. Focus on the people and purpose of the particular gathering you have in mind. The following resources may be of help to you in this endeavour.

Sample Orders of Service

Interfaith Peace Service
International Peace Day
Tuesday, 21st September, 2010
St David's Uniting Church, 454 Pacific Highway, Lindfield NSW 2070

web version | pdf version

Interfaith Peace Service
International Peace Day
Sunday, 21st September, 2008
St David's Uniting Church, 454 Pacific Highway, Lindfield NSW 2070
web version | pdf version

Christian Order of Service on the Theme of People of Other Faiths
Recognising that God is the creator and provider of the whole human family, and respecting sincere efforts to know and relate to God, this order of worship, adapted from With all God's People: The New Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, suggests elements that enable us to pray for neighbours of other faiths.
web version | pdf version

Music

Interfaith Network Annual Gathering Song (pdf)

Interfaith Song

Interfaith Song - 'Sharing Faiths'

Interfaith Song - 'More than Tolerance'

Interfaith Song - 'Life's Delight'

Interfaith Song - 'Difference'

Interfaith Song - 'Diversity'

Prayers and Readings for Times of Tragedy

Finding Words for Unspeakable Tragedy: Resources for Ecumenical and Interfaith Worship and Prayer (from National Council of Churches USA)

Prayers and Resources- General

You may find some of the prayers and readings within the following books useful in planning an interfaith gathering. Not everything in these books will be suitable but they may be a helpful resource. Please see our disclaimer.

Mosaic, Favourite Prayers and Reflections from Inspiring Australians
Rosalind Bradley (Editor)

1000 World Prayers from Many Faiths and from Around the World
Marcus Braybrooke and John Hunt (Editors)

Bedside Prayers: Prayers and Poems for when you Rise and Go to Sleep
June Cotner

Peace Prayers: Meditations, Affirmations, Invocations, Poems, and Prayers for Peace
Harper San Francisco Staff

Rituals for Life, Loss, and Love
Dorothy McRae-McMahon

All in Good Faith: A Resource Book for Multi-faith Prayer
Jean Potter and Marcus Braybrooke (Editors)

Life Prayers: 365 Prayers, Blessings, and Affirmations to Celebrate the Human Journey, from Around the World
Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon (Editors)

Graciousness, friendliness, a reasonable knowledge of your neighbours' religion and a willingness to learn more about other faiths should set the tone for any worthwhile interfaith gathering.

That means getting to know each other better, including the customs and sensitivities that come up when gathering with people of different faiths.

The following guidelines are a starting point when planning an event that involves people of different faiths. 

You can start by researching Etiquette Guidelines for Individual Faiths.

Inviting People of Other Faiths to a Uniting Church Gathering

Setting a date:

Set a date that will be sensitive to our neighbours. It is best to avoid Friday afternoons through Sunday mornings. (Friday afternoons to evenings the Muslim community goes to Mosque; Friday evening through Saturday at sunset is the Jewish Sabbath; the Christian Sabbath is usually observed Sunday mornings except for Seventh Day Adventists who observe the Sabbath on Saturday.) There are other days that are "special" and you will need to check these too. Refer to an interfaith calendar for details or contact the invitees.

Invitations:
Set the tone of your event (secular or religious) by addressing leaders of other faiths appropriately. Learn more about titles and terms of address for religious leaders though the links below, but always ask the particular people involved what titles they prefer, as this may differ from individual to individual.

Titles and Terms of Address for Religious Leaders
(link to website of Tanenbaum Centre for Interreligious Understanding)

 Titles and Terms of Address for Christian Religious Leaders

Welcome:
Everyone involved in the welcoming process should know their guests' titles and names. A number of religious leaders don't shake hands with the opposite sex. Speaking your greeting is acceptable.

Here are some examples you may want to use. The Hindu greeting Namasté which is said with your palms together (as in the Christian prayer gesture) and a slight bow means I salute the Divine in you. The Jewish greeting Shalom means peace. The Muslim greeting 'As-Salamu Alaykum' means peace be unto you and the response to this greeting is' wa Alaykum As-Salaam' which means and to you too.

These greetings do not use the name of the Divine and are therefore acceptable to all faiths.

Seating:
A number of religious leaders, due to religious protocol, are unable to sit next to people of the opposite sex. Cultural considerations may also factor in to seating etiquette for religious leaders.

Seating on a stage is best done in alphabetical order by names of the participants, or by their religions. Be sure to ask if there are any special requests on how seating is arranged.

After introducing a guest and calling him/her to the podium to speak, bowing to the person would add a gracious touch.

Food:
Some Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and other Eastern religions are vegetarians. Jews and Muslims observe restrictions concerning food and its preparation. Most Jews and Muslims will not eat shellfish and pork. 

We recommend that only vegetarian food, fresh or dried fruit and soft drinks be served. If you must serve meat, please use a meat that will not offend any religions, such as chicken, lamb or fish. These need to be kosher or halal. Please refrain from serving alcoholic beverages.

Program:

Acknowledging the first peoples of Australia would be a great start. It would be even better if you could invite one of the first peoples of Australia who is from the land on which you are meeting, to offer a formal welcome. Please note that this is a sensitive matter. We suggest that organisers use the following guidelines.

Welcome is when an Indigenous person from that land itself invites you to use the place, while thanking their ancestors for looking after the land.

Acknowledgement is when a non-Indigenous person or an Indigenous person who is not from that land, thanks the people of that land for looking after it. Where the name of the Traditional Custodians in known, it is specifically used. Where it is not known, a general Acknowledgement is given.

Here is a short example of a general acknowledgement:

Let us pay our respects to the traditional owners of this place we are standing on. Let us also acknowledge the graciousness of the first peoples of this land who have looked after this beautiful country for centuries and continue to do so.

Please also note that it is not appropriate to tell an Indigenous person what to say in either a Welcome or an Acknowledgement.

When planning your program remember to be sensitive regarding the following:

  • Dress: Dress conservatively. Shorts, strappy tee shirts, short skirts, sleeveless blouses etc. should be avoided. Wear suitable footwear and not thongs.
  • Dancing: Not recommended unless it is a "Women's only" or "Men's only" gathering. Sometimes participating religious groups might contribute a dance to portray a particular culture, but this will be done with sensitivity.
  • Singing: There are a very few spiritual songs that all religions can sing together. However, some religious groups might contribute music which will convey that religion's spiritual words and this too will be done with sensitivity.
  • Gifts: It is nice to show appreciation to speakers at these gatherings and the most appropriate gifts are gift coupons from book stores. However, if the speaker is from overseas an appropriate souvenir of Australia will be welcome.

REMEMBER

Always communicate with your invitees or co-planners in the process of event planning. Questions asked in a respectful manner are likely to be appreciated and will help to avoid problems at the event itself. In addition, be clear about the purpose of your gathering. If the purpose is fostering understanding of one another's faiths, guard against being sidetracked into political and nationalistic discussions.

Checklist of Issues for Consideration When Sharing Property with Those of Other Faiths

  • Are there any noise considerations - for example, might the group be particularly large and therefore noisy and require a council permit? Or, will the group require silence, and therefore need to be scheduled with this as a consideration?
  • Are there likely to be 'clashes' of important events on the religious calendars of the two faiths in question, and if so, how might a resolution be found ahead of time? For example, will both faith groups be able to use the shared property for those particular events, or will one need to find an alternate venue at certain times?
  • Will there be visible religious icons from the various faiths? How might Church Council feel about this?
  • Will there be incense or other fragrant elements used by the various faiths? How might Church Council feel about this?
  • Are there any considerations around food preparation and disposal?
  • Is this an opportunity for further conversation and dialogue?
  • The Church Council may like to consider what a memorandum of agreement could look like.

Visiting the Places of Worship of Other Faiths

Dress and behave appropriately when attending services organised by your neighbours from other faiths. Arms and legs should be covered. In some situations covering or uncovering the head is expected. Doing what the others do is respectful, like standing when they do and bowing your head at least when prayers are being offered.

Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and most other Eastern religions remove their shoes and cover their heads before entering a Temple, Gurudwara or a sacred place in a house. Often men and women will sit separately. Do not touch statues. It is best not to shake hands with the opposite sex.

Men are expected to wear a Yarmulke or skullcap in Jewish Synagogues or Temples. Depending on the venue, men and women will sit separately.

Muslims remove their shoes before entering a Mosque. They also wash their hands and feet, because prayers are said on clean coverings (usually linens) on the floor. Men and women sit separately. Women are expected to cover themselves and show their faces and hands only. It is best not to shake hands with a person of the opposite sex.


Good luck with organising your interfaith gatherings. In the end what matters is showing our neighbours care, respect and love.

 
International Day of Peace
Interfaith Prayer Service
Tuesday, 21st September, 2010, 11.00 am

 

View the PDF Version (recommended)

Greetings and Welcome:

Remembering the First People

Introduction:

Lighting of the Peace Candle:

The International Prayer for Peace:*

Lead us from darkness to light, from falsehood to truth;
Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust;
Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace;
Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

 

Prayer:

God of all creation,
we gather in awe before you,
impelled by our longing for peace and harmony

among all human beings.

Here we are –
children of many traditions,
inheritors of shared wisdom and tragic misunderstandings,

of great hopes and humble successes.

Here we meet –
in memory and truth,
in courage and mutual trust,
in love and promise.
In that which we share,
let us see the common prayer for peace;
in that in which we differ,
let us respect the difference;
in our unity and our differences,
let us know the uniqueness that is God.

May our courage match our convictions,

and our integrity match our hope.
may our faith in you bring us closer to each other.
May our prayers reach you,
and rain upon us as your peace.

 

May these words transform us
and all those whom our lives touch.
 

Song:   “Let there be peace on earth”

1.      Let there be peace on earth
         And let it begin with me;
         Let there be peace on earth,
         The peace that was meant to be.
         With God as our Creator
         We are one family
         Let us walk with each other
         In perfect harmony.
 
2.      Let peace begin with me,
         Let this be the moment now.
         With every step I take,
         Let this be my solemn vow:
         To take each moment and live each moment
         In peace eternally.
         Let there be peace on earth
         And let it begin with me.

 

Aboriginal Prayer:

Gracious, all knowing and all loving God, we honour Your name above all names. We thank You for giving the gift of this land to the Guringai Aboriginal People. We acknowledge, recognise and respect them, past, present and future. We thank them for caring, maintaining, sustaining and using this land as you intended it to be used, since time immemorial.

We thank them and all other Australians for keeping this area of our Great Southland of the Holy Spirit, a safe place for all of us who are here now, and those yet to come. We acknowledge with respect, all people from diverse cultural backgrounds present at this gathering of this Interfaith Gathering for International Peace Day 2010.      

God, please give us grace, courage and commitment to work together for the betterment of our future generations and all our good and proper cultural ways. God, You are the Good and Holy Spirit, guide us as we continue our journeys of reconciliation with each other and back to You.

May we all find the peace that passes all understanding. God, guide and protect us as we willingly share this peace with our brothers and sisters from all cultural backgrounds and walks of life and particularly those who are suffering from injustices all over the world. During our journey together doing Your will, may we see long life manifest at all times and in all places. May the message, prayers, songs of worship and praise from all our faiths groups, inspire us to sincerely embrace all as brothers and sisters, working together in our communities to bring back faith, hope, love, joy and peace to all our peoples. Amen.

(Silent reflection)

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

Baha’i Prayer:

O Thou Lord of the Kingdom! 

Though our bodies be gathered here together, yet our spellbound hearts are carried away by Thy love, and yet are we transported by the rays of Thy resplendent face.  Weak though we be, we await the revelations of Thy might and power.  Poor though we be, with neither goods nor means, still take we riches from the treasures of Thy Kingdom.  Drops though we be, still do we draw from out Thy ocean deeps.  Motes though we be, still do we gleam in the glory of Thy splendid Sun.  

O Thou our Provider!  Send down Thine aid, that each one gathered here may become a lighted candle, each one a centre of attraction, each one a summoner to Thy heavenly realms, till at last we make this nether world the mirror image of Thy Paradise 

- Abdu'l-Baha

(Silent reflection)

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

Brahmakumari Prayer:

Peace is a power that unites us all.  The first lesson on the path to becoming a peacemaker is to stop making war with myself.  Only when the turbulence of my mind and heart has subsided can I make peace with the world.  In meditation I can retreat into the inner sanctuary of the soul and enjoy the tranquil flow of loving thoughts and feelings passing through my being.   When I have developed inner peace and quietness I can hear the voice of my own wisdom and know how and where to give energy for the greatest benefit. 

(Silent reflection)

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

Buddhist Prayer:

Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Samma Sambuddhassa 
Buddham Saranam Gacchami. 
Dhammam Saranam Gacchami. 

Sangham Saranam Gacchami.

Homage to him, the Exalted One,
the Enlightend One,
the Supremely Awakened One.
I go to the Buddha for guidance.
I go to the Dharma for guidance. 
I go to the Sangha for guidance.

