So, the challenge always is to get in and out of these posts without taking forever! Today was a great day, but I'm exhausted tonight, and I have to be up so early tomorrow: there is a Yoruba service at 7:00 am I want to attend. So, here are the highlights!
I presented this morning from 8:30-10:00 am on "Rethinking Salvation"--if you know my work at all, this isn't a surprise to you! I spoke for an hour and then had 30 minutes of great conversation with the audience: the room was full & everyone was very engaged. I was so pleased, and it confirmed to me that conversations around salvation are really important for those of us in the church to be having!
Then, I attended the first plenary session, the focus of which was women. I particularly wanted to hear Serene Jones, and she was good; however, I was a little discomforted by the tone of the whole thing. Overall, you got the feeling that MANY of the women in the room [and there were thousands] had been deeply wounded by religion, and the sort of amorphous spirituality that celebrates women here [like the drumming circle participants on the stage] emphasizes a VERY essentialist