People of the world, parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, and other family members and kinsmen, should respect and love each other, refraining from hatred and envy. They should share things with others, and not be greedy and miserly, always speak friendly words with a pleasing smile, and not hurt each other.

May all beings be happy and safe

(Silent reflection)

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

Catholic Prayer:

“We ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will,
with all the wisdom and understanding that his Spirit gives.
Then you will be able to live as the Lord wants,
and always do what pleases him.
Your lives will be fruitful in all kinds of good works, and you will grow in your knowledge of God.
May you be made strong with all the strength which comes from his glorious might, so that you may be able to endure everything with patience.”

                                               (Colossians 1:9b-11, The New Testament of the Bible)

(Silent reflection)

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

Hindu Prayer:

om saha n?vavatu
saha nau bhunaktu
saha v?rya
m karav?vahai
tejasvin?vadh?tamastu m? vidvi
??vahai
o
? ??nti? ??nti? ??nti? Om ! May He protect us both together; may He nourish us both together;
May we work conjointly with great energy,
May our study be vigorous and effective;
May we not mutually dispute (or may we not hate any).
Om ! Let there be Peace in me !
Let there be Peace in my environment !
Let there be Peace in the forces that act on me!
 

(Silent reflection)

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

Islamic Prayer:

Bismillah Ar Rahman Ar Raheem

(in the name of God who is merciful and beneficent) Allahumma antassalam was minkassalam wa ilaikayarjessalam,

hayyena rabbana bissalme
wa'adkhilna darassalame tabarakta rabbana

wa ta'alaita ya zaljalal-i-walikram. (Oh Allah! You are Peace personified;

You are the source of Peace for all other creatures;
Peace always turns towards thee.

Oh Creator and Sustainer! keep us alive with peace, and
let us enter the Home of Peace) Sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)
You will not enter Paradise until you believe,

And you will not believe until you love one another,

And you will not love one another until you promote peace among you.

(Silent reflection)

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.        

Musical Item:

“King’s Fidlers” – Keith Sharp

                     Newington College Prep. School 

Jain Prayer:

Namo arihantaaNaM
Namo siddhaaNaM
Namo aireyaNaM
Namo uvajjhaayaaNaM

Namo loey savva saahuNaM

Eso pancha namoyarro
Savva paavapaNaasaNo
mangalaaNaM cha savvesim
paDhamaM havaee mangalaM

(I bow to the Arahants, the perfected human beings, Godmen. I bow to the Siddhas, liberated bodiless souls, God. I bow to the Acharyas, the masters and heads of congregations. I bow to the Upadhyayas, the spiritual teachers. I bow to the spiritual practitioners in the universe, Sadhus. This fivefold obeisance mantra destroys all sins and obstacles, and of all auspicious repetitions, is the first and foremost.)

(Silent reflection)

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

Jewish Prayer:

Bless us our father, all of us as one, with the light of your countenance.

You gave us, Lord our God, the Torah of life and loving kindness, righteousness, blessing, mercy, life and peace. Blessed are you Lord, who blesses us and all nations with peace.

May he who makes peace in high places,
make peace for us and for all nations and let us say, Amen

Oseh shalom bimromav Hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu

V'al kol Haamim V'imru, v'imru amen.

Let love and justice flow like a mighty stream.                                                                               Let peace fill the earth as the waters fill the sea and let us say: Amen

(Silent reflection) 

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

Mandaean Prayer:

My Lord be praised!  
In the name of the Great First Sublime Living One (God)!
From far-off worlds of Light that are above all works (and every thing),
may there be healing, victory; strength and blessing;
soundness, speech and a hearing;
joy of heart and forgiving of sins for the people who love God, through the strength and emanation of the power of True Enlightenment.
Oh, God Hear me, my Father, hear me! Draw me upward.
Come, bless me, direct my speech and open my mouth in praise.
That I may praise the Great Living One wholly.
That I may walk on the Path of Enlightenment.
Oh, God, may your spirit and assistance be in the truthful people to promote the true peace, love and harmony among sons of Adam.

Amen.          (The Mandaean Holy Book of Adam)

(Silent reflection)

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

Sikh Prayer:

In Guru Granth Sahib,the Sikh scripture, the only one Divine Source, is addressed as Ram, Rahim, Bhagvan, Allah, Satnam (Truth), Waheguru (wonder). Thus all humanity is the progeny of one creator. Any name other religions give Him, are accepted & meditated on. If we understand this, there can be all Peace. Also Guru Granth contains the wisdom of Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Bodhi and other Saint's revelations. 
 
Says Bhagat Kabir ji in Guru Granth:-- (Awal Allah noor upaya---)
 
First Allah created light and all beings belong to His Nature.
When the whole world is the out come of one enlightened Supreme,
who can you call good and who bad? 
O people do not be in doubt that, Creator is immanent in all creation
and creation is the corporeal form of Creator. 
From the same clay the potter fashioned so many shapes & forms.
You cannot blame the pot or the potter for any shortcomings. 
Same Truth dwells in all, which achieves everything.
Who ever obeys the Truth realises him.
This realisation makes one human. The lord is infinite, cannot be defined.
But my teacher blessed me with sweet awareness and dispelled all my doubts
says Kabir; as if I had the vision of the eternal invisible divine.

(Silent reflection)

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

Sufi Prayer:

Ho Val Allah Hol Ali

"Glorified be thy Lord, the Lord of Majesty, from that which they attribute (unto Him). And peace be unto those sent (to warn).  And praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds!  Holy Quran, Chapter 37 verse 180 182.

Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him)has said " Each human being is like mine, gold, silver or Jewel; excavate the  goodness with in them, so that you may have peace. 

Islam which is derived from the root  Silm, means peace and tranquility. The words of the lord of believers and the pure Amir-al-Momenin  Ali (peace be upon him), the guiding light for humanity, attest to this genuine and sacred goal: Isalm  is submission , and submission is stability and constancy in the true reality of Existence. 

Dreaming of Peace is not peace. Everyone speaks of peace but there is no peace. Everyone wants peace and yet there is no peace. Each human beings innate urge is to live in peace, and yet people do not cease to fight, kill and destroy. Our desire to transform the world must begin with transformation of "i" into "I" the true self. By transforming the "i" one can go long way towards transforming the greater world in which "I" lives. A successful human society is attained through the outward and inward harmony of its member and their harmonious existence in a unified system. Unless every individual discover the knowledge and the reality with in them, we will not have a peaceful calm and prosperous society. 

May Lord grant us the peace and tranquility.    Ellahi Ameen

(Silent reflection)

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

Uniting Church Prayer:

Father almighty, we pray for peace on earth.
For peace that is life-giving;
for peace that is love-bearing;
For peace that is true freedom;
for peace that is purposeful;

for peace that is prevailing.

Father, we pray for children in time of war; they are so defenseless.
We pray for the old; they are unable to escape danger quickly.
We pray for the disabled; they are at the mercy of others.
We pray for the women; they are so vulnerable to abuse.
We pray for the innocent; they suffer for the unjust desires of others.
We pray for those whose lives will be changed by war: those who are blinded; those who are burned; those who lose limbs; those who lose their reason; those who lose their peace of mind; those who lose their health and strength forever.

Father, above all we pray for those in anguish;

those whose lives will never be the same again;
those who have lost their loved ones;
those who have lost their lives.

Father, deepen our desire for peace;

restore our resolve for peace;
increase our intent to work for peace.
Will for us your peace, perfect and prevailing,
for your Son, our Saviour Christ’s sake.

Amen.

(Silent reflection)

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

Zoroastrian Prayer:

A short prayer in the words of Prophet Zarathushtra.

Ash?m V?hu

Ash?m V?hu Vahisht?m asti
Usht? asti
Usht? Ahami h?yat ashi vahisht?i ash?m. 

 

Translation of this short prayer

The blessing of righteousness embodies the highest virtue.
It radiates happiness.
Happiness will come to the one who seeks righteousness.

(Silent reflection)

Let peace fill our heart, our world and our universe.

 

A short Reflection:

Lighting of Candles:

(Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu’s music will be played during the lighting of the candles)

Song:   “Make me a channel of your peace” ^

Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love;
where there is injury, your pardon, Lord; and
where there’s doubt, true faith in you.

 

Refrain:      
Master, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.

Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope;
where there is darkness, let me bring your light; and
where there’s sadness, ever joy.

 

Refrain:      
Master, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of your peace.

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
in giving of ourselves that we receive, and
in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

Vote of Thanks:

Benediction:

Everyone is invited to stay for refreshments and extended fellowship.

 

*        The words adapted from the Upanishads, were used by Mother Teresa in 1981 and urged people of all faiths to use the peace prayer daily at noon.

^       Hymn covered by CAL

The guidelines below were written by members of each of the religious communities listed. Click on a religious group below to view those guidelines, or scroll down to view all guidelines.

Guidelines for Multi-faith Worship

Australian Consultation On Liturgy, 1995

INTRODUCTION TO THE DOCUMENT

The Australian Consultation on Liturgy (ACOL, inaugurated in 1976) is a body nominated by its member churches to assist them in deepening their understanding of their own and other churches' worship. It monitors (on behalf of the English Language Liturgical Consultation, a similar body at the international level of which it is a constituent member) the use of the Revised Common Lectionary (1992) and the common worship texts in Praying Together (1988), and it receives reports from the National Ecumenical Church Music Committee. It enables the member churches to share current liturgical work and future projects to the mutual benefit.

All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city... [Nostra Aetate, 1]

In the public life of Australia, where people of many different faiths live and work together, there are increasing numbers of civic occasions in which it is thought that peoples of different religions and ethnicities should participate for the good of community relations. In some of these, the hosts suggest that prayer be offered. This request needs to be carefully considered. The Guidelines exclude any participation which compromises the distinctive belief of Christians (or others). They suggest that, if local churches decide to be involved in some such local event, each faith should be invited to play its part separately, "in serial form". The background information explains the importance of this.

These Guidelines are intended to promote intelligent and sensitive discussion amongst the churches. They do not represent a policy statement, either of ACOL or of its constitutive churches. The churches themselves must define their own theological position in relation to participation in "multi-faith worship", however defined. Four of our member churches, the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Uniting Churches, and the Churches of Christ, have commended this document for the purpose I have just outlined. The Lutheran Church has drawn our attention to a paper, "The Lutheran Church of Australia and Inter-Faith Worship" (Church Relations Committee, 1994) which sets very clear limits to Lutheran participation in certain events of this kind. The Presbyterian Church of Australia asks us to indicate its strenuous opposition to the Guidelines. No response was received from the Greek or Coptic Orthodox member Churches.

ACOL offers these guidelines for consideration as theological and practical pointers to appropriate participation in multi-faith worship and other events.

Rev Robert Gribben,
Secretary, ACOL

GUIDELINES FOR MULTI-FAITH WORSHIP

A. FORM OF SERVICE

Services of worship involving members of different faith communities may take a number of different forms:

- A Christian service, in which members of non-Christian groups participate;

- A multi-faith service with an agreed common order which blends items from a variety of Christian and non-Christian sources;

- A multi-faith service in serial form.

Recommendation: That a Multi-faith Service in Serial Form be used where services of worship involve members of different faith communities.

In a multi-faith service in serial form, each faith tradition, clearly identified, is allocated a segment of the program in which to offer worship. Each brief act of worship is separate and complete in itself and involves what is characteristic of the faith concerned. Each faith community selects and presents its own material. (For Christians this may include readings from scripture, trinitarian prayer, a creed of the church and hymns.)

Those present at such a service share in the worship of faiths other than their own only to the extent they feel able - praying in one another's presence but not necessarily praying together.

The cohesion of such an event will be enhanced if there is a common theme running through the material presented and a common purpose for the service.

B. PLANNING AND CONDUCTING THE SERVICE

Recommendation: That representatives of all the faith communities which are to participate in the service be involved in the planning and that the purpose of the occasion be made clear at the outset.

Invitations to participate in parts of the service should be expressed so that those who feel unable to join in do not feel embarrassed or excluded. For example, sections of the printed program with congregational responses should be printed in different type styles rather than labelled, Leader, People, All.

It should also be stated that presence at a service does not imply total assent to all that is said or done.

Consideration should be given to providing translations for parts of the service according to the needs of those attending. Care should also be taken that the overall service does not become too long.

Planners should also organise for the event to be evaluated afterwards.

There are limits to what can be included in multi-faith worship. For example, the central Christian sacramental actions which recall the saving events of the Gospel are inappropriate. What might properly be included needs to be explored by those involved in planning.

C. WHO PARTICIPATES?

Ordained ministers and other representatives of Christian Churches should consider what statement is being made by their presence at, or by their refusal to attend, a multi-faith worship service. They need to know beforehand what will be expected of them at the service.

The issues involved are well covered in the booklet, Multi-faith Worship? , a report to General Synod (1992) by the Board of Mission of the Church of England.

Some discernment is required in the question of who will attend and participate in the service. Where the service is open to the public (as would normally be the case), people of any persuasion or none are welcome to attend. However, when it comes to participation in the leadership of the service, for example by reading, other considerations come into play. Christians would wish to be represented by a member of a mainstream Christian denomination. Similarly, members of other faiths would not expect to be represented by members of breakaway groups. Without detailed knowledge of other faith communities it is sometimes difficult to ascertain which leaders are genuinely representative of certain local communities. (#115)

Where members of new religious movements are to participate in their own right, the problems are more difficult. Should boundaries be drawn, and if so, where and by whom? It is possible that some groups will not attend if members of certain sects or movements are to participate. (See #116)

Another issue which arises is that of proportionality. Will each faith group involved have equal representation in the leadership of a multi-faith gathering or will representation reflect numbers of adherents to each group?

Recommendation: That a community figure be overall presider of the gathering, with separate segments of the service led by leaders or representatives of religious communities appointed by the faith groups involved.

D. VENUE

A critical question is the venue. This could have a bearing on what activities are appropriate for the occasion, what kind of atmosphere is generated by it, and, to a considerable extent, the popular response from those not present at it.

Venues often suggested for multi-faith services include a church, a church hall, or the place of worship of another faith. By making its buildings available, the church is showing hospitality to people of other faiths but at the same time several problems are posed: people of other faiths may simply be unable to enter a church; Christians may take sensitivity to the feelings of people of other faiths to extremes (such as covering the crosses in a church); or the use of church buildings may be subject to Canon Law.

Recommendation: That a multi-faith service be held on neutral ground such as a public building or an open-air site.

With the use of neutral ground, it is important that organisers be attentive to the issue of ownership of the event.

Where practicable, the problem of a suitable venue could be solved by arranging for each community to offer its own act of worship in its own place of worship, the congregation processing from place to place. (It is important that only one Christian site be selected.) The multi-faith service in serial form recommended above is clearly seen in this format.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

1. These guidelines are designed to offer those preparing for multi-faith gatherings an outline of the issues involved. They do not address the specific issues raised by marriage, funerals, etc, involving people of different faiths.

2. Throughout these guidelines the term "multi-faith" has been used in preference to "inter-faith". While both terms are in common use, "multi-faith" describes the form of worship which is recommended here. Other terms such as "inter-faith" are only used when quoting from documents which use these terms.

The term "worship" can be problematic. As different understandings of the term by different traditions could be the cause of difficulty, what is here called " multi-faith worship" may best be described as a multi-faith event, gathering or celebration.

3. In recent years there have been increased requests made by civic authorities and other organisations for Christian Churches to participate in "Interfaith Worship Services".

Because of the pluralist society in which we live, multi-faith activities are often initiated in contexts such as schools, civic occasions and trauma situations involving a particular community.

Often those who make the requests are unaware of the problems of belief involved and may have more of a concern about multicultural inclusiveness than about the religious aspect of a gathering. It is important to differentiate between occasions for multi-faith worship and multicultural gatherings.

However, there may be occasions when some form of multi-faith observance is appropriate and valuable; for example, if the participants already form a community or are genuinely united by a shared concern or common purpose. It is important that the reason for holding the service be made clear.

4. Christians have expressed varying reactions to the idea of multi-faith worship. For some, the idea of multi-faith worship is new and strange and causes genuine concern. For others, opportunities for interfaith dialogue and worship are exciting prospects which should be grasped.

Of concern are the dangers of syncretism (thoughtless confusion of different faith traditions), indifferentism ("we all believe in the one god after all"), and idolatry (giving worship to that which is not God). There are also concerns about the limitations which a situation of multi-faith worship would impose on the liturgical structure.

Care also needs to be exercised with services built around a shared concern if the concern itself is controversial, party political, or in some way problematic.

Some believe that it is not appropriate for leaders of secular organisations to call different faith groups together for worship. Where this does occur, it is hoped that heads of local faith communities would be approached by leaders of secular organisations from the outset, so that they can be involved in planning the occasion.

5. A multi-faith service with an agreed common order which blends items from a variety of Christian and non-Christian sources is not recommended because those arranging such services may be unaware of the theological implications of such actions or may deliberately be suggesting that 'we are all one' and there is nothing distinctive or unique about Christianity. With this kind of service the problems of syncretism, indifferentism and idolatry are particularly hard to avoid.

6. Christians need to be clear about the theological, especially Christological, issues which are involved.

- Christians acknowledge and worship one God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - and for us to worship other gods is idolatry.

- It is acknowledged that God can be at work in other religions and is at work in the lives of all people.

- The word "god" is not so much a name or a title as the generic term for a particular kind of being and does not sufficiently identify the triune God.

- The special relationship of Christianity with Judaism, and with Islam, may need to be acknowledged.

RECOMMENDATIONS

A. Form of service : That a multi-faith service in serial form be used where services of worship involve members of different faith communities.

B. Planning and conducting the service : That representatives of all the faith communities which are to participate in the service be involved in the planning and that the purpose of the occasion be made clear at the outset.

C. Who participates? : That a community figure be overall presider of the gathering, with separate segments of the service led by leaders or representatives of religious communities appointed by the faith groups involved.

D. Venue : That multi-faith services be held on neutral ground such as a public building or an open-air site.

READING LIST

Multi-faith Worship? , Board of Mission of the Church of England, Report to General Synod, 1992.

Multi-faith Worship? Guidance on the Situations which Arise , Inter-faith Consultative Group of the General Synod Board of Mission.

Basis for Participation in Inter-faith Worship , Report by Working Group established by the Missionary & Ecumenical Commission of General Synod, MEC Newsletter March 1993.

Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions , Vatican II, Nostra Aetate, 28 October 1965.

The Lutheran Church of Australia and Inter-faith Worship , Statement by the Commission on Theology and Inter-Church Relations, 1994.

‘One Faith - Multifaith'

A theological basis for multifaith gatherings

Faith and Order Commission, Victorian Council of Churches, 2005

Commissioners: Rev. Dr. John Dupuche (Roman Catholic) (chair), Rev. Dr. Merryl Blair (Churches of Christ), Rev. Dr Helen Granowski, (Anglican), Rev. Jeff Gray (Uniting Church of Australia), Fr Samuel Elias (Coptic Orthodox), Rev. Cecil Schmalkuche (Lutheran), Rev Ian Scutt (Uniting Church of Australia), Prof. Richard Snedden, (Anglican), Dr Max Stephens (Roman Catholic). Foreword Invitations to participate in events which involve Christians taking part in ceremonies with members/representatives of other religions are new experiences for all member churches. Whenever such representatives come together as religious persons there is necessarily a religious aspect to the meeting that needs to be recognised. This document reflects upon the religious nature of such meetings and explores a possible theological basis for them. In the preparation of the document it was recognised that the Victorian Council of Churches member churches have had different experiences and varying opportunities in regard to such meetings, ranging from no experience at all to actually having hosted several public multifaith events. Even for those with some experience the principles of participation are still being developed and understood. There is however one principle that remains clear: that involvement in such gatherings cannot mean a dilution of our commitment to the Christian gospel (see Part II, Paragraph C of the Statement). It also needs to be said that we are still at a stage where the benefits of multifaith gatherings have to be balanced against risks of misunderstandings on all sides. Nor is there any indication at this point that a line of general agreement is emerging among member churches which the Council may take as normative. However, there is a commitment on behalf of member churches and the Council itself that these issues need to be explored together in Faith and in good faith. When reading the following text, take note that:
1. It has been accepted by the VCC Executive and issued in the name of the VCC.
2. ‘One Faith - Multifaith' is not an agreed statement by the member churches of the VCC.
3. ‘One Faith - Multifaith' attempts to take a balanced approach and is presented for discussion.
4. The Faith and Order Commission will continue to seek comments and welcomes reflections on the document.
5. It is proposed that, in the light of on-going reflection in this fast-developing field, that a revised text would be produced, perhaps in three years time.
6. It is proposed that in the light of the Parliament of the World's Religions to be held in Melbourne in December 2009, the VCC/Faith and Order Commission conduct a seminar for member churches addressing the issues raised in the text.
Table of contents
Preamble:
a. The question
b. The respective roles of civil and religious authorities
c. The role of non-religious participants
d. The relationship of ecumenism and interfaith relations
e. The special place of the Jews
f. The common cause of peace
g. The religious value of multifaith gatherings
h. The price of non-participation
i. The purpose of this present work Introduction:
a. A vastly changed world
b. The theological questions involved
PART I Some basic terms and considerations: 1. Interreligious dialogue
a. What it is not
b. What it is
c. The four forms of interreligious dialogue:
i. The dialogue of life
ii. The dialogue of action
iii. The dialogue of discourse
iv. The dialogue of religious experience 2. Positions of participants in interfaith dialogue:
a. The exclusivist position
b. The pluralist position
c. The inclusivist position 3. a. Multifaith
b. Interfaith
PART II Coming together for prayer? Praying together? a. Christian worship
b. Aspects of Christian worship
c. The essence of Christian worship
d. Ecumenical worship and interfaith gatherings
e. The problem of indifferentism
PART III Towards a solution: Transcendence CONCLUSION
APPENDIX: Some common elements of ritual Preamble: a. The question:
In the wake of September 11, 2001, Mr Bracks, the Premier of Victoria, approached the Victorian Council of Churches (VCC) with a view to conducting a religious service. The VCC recommended that any such service should be multireligious. Accordingly, the event at the Rod Laver Arena involved prayers and statements by a wide range of religious groups and reflected the diverse nature of our society. To what extent was the event a valid religious act? Was it simply a laminating of components which did not jell? To what extent was it folkloric and merely a gesture? This paper attempts to answer these questions. b. The respective roles of civil and religious authorities:
Civil authorities may at times of grief, celebration or thanksgiving, initiate interfaith gatherings and will accordingly provide support and representation. The event should, however, be directed by the religious groups involved. c. The role of non-religious participants:
Australia is a civil society in the sense that while many of its citizens hold religious views and claim the right to freedom of practice, there is no established religion. Indeed many Australians of good will and honest character do not associate with any religious tradition. In moments, therefore, of collective sorrow such as occurred after the bombing in Bali in 2002 or of collective celebration as happened at the Centenary of Federation in 2001, what is the role, in an interfaith service, of those who espouse no religion? The urgency of this question is felt particularly by those Christian traditions which attach high value to ‘getting together with others'. It is possible, of course, for religious and non-religious persons to join together in a common cause concerned with issues such as justice and peace. They may also appreciate sharing the cultural aspects of a variety of religious traditions through their music or food, or be invited to experience a religious service led by one group according to their custom. However, in the case of a request being made by the civil authority for a combined religious act, it would not be appropriate to invite those who possess no religious faith to participate in its planning and presentation. The event would, of course, be open to all to attend.
d. The relationship between ecumenism and interfaith relations:
The specific role of the Victorian Council of Churches is to enable the member churches to draw closer together and to achieve the unity for which Jesus prayed. This does not, however, preclude the VCC from involvement in interfaith relations. On the contrary, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue are intimately related, for the Christian traditions can, in the context of religious diversity, truly give witness to the person and work of Jesus, their one Lord, only if they are united amongst themselves. "By this shall all know you are my disciples, if you love one another." (Jn 13:35) The wish to establish valid relations with members of other religious traditions requires Christians to establish unity of faith with each other. Interfaith dialogue will reinforce the consciousness of Christian identity, and place denominational differences into perspective. The ability of the churches both to acknowledge their differences and to discover their unity as members of the one Body of Christ will help them meet members of other faiths and appreciate what God has accomplished. e. The special place of the Jews:
There is already an intimate and essential relationship of the Christian community to the Jewish tradition, for the Christian people is ‘grafted' onto the Chosen People. As St Paul says, Israel "is the root that supports you". (Rom 11:18) The Christian community, for its part, looks to the time when both communities, Christian and Jewish, will come to acknowledge their respective Covenants. Furthermore, the reconciliation of Christians and Jews is the model for the unity of all peoples and religious traditions. f. The common cause of peace:
It is to be hoped that the relationships enjoyed by Christians and members of other religious traditions may lead them to discover that they have more in common with each other than they do with the dominant materialistic culture. Indeed, all religious traditions can join together to counter the dehumanising effects of militant secularism and the extremism of those who misuse the name and purpose of the religious tradition they claim to promote. Those members of our community who do not claim religious affiliation may nevertheless appreciate that religious commitment can be valuable in the process of securing peace and human dignity. g. The religious value of multifaith gatherings:
Multifaith gatherings, we propose, lead to a deeper experience of the Transcendent, however this may be conceived. Such gatherings, whether at moments of trauma or at times of celebration, give access to profound religious experience. For, indeed, meeting with people of vastly different points of view would seem to reveal the hidden depths beneath the inadequate expressions. The encounter with other forms of wisdom is at once a consolation, for we recognise in them a divine truth that is our own; and also a challenge, for their truth is expressed so differently from our own. h. The price of non-participation:
Non-participation in multifaith gatherings, whether arising from a reluctance to break with past practices or from some sense of exclusivism, can be counterproductive, leading some to believe the other faith traditions are not to be valued. It also fails to confront prejudice and fundamentalism wherever they exist, and may be seen to condone the marginalization of those who follow a different tradition. Most importantly, opportunities are missed to express in a public way a common commitment to justice, respect for the human person, peace, compassion and mercy. Not to do something is to make a statement. i. The purpose of this present work:
The issues are many and complex. On the more practical side, the Living Faiths - Dialogue and Community Commission of the VCC has developed Guidelines for Multifaith Gatherings. For its part, the Faith and Order Commission wishes to explore the issues in detail and to establish theological foundations for such gatherings. This work, One Faith - Multifaith, therefore, sets out the parameters which the VCC (and the Heads of Churches) might wish to communicate to the relevant government departments so that their requests for future interfaith gatherings can be adequately addressed by the religious traditions according to their own principles. Introduction: a. A vastly changed world: In an article, "Confessing Christ in a religiously pluralistic context" Canadian theologian Douglas Hall suggests that a sober recognition of the fact that the church no longer holds the power it once held during the long period of its "Constantinian Captivity" can be the beginning of a life-enhancing relationship with non-Christian religions. "We are now," he suggests, "in the biblically normal situation that includes a plurality of religions and or quasi-religious alternatives." Hall suggests that for the last sixteen centuries, Christians have seen themselves to be the sole bearers of truth, the natural rulers over people, and the sole upholders of the good life. We now know that we share this planet with other faith communities who also believe with intensity and who have cultural values and styles of living with their own integrity and beauty. This change may appear to some as a loss; however, it can also be seen as a discovery of the true nature of Christianity. Christians living in the manner of Jesus will want to avoid any hint of crusading fervour, triumphalism or rudeness towards the adherents of other faiths. His hospitality, forgiveness, care for the stranger and interest in the outcast are to be woven into our manner. Who we are speaks louder than our words. Many of us may never speak directly of Jesus in our meeting with people of other faiths but our way of being with them is itself our confession. Christians engage in dialogue because of Christ. His inspiration leads followers to value all people, to discover their insights and work with them for a better world. It is the example of Jesus that leads us towards others. b. The theological questions involved: Our belief in Jesus Christ and the way of being present to the God that he proclaimed and embodied do not exist in a vacuum. In every age, Christian believers seek to express their commitment in terms of the questions and challenges that surround them. The age of interreligious encounter, according to Rowe, brings its own fresh questions:

  • What is the purpose of God in permitting a variety of religions to exist side by side - some sharing things in common but disagreeing on many important matters?
  • The old question whether salvation is to found outside the Church is posed in a new way. Is the Church the only embodiment of the purposes of God? Do the other religions have a role to play in God's offer of salvation? Is God present in the non-Christian world? Is Christ present in the non-Christian world?
  • Can people who differ greatly in their core beliefs work together for the common good without compromising those same convictions?
  • Who is Jesus and how do we speak of him in a world of many religions? What does it mean when Christians identify Jesus as the unique embodiment of God's love? Is it better to speak of Jesus being normative rather than unique?
  • Does dialogue with people of other faiths lead to a loss of evangelical passion? Is the goal of our dialogue the conversion of the other or is it a modification of their living in the light of Jesus but from within the framework of their own religion?
  • What is the mission of the Church in a multireligious neighbourhood?
  • Will Christian life be enriched or diminished by a growth in appreciation of the beliefs of others?

Theologians are giving increasing attention to such questions. David Tracy speaks for many when he says: ... dialogue among the religions is no longer a luxury but a theological necessity ... Like many others, I find myself in the unchartered territory of the new interreligious dialogue aware that both our present situation demands that entry and ... so does Christian faith.
PART I Some basic terms and considerations: 1. Interreligious dialogue: a. What it is not:
Interreligious dialogue is not the same as the study of various religions or a comparison between them. It is not a debate between followers of various religions. It has no wish to produce a sort of super-religion and it certainly does not aim at conversion or proselytism. b. What it is:
Interreligious dialogue is a meeting of people of differing religions, in an atmosphere of freedom and openness, in order to listen to the other, to try to understand that person's religion and hopefully to seek possibilities of collaboration. Indeed, the act of listening is the pre-eminent attitude. Cardinal Arinze defines it as follows: Willingness to listen implies appreciation of what the other person is, believes, prays or lives, together with a conviction that it is worthwhile sacrificing some time to be informed about all that. c. The four forms of interreligious dialogue: i. The dialogue of life: Dialogue of life is interreligious dialogue at the level of the ordinary relational situations of daily life: family, school, and place of social or cultural contact, village meetings, work-place, politics, trade or commerce. As we live in a multicultural society, there will be a need to improve our social and religious tolerance. There will be a need to communicate and discuss with the various religious organizations, ways in which each organization could encourage its members to be accepting of, and have respect for, other religious groups. There is a real need for groups to work more effectively to quell any sense of hatred and to reflect this in their mission-focus or statements, and to produce evidence for carrying out such programs.
Even if we do not worship the same God we do share a common humanity. This has somehow to be expressed and emphasised if we are to live peaceably together. Our effort should therefore be focused on exploring ways through which we do so effectively so that this harmony is achieved and experienced by all involved. As people wanting to develop our sense of community, we look for ways to learn more of each other, to understand more of each other's lives. This can be done in many ways; e.g., meeting as next-door-neighbours, having community picnics or cultural events. ii. The dialogue of action: This refers to Christians and other believers cooperating for the promotion of human development and liberation in all its forms. This could be any cause truly worthwhile such as community well-being and the promotion of harmony, justice and peace. To work together in the cause of justice is indeed pleasing to God, according to the prophets. Service to one's fellows is a form of service to God. In this sense, worship is indeed offered to God, but indirectly. This train of thought could be extended to include practical cooperative effort for the healing, restoration and well-being of the environment; for God's creation has been placed in our care. iii. The dialogue of discourse: Christians and members of other religions meet ... to exchange information on their respective religious beliefs and heritages. They listen to one another in an effort to understand the religion of the others at a deep level and as articulated by qualified and well-placed representatives of the other religious traditions. They try to see what beliefs and practices they share and where they differ. Together they try to face modern problems and challenges in the light of their differing religions. Suitable programs for discussions can be put in place with an aim to look at the benefits each faith group can contribute to society and how a sense of cooperation and trust might be achieved. Such discussions can focus on life issues, religious studies and religious experiences. It is not an act of worship as such but a willingness of each group to share ideas. iv. The dialogue of religious experience: ... refers to persons deeply rooted in their own religious traditions sharing experiences of meditation, prayer, contemplation, faith and its expression, ways of searching for God as the Absolute ... This paper is concerned above all with this fourth form of dialogue within the context of shared ceremony. This sharing requires great sensitivity, for when people of different faith traditions gather together, each wishes to affirm what they believe to be true about their faith, and its expressions. They come with different convictions about God and the world in relation to the mystery at the heart of all things. We need to remember that joining in the various forms of dialogue does not necessarily mean agreeing with others' beliefs.
2. Positions of participants in interfaith dialogue: It is common to identify three broad possibilities for Christian response to interfaith encounter. a. The exclusivist position sees salvation as coming only through Christ and his church and views the adherents of other religions as living in error and in need of conversion to Christ and incorporation into the life of the church. As early as the third century, the view that "outside the church there is no salvation" became an unquestioned assumption in the theology and practice of the church. The commonly quoted biblical cornerstones of this view are: "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved"; "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." As Rowe notes, however: Critics of the exclusivist viewpoint warn against taking these and other biblical passages out of context and reading into them implications not intended by authors who had no awareness of the great religions of the East or of Islam which emerged many centuries later. Leslie Newbigin, former missionary and Bishop of South India wrote, "anyone who has had intimate friendship with a devout Hindu or Muslim would find it impossible to believe that the experience of God of which his friend speaks is simply illusion or fraud." The strength of the exclusivist position is the unswerving affirmation of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. The weakness is the tendency to place boundaries around the love of God and to deny the generosity of God enacted in Jesus. This makes it very difficult for those wishing to engage in interfaith dialogue to find common ground. b. At the other end of the spectrum is the pluralist position. As Rowe notes: There is great variety among Christian Pluralists but a cornerstone of this position is that Christians should set aside inherited views about the uniqueness of Jesus as Son of God so that they may more readily appreciate truth within other religions. ... Some deny the traditional Christological assertions, preferring to recognise Jesus as one among many human messengers of God's truth. ... Others hold fast to traditional Christological claims as expressions of their own religious commitments but deny that these claims have universal validity. The culturally conditioned and equally certain apprehensions of final truth held by others are to be respected as ultimate truth for them just as Christ is ultimate truth for Christians. Christian Pluralists seek a theocentric rather than a Christ centric approach to truth, feeling that this permits respect for alternative understandings of God or of the ultimate mystery ... The strength of the pluralist position is its humble search for truth wherever it may be found and the desire, from a Christian viewpoint, to express the extent of God's love for humanity. The weakness of the pluralist position is that it seems to require Christians to give up the central Christological assertions made in their creeds and doctrines. For many Christians this would be to alter so radically their inherited faith that it would in effect be a new religion. The pluralist assertion that every religion is salvific cannot be maintained without careful study of the beliefs and lifestyles of each religious expression. c. The inclusivist position endeavours to hold together the best insights and convictions of the two previous approaches. The saving presence of God in non-Christian religions is affirmed while Jesus Christ is still held to be the normative revelation of God. Pope John Paul II showed a strong commitment to interfaith dialogue. He understood himself to be called both to proclaim Jesus Christ as "the Way, the Truth and the Life" and to promote dialogue with other religions that he claimed contain "a sort of secret presence of God." His view is summed up in the following:
God desires the salvation of everyone. In a mysterious but real way, he is present in all. Humanity forms one single family, since God has created all human beings in his own image. All have a common destiny, since they are all called to find fullness of life in God. Salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make [members of other faiths] formally part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. In the Genesis story the creation that God declares to be good is permeated by diversity. As human life has emerged and developed in different environments, the inherent diversity within creation has been increased by differences of culture, religious conviction, social organisation, custom, historical circumstance and spirituality. In multicultural Australia, both Church and society are learning to live beyond the quest for uniformity. The one God holds all the diversity of creation in unity. This is expressed well in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians. God's purpose is seen to embrace "all things" and to call for their "gathering up". Paul's normative description of the unity brought in Christ does not suggest the obliteration of distinctions. Jews and Gentiles remain who they are, maleness and femaleness continue, economic distinctions are acknowledged, but in Christ these differences are robbed of their power to divide. The Christian vision is that God's unifying purpose is carried out by his great act of reconciliation in Christ. A final caution, however, needs to noted: the three positions outlined above are useful models rather than rigid categories. The views of many thinkers may not fit into any of them. 3. a. The term multifaith is used to refer to a gathering of people of different traditions where each is responsible for contributing something of their tradition in turn, in parallel so to speak. The strength of this approach is that it can give equal treatment and recognition to each; the weakness is when the different traditions come together, in a form of lamination, without sharing in a cohesive act. b. Interfaith supposes a commitment to a relationship of dialogue. The gathering celebrates the existing relationship and provides a context for participants to come to a deeper religious experience.
PART II Coming together for prayer? Praying together? How can we pray together if ‘prayer' means ‘address', for the Buddhists do not ultimately address a Deity? If the Christian addresses all prayer through Jesus Christ, the one mediator between God and human kind, how can Muslims and Jews join with them in prayer? Many say that Christians, Jews and Muslims could be considered to pray to the one God of Abraham, however understood or mediated. Are humanists who focus on the glory found in creation, to be excluded from interfaith gatherings? Can we pray together or are we constrained always to remain essentially divided? Can we never really join with people of other faiths? This is the question. a. Christian worship: The English word ‘worship' means simply ‘worthship' and denotes the worthiness of the person receiving the special honour due to their worth. However, in the religious context and from a traditional Christian perspective, the word ‘worship' is reserved to God alone. Indeed the revelation God has given forbids worshipping anyone besides God. We believe in only one God. It is clear biblical and godly instruction that we must not worship any other god. Worship is rejoicing in all that God is, and ascribing to God the things which rightly belong to God, such as glory, honour, power, salvation, and thanksgiving. It is God's due as Maker of the world and everything in it, the Lord of heaven and earth and as Redeemer, the source of all blessing, who is therefore to be blessed. God in Christ is the definite, special object of Christian worship. In worshipping Christ the Father is worshipped, for Jesus is the Son of God, the visible image of the invisible God. Jesus Christ, as "the Lamb who was slain", is rightly the centre of Christian worship, to the glory of God the Father. All praise and thanksgiving go to the Father through Jesus Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit. b. Aspects of Christian worship: There are many elements in Christian worship. Through Christ the worshipping community continually offers a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the "fruit of lips that acknowledge his name". Equally, thanksgiving and prayers of petition have a regular place in all worship, as do the reading of the Scriptures and the preaching of the word. Furthermore, in certain circumstances fasting and almsgiving will accompany worship. Songs too have their place, for the Holy Spirit inspires a joy expressed in psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles. The Lord's Supper is an important part of Christian worship. Jesus himself gave an example of private worship as he often withdrew to lonely places to pray and recommended to his disciples that they should withdraw to some private place. This is also an important part of prayer in many Christian communities today. However, Christian worship is more generally understood to be corporate, where procedures, customs and conventions of liturgy and ritual are performed within particular ecclesiastical traditions. As such it is described as congregational - a group of people coming together to share an organised, corporate religious experience. c. The essence of Christian worship: The centrality of Jesus Christ in Christian worship is not to be compromised. Jesus Christ is normative for Christian believing and living. To deny this, or to obscure this would be to deny our Christian identity. Christ is understood by Christians to be the definer of life's possibilities, the saving presence of God within human existence, proclaimer and embodiment of the purposes of God, revealer and bearer of the pain and love of God. All that is done and said by Christians in interreligious encounter is shaped by the confession of Jesus as Lord, Word of God and Son of God. The New Testament message is that "in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19) and "through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:20). d. Ecumenical worship and multifaith gatherings: Ecumenical worship has enriched the lives and faith of those who have taken part, and indeed has broadened and deepened the life and faith of the whole church. Experience has moved ecumenical worship from that which was designed to include all and offend none (which often tended to be somewhat bland) to entrusting others with the normal worship of each church as they draw on the richness of their tradition. In this, Christians have learned to value the differences, and be excited by the many, many things they have in common. It is not always plain sailing - the issue of an inability on some occasions to share Communion can indeed be very painful. If Christians attend and are enriched by the worship of other Christian traditions, then it may indeed be possible to experience something similar in multifaith gatherings. And while this cannot be a communal and shared faith, each religion may however discover a perhaps unexpected depth of spirituality and insight in another. e. The problem of indifferentism: It is not realistic to suppose that all traditions or groups within a religion will wish to participate in an interfaith gathering; some will not attend at all, and others will attend only as observers. Yet again, others may give the false impression that the various religions are united in faith, which may lead to indifferentism - that one faith is as good as another - which is counterproductive and undermines the very purpose of the gathering. On the contrary, just as ecumenical experience tends to deepen denominational loyalty (although greatly enhanced), so interfaith gatherings will not ‘dumb-down' religious identification, but enrich it. So what then might be the basis of an interfaith gathering?
PART III Towards a solution: Interfaith gatherings are very special occasions. We are coming together to share our response to particular issues. Christians need to remember that the very terms ‘worship' and ‘prayer' have different meanings in different religions. Furthermore, each religion has its own forms, words, symbols and concepts that make it distinct. The hope and expectation are that people of faith and goodwill who are meeting in the face of common concern will be enabled to move beyond the mere formalities to something truly profound. Transcendence: This Commission proposes that the experience of the Transcendent may provide the beginnings of just such a common ground. Peak experiences in life and moments of intense emotion can lead to a knowledge of the Transcendent. Both disaster and triumph, whether individual or social, have the power to open humans to a deeper dimension all too often hidden from view. It is precisely this dimension that all the great religions claim to touch upon. It is natural, therefore, on occasions of tragedy for people to turn to the great traditions, and by drawing close to ancient and profound wisdom, to rise above the horror that has struck them. This is done not in order to hide from it but to be able to look at it and come to terms with it. Similarly, in moments of intense joy the Transcendent is recognised as in some sense essentially the source of that joy, with the result that the success is received as a grace. By coming together in an awareness of the Transcendent on such occasions, the participants begin to overcome the disintegrating effects of disaster, or draw closer as one body in their sense of triumph. The various traditions that have stood the test of time, all in their different ways, articulate the Transcendence which eludes the limitations of human discourse: whether this Transcendence be understood as the God who spoke to Abraham, calling him to leave all that was familiar and to set out for an unknown blessing; as the God who speaks in Christ sent from above and drawing all to himself; as Allah, the Merciful and Compassionate, who calls all mankind to trust in his inscrutable plans; as the deities of Hinduism who each in their different ways express the divine Reality that exceeds all names; as the Void of Buddhism which acknowledges the insubstantiality of all limited things. There are other religious groups, too, who understand the Transcendent yet again differently. Even those who do not claim religious affiliation may also seek to express the hopes and fears that transcend both disaster and triumph. The multifaith gathering will be merely folkloric or a temporary huddling together if the participants do not acknowledge in each other's tradition some awareness of the Transcendent. This is the basic minimum for coming together in a religious activity. Any authentic multifaith ceremony starts, therefore, with the presupposition that the major religious traditions, of long-standing and tested efficacy, do touch upon the divine. Only on this basis can we come together for a religious ceremony. We listen to their teachings and witness their rituals so as to perceive the depths from which they spring and to be taken by them back into that depth. The participants, in the variety of their traditions, turn to the foundation on which they place their trust and take their refuge. Though all are united in a sense of Transcendence all will express themselves differently and all should be allowed to do so in their own manner. It would be unconscionable to suggest the opposite. Each religion has its own distinctive set of beliefs and expressions, rituals and images. These must be allowed without any attempt to blur the distinctions or to relativise the absolute value attached to them. Similarly their stories and histories must be acknowledged. A multifaith gathering is not, however, a dialogue of the deaf. The acknowledgement of another's experience and expression of the Transcendent is not a denial of one's own but does involve turning to others and perceiving that they are not alien. The meeting of the other is a transcendence of the self. The gathering involves listening with respect, if not agreement, to what the other has to say. Indeed, for all the traditions, these gatherings may raise questions capable of deepening and developing understanding for all participants. Openness to the values of other traditions can lead to a transcending of one's own; going beyond the limitations of one's personal understanding and discovering a new depth to the Mystery. The multifaith gathering thus involves another transcendence: out of past limitations and accretions which have encumbered the essence of the traditions into a future where the divine and the human are more fully realised Encounter with another begins with questions about ourselves: who are we, what do we believe, what do we hope for? The questions we bring to the meeting with others are first asked of ourselves. These questions then recur as we meet with those who believe differently. For Christians, this participation in multifaith gatherings does not in any sense mean relativising Jesus who is always proclaimed Lord of all and remains the unique Saviour. It does mean, however, that Christians are challenged to understand more fully in what sense Jesus is Lord. Christians, as true disciples, wish to learn in which other ways the Word-made-flesh has been expressed. By acknowledging the essential experience of other religions, without fearing them or ignoring or absorbing them, Christians can enhance their understanding of their faith. Some aspects of Christianity can be seen in other religious traditions. Justin Martyr (c.100-165) may be helpful when he states that: Whatever has been uttered aright by any men in any place belongs to us Christians; for, next to God, we worship and love the reason (Word) which is from the unbegotten and ineffable God; ... For all the authors were able to see the truth darkly, through the implanted seed of reason (the Word) dwelling in them. For the seed and imitation of a thing, given according to a man's capacity, is one thing; far different is the thing itself, the sharing of which and its representation is given according to his grace. Following Justin Martyr some Christians understand, in a Buddhist sense, that the Word is found in apophatic silence. The Word can also be seen as expressed in the language of the Koran and in the images of Hinduism. However, all Christians would believe that this Word was made flesh as Jesus of Nazareth. He revealed himself in words and works but especially in the last, inarticulate cry from the cross, which leads us shockingly into the presence of God. Indeed, the Word is made fully flesh when he ceases to be mere flesh. The revelation is complete when nothing can be seen: the tomb is empty. We are not expected to agree with everything, although we should allow ourselves to be challenged and our faith clarified. As Christians, we believe we should treat others as we would like them to treat us. Therefore, to hear the Word expressed in other ways and to acknowledge the Word present in each other will allow our communion in the silence of the Word that precedes all speech. Coming together in this way we can move to depths of the divine mystery and together rest in the Heart, the Void, the Father, however it is we wish to name that which cannot be named. In short the multifaith gathering, properly understood, is an experience of transcendence, whether it be upwards to the One who surpasses all, or outwards to the other, or within to the unplumbed depths of one's own tradition or onwards to a future which is beyond human imagining. In this way the commemoration of tragedy - or the celebration of triumph - is turned into an opportunity for enrichment that would otherwise not have been given. When at last the value of the experience has been perceived, all will give thanks and say, "Amen! Yes, it was good that it happened thus".
CONCLUSION: While the acknowledgement of the Transcendent in the various religious traditions is the starting point and basic minimum if a multifaith gathering is to be a truly religious act, this acknowledgement will, we believe, finally lead to a common expression both in word and ritual. The gathering cannot remain forever at the inner, invisible and intuited dimension only. This is not to suggest that eventually the various religious traditions will arrive at a common theology or ritual, a sort of 'super-religion' or lowest common denominator. Rather, the character and style of multifaith gatherings will change and develop with the passing years as the understandings of the spiritual traditions are deepened by their encounters. There will necessarily be a certain unity of expression in word and ritual, for humankind is one and the Ultimate Reality is not multiple. What this way of approach will be cannot be predicted but will spring naturally from valued multifaith gatherings which embody an element of the Transcendent. APPENDIX Some common elements of ritual: While the various traditions entertain vastly different theologies and ritual practices, there are also elements that occur in most if not all of them. The advantage of the following list of elements is that they can provide some sort of guide to what might be included in a multifaith gathering. a. The most common element is the use of language. Even the Society of Friends, to take a Christian tradition for example, who are famous for the silence of their meetings, acknowledge that the central purpose of worship is for members to speak as the Spirit moves them. It must be remembered, however, that in some faiths the use of words is supplemented by specially created symbolic artefacts such as the ‘writing' of icons and the turning of prayer wheels.
b. Many words used in religious ritual come from sacred texts distinctive to each faith in presentation as well as in message. However, the artefact by which this message is made available is always venerated and placed in a special setting. It becomes central to the section of the ritual where a sacred text is read.
c. All faiths identify sacred places as the correct, indeed sometimes the only settings in which ritual can be conducted. Even where this is permitted in the open, the holy place is created by the setting or by the symbolic artefacts brought to the site or by the orientation of the worshippers. For example, Muslims will always seek to face the holy city of Mecca.
d. Most traditions construct buildings or centres for worship, often with long association in the history of that tradition. Indeed, some buildings have been used over the years by succeeding faiths. Great care is often taken within such buildings to create a sacred space which expresses the key aspects of the faith.
e. Sayings, declarations, paintings, statues and ornaments are often painted or located prominently on the walls or in the area, thus defining the holy space. Traditional architectural conventions are used and even redefined over the generations while being still easily recognised by the congregation. The aim is always to create a beautiful, uplifting and secure environment in which the ceremony can be conducted.
f. Sacred symbols are distinctive to each tradition: for example the cross or crucifix, the symbol of the redemption; the menorah or seven branched candlestick of the Jews, symbolic of the seven days of creation; the mihrab or recess found in the Muslim mosque, orienting the worshippers towards the Ka'aba. Hindus and Buddhists also have their appropriate symbols, many and varied according to the traditions within those traditions.
g. Light, whether captured by stained glass windows, by candles or by the play of sunlight on water, has been used as a symbol down through the ages.
h. For those with particular roles in the ceremony, special clothing, titles, and seating arrangements may be significant.
i. Music is also common to ritual. Songs, chants, prayers, hymns, psalms and mantras may be used as well as instruments and other forms of accompaniment. These vary according to the tradition and styles of various eras and may be essential to the worship.
j. Silence is used in many rituals, with varying significance.
k. There may be a call to gather for the sacred event. Sometimes it is a bell or it may be the Muslim muezzin calling from the minaret. The invitation to gather for worship may, on the other hand, be the first formal part of the worship service.
l. There is often a leader in ritual whose role is to secure a degree of cohesion in presentation and order. For example the Imam leads the prayer of his Muslim congregation; the Jewish cantor leads in song; the Christian priest or minister may preside; the Hindu priest and the Buddhist teacher may also lead in the ceremony.
m. Movement, whether it be procession or prostration, the veneration of the icon or holy book by kissing or even the formal position of stillness: these and many other corporeal acts are to be found in all traditions.
n. The list could be further extended: fasting, almsgiving, pilgrimage, rites of passage ... Towards a bibliography: Ariarajah, S. Wesley Not without my neighbour, issues in interfaith relations, Geneva, WCC Publications, 1999. Arinze, Francis Sunday Examiner (Hong Kong), November 29, 1998.
http://www.columban.ph/dialogue_Arinze.html Bishop, P.D. The Christian and People of Other Faiths. Epworth, 1997. Bonino, J.M. ‘The Uniqueness of Christ and the Plurality of Humankind', in Leonard Swidler and Paul Mojzes (eds), The Uniqueness of Jesus, Orbis, 1997. Brueggemann, W. and Stroup, G.W. (eds), Many Voices, One God: Being faithful in a pluralistic world. Westminister, John Knox Press, 1998. British Council of Churches Can We Pray Together? Guidelines on Worship in a Multi-Faith Society. London, British Council of Churches / Committee for
Relations with People of Other Faiths, 1983. Castro, E. ‘A passion for Unity' in Essays on ecumenical hopes and challenges, WCC, 1992. Cox, H. Many mansions: a Christian's encounter with other faiths, Collins, 1988. Hick, J. God has Many Names, Westminster, 1982. John Paul II Redemptoris Missio, ‘On the permanent validity of the Church's missionary mandate'. 7 December, 1990. http://www.papalencyclicals.net/all.htm John Paul II Agenda for the Third Millennium, Harper Collins, 1996. May, John D'Arcy Interreligious Dialogue: the End of Ecumenism? Occasional paper, Melbourne, 2001. Newbigin, L. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, Eerdmans, 1989. Panikkar, R. Invisible Harmony, Fortress, 1995.
Prior, R. The Gospel and Cultures, Victorian Council of Churches, 1997. Race, A. Christians and Religious Pluralism, second edition, SCM, 1993. Rowe, K. Living with the Neighbour who is Different: Christian Faith in a Multi Religious World, Uniting Church Press, Melbourne, 2000. Thangaraj, M. Thomas ‘A Theological Reflection on the Experience of Inter-religious Prayer', in Pro Dialogo / Current Dialogue, 98 (1998) pp.186-188. Tracy, D. Dialogue with the other: the Inter-religious Dialogue, Eerdmans, 1990 Victorian Council of Churches Guidelines for Multifaith Gatherings, 2004. Volf, M. Exclusion and Embrace, Abingdon, 1996. Wiles, M. Christian Theology and Inter-religious Dialogue, SCM, 1992 Wilfred, F. ‘A New way of Being Christian. Preparing to Encounter Neighbours of Other Faiths', in Concilium, 1999/1.

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Interfaith Peace Service

International Peace Day
Sunday, 21st September, 2008
2 pm


St David's Uniting Church
454 Pacific Highway
Lindfield NSW 2070

Greetings and Welcome:
Remembering the First People:
Before we commence the service, let us acknowledge that we are here on the land for which the Terramerragal band of the Guringai people are the traditional owners and custodians.
We remember with gratitude the care of their ancestors for this land.
We hope and pray that working together with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters we can create a peaceful Australia and a peaceful world. Introduction:
Today is International Day of Peace.
It started in 2001, when the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution designating September 21st of each year as the International Day of Peace. At the United Nation's Building in New York and in different parts of the world prayers are offered by different religious groups on this day for peace and the Peace Bell in New York is rung at 12 noon. Here we celebrate it as Interfaith International day of Peace and that's the reason we have gathered here from different religious and cultural backgrounds. We are not here to engage in theological debate or discussion. We are not here to promote or establish the superiority of any particular religion. We are not here to proselytise anyone, that is, not to convert anyone to any particular religion.
But we are here because we all share one planet, one humanity.
And we all yearn for peace.
So breaking the barriers that divide us we are here today as one family to pray for peace. Lighting of the Peace Candle:
Now I invite Ms Kaylin Simpson Lee to come and light the Peace candle. While she lights the Peace candle we all will say the International Prayer for Peace together, which is printed in the order of service. The International Prayer for Peace:*
Lead us from darkness to light, from falsehood to truth;
Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust;
Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace;
Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.
Prayer of Thanksgiving:
For the expanding grandeur of creation,
world known and unknown,
galaxies beyond galaxies,
filling us with awe and challenging our imaginations:
We give you thanks, O God.
For this fragile planet earth,
its times and tides,
its sunsets and seasons:
We give you thanks, O God.
For the joy of human life,
its wonders and surprises,
its hopes and achievements:
We give you thanks, O God.
For our human family,
our common past and future hope,
our oneness transcending all separation,
our capacity to work together for peace and justice
in the midst of hostility and oppression:
We give you thanks, O God.
For high hopes and noble causes,
for faith without fanaticism,
for understanding of views not shared:
We give you thanks, O God.
For all who laboured and suffered for a peaceful world,
who have lived so that others might live in dignity and freedom:
We give you thanks, O God.
For human liberty and sacred rites,
for opportunities to change and grow, to affirm and choose:
We give you thanks, O God, for ever and ever. Amen. Examination of Conscience: Let us recall in the silence of our hearts our role in causing division and brokenness:
Do I recognize the dignity of all people?
Do I allow God to speak to me through the lives of the impoverished and marginalized?
Do I strive to remove barriers between people?
Do I play my part in creating a fair and just global society?
Do I challenge unjust systems and structures?
Do I use the earth's resources wisely?
Do I allow society to degrade and dehumanize people?
Do I speak out when others are fearful, oppressed or treated unfairly?
Do I work to influence my country's foreign and domestic policies?
Do I work for peace not only in my community or country, but throughout the world?
O Great Spirit of God,
fall afresh on us, renew us
and strengthen our resolve to live in love,
peace and harmony with you,
with others and with this planet.
Musical Items: "Peace I leave with you" arranged by Donald Moore, based on a Canon by
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
"Love Me Sweet" by Carl Vine and arranged by Mark O'Leary Aboriginal Prayer:
Father God, we thank you for this day.
We give you thanks and praise for this peace gathering.
We ask you to embrace us within your everlasting arms.
Your arms are always filled with grace and peace
For all of us, your children, your beloved family.
Since time immemorial Gracious God, your Holy Spirit
Kept watch over this Great South Land and its First Peoples.
The First Peoples revered, respected, trusted and always obeyed.
You comforted, rescued, strengthened and redeemed us.
As time went by Lord, many changes happened in this land.
We became lost amongst the tensions of all of the times.
Now Lord, as we re-kindle and restore our campfires
Of faith, hope, love, joy and peace, we ask you to use us,
As your instruments to work with all who call Australia home,
And visitors to this Great South Land of the Holy Spirit.
Please Help, guide and protect all of us, in our homes
Our places of work, our communities as by our words and deeds
We show your Love, your Grace and your Peace to all people,
Irrespective of race, colour, gender or creed. We pray all of this in the name of Jesus Christ
Our refuge, strength and redeemer
Who taught us to pray:
Our Father who art in Heaven
Hallowed be Thy name
Thy Kingdom come
Thy will be done
On Earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For thine is the Kingdom
The power and the glory
Forever and ever Amen.
Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.
(silence)
Baha'i Prayer:
O Thou kind Lord! Thou hast created all humanity from the same stock. Thou hast decreed that all shall belong to the same household. In Thy Holy Presence they are all Thy servants, and all mankind are sheltered beneath Thy Tabernacle; all have gathered together at Thy Table of Bounty; all are illumined through the light of Thy Providence.
O God! Thou art kind to all, Thou hast provided for all, dost shelter all, conferrest life upon all. Thou hast endowed each and all with talents and faculties, and all are submerged in the Ocean of Thy Mercy.
O Thou kind Lord! Unite all. Let the religions agree and make the nations one, so that they may see each other as one family and the whole earth as one home. May they all live together in perfect harmony.
O God! Raise aloft the banner of the oneness of mankind.
O God! Establish the Most Great Peace.
Cement Thou, O God, the hearts together.
O Thou kind Father, God! Gladden our hearts through the fragrance of Thy love. Brighten our eyes through the Light of Thy Guidance. Delight our ears with the melody of Thy Word, and shelter us all in the Stronghold of Thy Providence. Thou art the Mighty and Powerful, Thou art the Forgiving and Thou art the One Who overlooketh the shortcomings of all mankind.
Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.
(silence)
Buddhist Prayer (Pali):
Homage to him, the Exalted One, the Enlightened One, the Supremely Awakened One.
I go to the Buddha for guidance.
I go to the Dharma for guidance.
I go to the Sangha for guidance.
People of the world, parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, and other family members and kinsmen, should respect and love each other, refraining from hatred and envy. They should share things with others, and not be greedy and miserly, always speak friendly words with a pleasing smile, and not hurt each other. May all beings be happy and safe.
Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.
(silence)
Christian Prayers:
Lord of the journey . . .
may we be aware of these
moments together,
of the great company,
past, present and to come,
with whom we join to worship you.
And with your Spirit among us
may we look for a time
and work for the day
when there will be joy at sunrise
and peace at sunset,
and all will be free as Christ is free. Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.
(silence)
Father of mercies,
Open our spirits and our hearts
So that we may be more truly makers of peace.
Remember all those who are oppressed,
Who suffer and die.
May your kingdom of justice, peace and love
Come for all men of every race and tongue,
And may all the earth be filled with your glory. Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.
(silence)
Hindu Prayer (Sanskrit):
From the unreal lead me to the real
from darkness lead me to light
from death lead me to immortality
may all beings dwell in happiness
may all beings dwell in peace
may all beings attain oneness
may all beings attain auspiciousness,
may all happiness be unto the whole world
we pay homage to the universal consciousness which nourishes all beings,
may we be liberated from the death of ignorance through knowledge of our immortal essence,
just as the cucumber is severed from the bondage of the vine
Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.
(silence)
Islamic Prayer (Arabic):
"Allahumma antassalam wa minkassalam wa alaika yarjessalam, hayyena rabbana bissalame wa'adkhilna darassalame tabarakta rabbana wa ta'alaita ya zaljalal-i-walikkram". O Allah! You are Peace personified; You are the source of Peace for all other creatures; Peace always turns towards Thee. O Creator and Sustainer! Keep us alive with peace, and let us enter the Home of Peace (Paradise). O Lord! O possessor of awe and honour! You are Sublime and Bounteous. Sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) You will not enter Paradise until you believe,
And you will not believe until you love one another,
And you will not love one another until you promote peace among you. Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.
(silence)
Jain Prayer (Hindi):
MY MUSING
(The Spiritual Conqueror) Who has Vanquished affection, hatred and
other sensual temptations, who has gained the Knowledge of the Whole
world and who has discoursed upon the teachings of the right path of
Liberation (for the benefit) of all in a quite unselfish manner.
(You may call him by the name of) Buddha, Vira, Hari, Hara, Brahma or
independence (Deity) Enamoured by devotion to (the Spiritual
Conqueror) my mind may remain absorbed in Him and Him only.
(Those ascetics, who) have no desire for sensual pleasure. Whose only
possession is mental equanimity who remain engaged always, day and
night, in bringing about the good for their own selves & for other as
well.
Who always undergo the penance of self sacrifice without any regret-
such learned ascetics remove the multitude of troubles of the world!
May I ever have their good company and may I ever keep them in mind.
May my heart be always engrossed and inclined to adopt the rules of
conduct which they observe.
May I never hurt and harm any living being; may I never speak a lie.
May I never be greedy of wealth or wife of another May I ever drink
the nectar of contentment.
May I never entertain an idea of egotism; nor may I be angry with
anybody! May I never become jealous of seeing the worldly prosperity
of other people.
May my thoughts and feeling be such that I may always act in a simple
and straight forward manner. May I ever, so far as I can, do good in
this life to others.
May I always have a friendly feeling towards all living beings of the
world and may the stream of compassion always flow from my heart
towards distressed and afflicted living beings.
May I never become fretful towards bad, cruel and wicked persons. May
I keep tolerance towards them. May I be so disposed!
May my heart be over-flowing with love at the sight of the virtuous
and may I be happy to serve them so far as possible.
May I never be ungrateful (towards anybody): nor may I revolt (against
anybody). May I ever be appreciating the good qualities of other
persons and may I never look at their faults. Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.
(silence)
Jewish Prayer (Hebrew):
Grant us peace, Thy most precious gift, O Thou eternal source of peace, and enable Israel to be its messenger unto the peoples of the earth. Bless our country that it may ever be a stronghold of peace, and its advocate in the council of nations. May contentment reign within its borders, health and happiness within its homes. Strengthen the bonds of friendship and fellowship among all the inhabitants of our land. Plant virtue in every soul, and may the love of Thy name hallow every home and every heart. Praised be Thou, O Lord, Giver of peace. May God bless you and keep you.
May God look with favour upon you and be gracious to you.
May God deal kindly with you, and grant you peace. Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.
(silence)
Sikh Prayer (Gurumukhi):
"Assa di vaar" (Morning prayer which deals with Peace and Happiness)
Human Ego, arrogance or selfishness is our greatest ailment,
but there is a remedy for it too
It is sweet humility, the essence of righteous values, and
Ultimate truth will heal us by absolving our maliciousness. "Sukhmani Sahib" (Psalm of Peace)
Ask yourself what service have I rendered to His creation when Sikhs believe "Creator is creation & creation is Creator". Lip service is not Prayer but truthful conduct is, soulful devotion is said Guru Nanak.
What do I pray for?
It is Supplication to conquer my ego; For help in evolving my spirituality (my moral sense). For strength to win over my enemies or ailments of anger falsehood, lust, greed, attachment and arrogance/ego.
With humility, I am comfortable, & at Peace; and haughtiness has decomposed many. Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.
(silence)
Sufi Prayer (Persian):
Ho Val Allah Hol Ali
"Glorified be thy Lord, the Lord of Majesty, from that which they attribute (unto Him). And peace be unto those sent (to warn). And praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds! Holy Quran, Chapter 37 verse 180 182.
Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him)has said " Each human being is like mine, gold, silver or Jewel; excavate the goodness with in them, so that you may have peace.
Islam which is derived from the root Silm, means peace and tranquility. The words of the lord of believers and the pure Amir-al-Momenin Ali (peace be upon him), the guiding light for humanity, attest to this genuine and sacred goal: Isalm is submission , and submission is stability and constancy in the true reality of Existence.
Dreaming of Peace is not peace. Everyone speaks of peace but there is no peace. Everyone wants peace and yet there is no peace. Each human beings innate urge is to live in peace, and yet people do not cease to fight kill and destroy. Our desire to transform the world must begin with transformation of "i" into "I" the true self. By transforming the "i" one can go long way towards transforming the greater world in which "I" lives. A successful human society is attained through the outward and inward harmony of its member and their harmonious existence in a unified system. Unless every individual discover the knowledge and the reality with in them, we will not have a peaceful calm and prosperous society. Oh I wish that pride of hearts would be shattered once again, and the truth would encompass the world, and souls would shine like mirrors.
Until dawn the holy messengers whispered the realistic visions of the Gods upon the sky of existence, And gave power to the life of man. Believers have said that the last psalm of the Gods which was uttered by the angles was:
In following rebellion and corruption's wake, the law of mercy is obstructed; trust in the God and wait, so that the streams of mercy flow in the land of heart, and death reduces its hold. And once again the tree of life blossoms and the messengers silently repeat the Psalms of the God in the sky of life.
Time is short and day of judgment is near.
My Lord grants us the peace and tranquility. Ellahi Ameen A Reflection:
Peace: A wise man once said,
how you see your future
determines how you live today.
I didn't understand, couldn't comprehend
‘til it was too late.
He said, tomorrow starts today.
So live like you are free,
put down your weapons,
burn all your anger,
and peace you will see ... A wise man once said,
how you live your future
determines how you see today.
Now I understand, and I comprehend
and I'll live life this way ...
Tomorrow starts today.
So I'll live like I'm free.
I put down my weapons,
burned all my anger
‘cause peace starts with ... me. Song: "Let there be peace on earth" ^
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me;
Let there be peace on earth,
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Creator
We are one family
Let us walk with each other
In perfect harmony. Let peace begin with me,
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take,
Let this be my solemn vow:
To take each moment and live each moment
In peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Lighting of Candles:
Now I invite you to come forward in two rows to the front, to light a candle. As you light a candle you may say a silent prayer for a person or a group of people or a nation in conflict. Our guests will help you in lighting the candles. After lighting the candle please place them on the table at the top and get back to your seat. Thank you.
(David Hudson's music will be played during the lighting of the candles)
Song: "Make me a channel of your peace" ^
Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love;
where there is injury, your pardon, Lord; and
where there's doubt, true faith in you.
Refrain: Master, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love with all my soul. Make me a channel of your peace.
Where there's despair in life, let me bring hope;
where there is darkness, let me bring your light; and
where there's sadness, ever joy.
Refrain: Master, grant that I may never seek
so much to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love with all my soul. Make me a channel of your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
in giving of ourselves that we receive, and
in dying that we're born to eternal life.
Vote of Thanks:
Before I recite the final words I would like to take this opportunity to express my thanks.
I express my sincere thanks to all our guests and religious leaders. You are busy people, and you have come from far and near and that speak volumes about your commitment to the cause of peace. Thank you.
Thanks to Ravenswood Girl's School Vocal ensemble, Mrs. Nicole Smeulders and Mr. Michael Rohanek. Its not a school working day, and still you have come to us and added a special dimension to this service. Thank you.
I thank the media for the publicity they have done for this service
A special thanks to our pianist Malcolm Allerding for his contribution to the service.
A number of people helped me organise this service. While I am deeply thankful to all of them, I would like to mention a few names. They are Kaylin Simpson Lee, Heather Sulerzyski, Kate Boyd, Ros Robinson, Jean Vincent, our office secretary Tania Jagger and my wife Nita. Thank you so much for all your help.
I thank those who have provided food.
And finally a very sincere thanks to all of you for your participation in this service. Thank you very much indeed.
A Final Word:
"Go not to the temple to put flowers upon the feet of God;
First fill your own house with the fragrance of love.
Go not to the temple to light candles before the altar of God;
First remove the darkness of sin from your heart.
Go not to the temple to bow down your head in prayer;
First learn to bow in humility before your fellow humans.
Go not to the temple to pray on bended knees;
First bend down to lift someone who is down trodden.
Go not to the temple to ask for forgiveness for your sins;
First forgive from your heart those who have sinned against you."
(Rabindranath Tagore, First Asian Nobel Laureate in literature)
And as you go -
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the Sun shine warm upon your face
The rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you
In the hollow of his hand.
(A Traditional Irish Blessing)
Everyone is invited to stay for refreshments and extended fellowship. * The words adapted from the Upanishads, were used by Mother Teresa in 1981 and urged people of all faiths to use the peace prayer daily at noon.
^ Hymn covered by CAL
PARTICIPANTS Presider: Rev. Manas Kumar Ghosh Prayers offered by: Ms. Pearl Wymarra
(according to order) Mrs. Shiva Rich
Rev. Shigenobu Watanabe
Sr. St Jude Doyle OAM
Mrs. Heather Sulerzyski
Pandit Jatinkumar Bhatt
Mrs. Zubeda Rahaman
Mr. Pawan Jain
Rabbi Richard G Lampert
Mrs. Mina Batra
Ms. Sariba Jomeidy Peace Candle lit by: Miss. Kaylin Simpson Lee
Reflection: Ven. David Lungtok
Pianist: Mr. Malcolm Allerding
Musical Items: Ravenswood Girls' school Vocal Ensemble
Music Director: Ms. Nicole Smeulders
Accompanist: Mr. Michael Rohanek
Floral Arrangement: Mrs. Jean Vincent
Our special thanks to all our guests, participants, and those who have helped to organise this special service and who have provided the refreshments.

Guidelines for multi-faith gatherings for members of the Uniting Church in Australia

Prepared by UCA National Assembly Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths, 1996

Interfaith vs Multifaith: While 'multifaith' may better describe a gathering of people of differnt faiths, each being responseible to share something of his/her faith experience, 'interfaith' pushes us towards a statement of 'one God' and differing revelations/understandings. 'Multi-faith' has been used in these guidelines as it better describes the events that are being organised in our communities.

In this diverse Australian society, people of many different cultures and faiths live and work together. As people wanting to develop our sense of community, we look for ways to learn more of each other, to understand more of each other's lives. This can be done in many ways; meeting as next-door-neighbours, having community picnics or cultural events. In­creasingly, there are also opportunities for people of different faiths to share the spiritual aspect of their lives,

When people of the same faith worship God together, they are affirming what they believe to be true about God and their relationship to God. When people of various faiths come together, Christians seek.to be faith­ful to God revealed to the world through Jesus Christ. People of other faiths come with different convictions about God or about the world in relation to the mystery at the heart of all thing, andtheir convictions are also held with integrity.

Multifaith worship assumes a respect for each others faith expression and beliefs and should never be entered into in order to proselytize. It should rather acknowledge our diverse spirituality and common humanity.

Why do people of different faiths come together to worship?

1. A Civic Service

Civic leaders may want to organise a religious gathering to bring together all members of their community - to reflect the multicultural and multireligious nature of the community and to promote the harmony and well-being of the community. Church leaders should encourage civic lead­ers to promote multicultural events first, so that people can learn to recog­nise each other's gifts and cultural values.

If there is to be a religious gathering, religious leaders should request the responsibility to organise the program, the elements of which should in­clude components that emphasise our common humanity in relationship with God:

  • stories of journeying and the significance of faith
  • sharing the joy, the grief, and the pain of the journey.

Where should this event be held?

While church members may immediately consider using church buildings, this may well discomfort and even exclude those of other faiths who would like to attend. More neutral territory should be found - a public hall, an open area ego local park or the town centre.

How should this event be organised?

Nominated representatives of faith communities should meet together to decide on.the purpose, the theme and the content of the civic service.

Remembering that the purpose of this event is to draw the community together, the Service should include components from different faith traditions, and these components need to be discrete sections of the event. Early in the proceedings it should be stated explicitly that statements of faith made represent the convictions of particular groups of people; they are not presented as statements having the assent of all participants. Rather, each group present shares something of its faith and religious experience with others.

The SHARED nature of these gatherings is the coming together, and the strongest components of shared worship may well be:

  • when the reason for gathering is expressed, the 'drawing together' - the Greeting,
  • when the individuals of the gathering are sent out to live and work together in community - the Blessing,
  • in the silences that could be incorporated after each faith-sharing or story-telling by the different faith traditions.

The distinct contributions offered by the various faith traditions could include singing or a spoken prayer as well as the stories of faith. As the leaders talk through the various possibilities, each will learn what is practised by the other, what is acceptable, and what has meaning in each of the traditions. It is not recommended that people of different faiths join in common prayer. Some even say that common prayer should never be attempted as it too easily blurs the distinctions between the faiths and may cause offence. If this is accepted, then prayer may be included within each religion's section of the civic service.

Remember: a civic service provides a means to build the sense of cohesion within a community of households of people of different faiths - avoid topics that can cause division and focus on joint celebration and/ or concerns.

2. A Memorial/Commemorative Service

Sometimes the desire to worship together comes from a very significant community experience that needs to be shared and given meaning by peo­ple of faith ego bushfires, earthquake, multiple shootings, the breaking of a drought, the survival of the fishing fleet caught in a bad storm. It could also be a Service to mark a national or international event. The leaders of the various faith communities would be responsible jointly to organise this
event.

Where should this event be held?

If the event being commemorated is local, the best location for this gather­ing would be as close as possible to the event being commemorated. If the occasion was traumatic, the surroundings should remain stark with some symbols from the various faith traditions that demonstrate hope, healing, the presence of a Comforter. If the event was national or international, neutral territory should be sought.

How should this event be organised?

Responsibility for organising a Memorial! Commemorative Service should lie directly with the leaders of the various faith communities. They should ensure that the occasion focuses on the reasons for the gathering, the as­pects of the experience that need to be addressed, and the process by which the people of the various faith communities deal with an event of
this kind.

Again, the strengthening of the communal links may best be done in silence _ maybe with' general' music being played if this is appropriate. The serv­ice would have to be organised with great sensitivity - allowing the sense of loss, grief or thankfulness to be expressed, as well as the faith perspective that holds people together in a time of trial.

If Christians are the prime movers for such an occasion, they should be aware that their need to include others in a religious memorial may not be meeting the needs of the other faith communities. If other faith communi­ties do not want to participate in a memorial service, then Christians may organise a Christian memorial.

3. Worshipping together - in the context of deepening relationships with people of other faiths

Events of this type may arise from shared discussions between representa­tives of various faith traditions. These gatherings, if conducted on behalf of the various faith traditions, should include nominated representatives from the various faiths. Even if the gathering is more informal in nature, the same general principles as used in the previously - discussed types of service apply i.e. sensitivity in deciding location, content, areas of respon­sibility.

Christians in this situation would have discussed pertinent faith questions with the people of other faiths and there would be a shared experience to which they may wish to give witness.

Where should this event be held?

People who have been participating in discussions with people of other faiths may wish to worship together in one of two ways:

a. By visiting each other's place of worship in order to better understand expressions of faith and worship. If members of the Uniting Church know that they are to have visitors from other faith traditions, then the visitors should be informed throughout the service as to what is happening etc. The guests should bb accorded the freedom of whether/when to participate or not -and therefor~ it would be better if they were not ushered to the front of the church. A further 'hospi­tality' gesture should be made after the service so that all may gather openly and freely together.

b. A 'shared celebration' by those participating in the dialogue. People in this situation would be able to discuss the location and content of such services among themselves. If the invitation to worship together is extended to people outside the on-going discussions, then the dialogue group would have to be sensitive to the needs of their own communities when organising such an event. The location of Worship in this situa­tion depends very much on the purpose of that gathering. It should never be assumed that the Worship has to take place within a build­ing, nor that the rotational worship sequence should begin with the Christian church.

How should this event be organised?

We acknowledge that God is at work within the lives and traditions of us all.

We are all one in our concerns for humanity, but at the same time each religion has its own distinctive set of beliefs, theological Statements and implications with respect to worship.

Worship with others of different faiths must not blur the distinctive reli­gious traditions from which we each come.

A 'checklist'

  • Why are we organising this event? Is worshipping together the best response to our felt need at this time?
  • How are we dealing with those of our Church family who come from other cultures and have to overcome memories of past experience in order to relate with people of other faiths?
  • Are the representatives the delegated leaders from each faith community?
  • Where is the event to be held? Why?
  • How are we organising this time of worship? Which group is responsible
  • for which section? Are we doing anything that will give offence to the other?
  • Should we offer further hospitality before/after the event? Is this appropriate?

These guidelines were prepared by the Assembly Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths, and have been adopted by the Assembly Standing Committee. They are offered as a resource to those Uniting Church people and groups who are seeking to establish relationships and better understandings with people of other faiths in their communities. You are invited to respond to these initial guide­lines with questions or insights from your experience of liturgies for special occa­sions, like inter-faith marriage, memorial services or gatherings at hospitals organ­ised by chaplains.

So you want to worship together?

Guidelines for multi-faith gatherings for members of the Uniting Church in Australia

In this diverse Australian society, people of many different cultures and faiths live and work together. As people wanting to develop our sense of community, we look for ways to learn more of each other, to understand more of each other's lives. This can be done in many ways; meeting as next-door-neighbours, having community picnics or cultural events. In­creasingly, there are also opportunities for people of different faiths to share the spiritual aspect of their lives,

When people of the same faith worship God together, they are affirming what they believe to be true about God and their relationship to God. When people of various faiths come together, Christians seek.to be faith­ful to God revealed to the world through Jesus Christ. People of other faiths come with different convictions about God or about the world in relation to the mystery at the heart of all thing, andtheir convictions are also held with integrity.

Multifaith worship assumes a respect for each others faith expression and beliefs and should never be entered into in order to proselytize. It should rather acknowledge our diverse spirituality and common humanity.

Why do people of different faiths come together to worship?

  1. A Civic Service

Civic leaders may want to organise a religious gathering to bring together all members of their community - to reflect the multicultural and multireligious nature of the community and to promote the harmony and well-being of the community. Church leaders should encourage civic lead­ers to promote multicultural events first, so that people can learn to recog­nise each other's gifts and cultural values.

If there is to be a religious gathering, religious leaders should request the responsibility to organise the program, the elements of which should in­clude components that emphasise our common humanity in relationship with God:

  • stories of journeying and the significance of faith
  • sharing the joy, the grief, and the pain of the journey.

Where should this event be held?

While church members may immediately consider using church buildings, this may well discomfort and even exclude those of other faiths who would like to attend. More neutral territory should be found - a public hall, an open area ego local park or the town centre.

How should this event be organised?

Nominated representatives of faith communities should meet together to decide on.the purpose, the theme and the content of the civic service.

Remembering that the purpose of this event is to draw the community together, the Service should include components from different faith traditions, and these components need to be discrete sections of the event. Early in the proceedings it should be stated explicitly that statements of faith made represent the convictions of particular groups of people; they are not presented as statements having the assent of all participants. Rather, each group present shares something of its faith and religious experience with others.

The SHARED nature of these gatherings is the coming together, and the strongest components of shared worship may well be:

  • when the reason for gathering is expressed, the 'drawing together' - the Greeting,
  • when the individuals of the gathering are sent out to live and work together in community - the Blessing,
  • in the silences that could be incorporated after each faith-sharing or story-telling by the different faith traditions.

The distinct contributions offered by the various faith traditions could include singing or a spoken prayer as well as the stories of faith. As the leaders talk through the various possibilities, each will learn what is practised by the other, what is acceptable, and what has meaning in each of the traditions. It is not recommended that people of different faiths join in common prayer. Some even say that common prayer should never be attempted as it too easily blurs the distinctions between the faiths and may cause offence. If this is accepted, then prayer may be included within each religion's section of the civic service.

Remember: a civic service provides a means to build the sense of cohesion within a community of households of people of different faiths - avoid topics that can cause division and focus on joint celebration and/ or concerns.

  1. A Memorial/Commemorative Service

Sometimes the desire to worship together comes from a very significant community experience that needs to be shared and given meaning by peo­ple of faith ego bushfires, earthquake, multiple shootings, the breaking of a drought, the survival of the fishing fleet caught in a bad storm. It could also be a Service to mark a national or international event. The leaders of the various faith communities would be responsible jointly to organise this event.

Where should this event be held?

If the event being commemorated is local, the best location for this gather­ing would be as close as possible to the event being commemorated. If the occasion was traumatic, the surroundings should remain stark with some symbols from the various faith traditions that demonstrate hope, healing, the presence of a Comforter. If the event was national or international, neutral territory should be sought.

How should this event be organised?

Responsibility for organising a Memorial! Commemorative Service should lie directly with the leaders of the various faith communities. They should ensure that the occasion focuses on the reasons for the gathering, the as­pects of the experience that need to be addressed, and the process by which the people of the various faith communities deal with an event of this kind.

Again, the strengthening of the communal links may best be done in silence _ maybe with' general' music being played if this is appropriate. The serv­ice would have to be organised with great sensitivity - allowing the sense of loss, grief or thankfulness to be expressed, as well as the faith perspective that holds people together in a time of trial.

If Christians are the prime movers for such an occasion, they should be aware that their need to include others in a religious memorial may not be meeting the needs of the other faith communities. If other faith communi­ties do not want to participate in a memorial service, then Christians may organise a Christian memorial.

  1. Worshipping together - in the context of deepening relationships with people of other faiths

Events of this type may arise from shared discussions between representa­tives of various faith traditions. These gatherings, if conducted on behalf of the various faith traditions, should include nominated representatives from the various faiths. Even if the gathering is more informal in nature, the same general principles as used in the previously - discussed types of service apply i.e. sensitivity in deciding location, content, areas of respon­sibility.

Christians in this situation would have discussed pertinent faith questions with the people of other faiths and there would be a shared experience to which they may wish to give witness.

Where should this event be held?

People who have been participating in discussions with people of other faiths may wish to worship together in one of two ways:

a. By visiting each other's place of worship in order to better understand expressions of faith and worship. If members of the Uniting Church know that they are to have visitors from other faith traditions, then the visitors should be informed throughout the service as to what is happening etc. The guests should bb accorded the freedom of whether/when to participate or not -and therefor~ it would be better if they were not ushered to the front of the church. A further 'hospi­tality' gesture should be made after the service so that all may gather openly and freely together.

b. A 'shared celebration' by those participating in the dialogue. People in this situation would be able to discuss the location and content of such services among themselves. If the invitation to worship together is extended to people outside the on-going discussions, then the dialogue group would have to be sensitive to the needs of their own communities when organising such an event. The location of Worship in this situa­tion depends very much on the purpose of that gathering. It should never be assumed that the Worship has to take place within a build­ing, nor that the rotational worship sequence should begin with the Christian church.

How should this event be organised?

We acknowledge that God is at work within the lives and traditions of us all.

We are all one in our concerns for humanity, but at the same time each religion has its own distinctive set of beliefs, theological Statements and implications with respect to worship.

Worship with others of different faiths must not blur the distinctive reli­gious traditions from which we each come.

A 'checklist'

Why are we organising this event? Is worshipping together the best response to our felt need at this time?

How are we dealing with those of our Church family who come from other cultures and have to overcome memories of past experience in order to relate with people of other faiths?

Are the representatives the delegated leaders from each faith community?

Where is the event to be held? Why?

How are we organising this time of worship? Which group is responsible

for which section? Are we doing anything that will give offence to the other?

Should we offer further hospitality before/after the event? Is this appropriate?

These guidelines were prepared by the Assembly Reference Group on Relations with Other Faiths, and have been adopted by the Assembly Standing Committee. They are offered as a resource to those Uniting Church people and groups who are seeking to establish relationships and better understandings with people of other faiths in their communities. You are invited to respond to these initial guide­lines with questions or insights from your experience of liturgies for special occa­sions, like inter-faith marriage, memorial services or gatherings at hospitals organ­ised by chaplains.

These should be addressed to:

Uniting Church in Australia National Assembly
Working Group on Relations with Other Faiths
PO Box A2266 Sydney South 1235

Christian Order of Service on the Theme of People of Other Faiths

We live in a world where large numbers of people live by many different traditions of faith. Recognising that God is the creator and provider of the whole human family, and respecting sincere efforts to know and relate to God, this order of worship, adapted from With all God's People: The New Ecumenical Prayer Cycle, suggests elements that enable us to pray for neighbours of other faiths.

Adoration
The time is coming, indeed it is here, when the true worshippers would worship God in Spirit and in truth.
God is spirit; those who warship him should worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23,24)

(silence)

This is the place and this is the time;
here and now God waits to break into our experience.
To change our minds, to change our lives, to change our ways.

To make us see the world and the whole of life in a new light
To fill us with hope, joy, and certainty for the future.

This is the place, as are all places; this is the time;
Here and now let us praise God.

Be our Freedom Lord, Terry C Falla

Hymn or Song

Psalm
145 or 104:1-15 (read responsively)

Readings
Jonah 4: 1-10
Luke 6:37-45 or Matthew 8:5-13

Prayer
Eternal God, you are the author of life; all living things depend on you; you care for the earth. We pray for our neighbours whose expressions of faith are different from ours; the longings of whose hearts we do not always comprehend. Teach us to know that you love all peoples; help us to respect what we do not yet understand; and to rejoice in the words and acts of truth, beauty and love, wherever they may be found. Enable us to love others as you love, and to live with others in ways that build your gracious rule over all life. We ask this in the name of him who gave himself for all, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Responsory
Eternal God, free us from fear and prejudice;
free us from the ignorance that holds us back from rejoicing that we belong to the one human family.
Set us free to belong and to care.
Lord, set us free.

Loving God, free us from narrowness of mind that is too quick to reject, from self-righteousness that is too ready to judge,
from smallness of spirit that fails to see the good in others. Set us free to love and learn.
Lord, set us free.

Merciful God, free us from our hesitation to witness to your love, our unwillingness to listen to the witness of others,
our slowness to discern you in places where we least expect.
Set us free to perceive and to believe,
Lord, set us free.

Litany of gratitude
Let us celebrate our friends and neighbours, men and women whose faith and wisdom have enriched the earth.

(silence)

Seek the truth.
Listen to the truth.

Love the truth.
Serve the truth.

Teach the truth.
Live the truth.

Let us remember with gratitude to God some aspects of the contribution which religions have brought to the lives of people.
• We remember the Jewish people, their life centred on God and God's will. We remember the common heritage of scripture which we share with them.
• We remember the rich spiritual traditions of the Hindus; their conviction about the moral laws that rule the universe; the Hindu saints and sages who have dedicated their whole lives in the quest for truth.
• We remember Buddhists who follow the Buddha in the path of enlightenment and seek to live a disciplined daily life.
• We remember the followers of Confucius and Lao-Tse and their conviction that right relationships between people are the path to wisdom.
• We remember Muslims in their total commitment to God; in their zeal of devotion and strength of comradeship.
• We remember the followers of the religions of Africa; and the Native peoples of the Americas, [and the indigenous people of Australia] whose religious understanding embraces the whole of life; and all whose religious traditions have enriched the earth and affirmed the sacredness of all creation.
• We remember Sikhs, Parsis, and many other religious groups who witness to your unsearchable glory and love. Teach us to discern your presence in the midst of all your people.

Adapted from New World Liturgy, Yohan Devananda, Sri Lanka

Intercession
Let us pray for all religious communities and especially for all who teach, preach, instruct and lead; that they may inspire true religion and sincere devotion in the hearts and minds of people.
Hear our prayer, O God

Let us pray for all artists, poets, dramatists, writers and theologians; that they may serve the cause of justice and peace in the interpretation and application of their faiths.
Hear our prayer, O God. Let us pray for the places where there is conflict or war in the name of religion. Let us remember places where there is suspicion or prejudice against any religious community; let us pray for places where there is no religious liberty or the freedom to practise one's own faith.
Hear our prayer, O God

Let us pray for all reformers, for all who seek to correct the wrongs done in the name of religion and its propagation; let us pray for all who work for reconciliation and dialogue, for all who seek to enrich their own faith through their openness to others.
Hear our prayer, O God

Collect
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love, where there is injury, pardon,
where there is doubt, faith,
where there is despair, hope,
where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in dying that we are born again
to eternal life.

Traditionally by St Francis of Assisi

Lord's prayer

Benediction
Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth.
Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust,
Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe.

Prayer for Peace, 1981
Page 1 of 2

Contact

PO Box A2266
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NSW 1235

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Phone: 02 8267 4482
Fax:     02 8267 4222

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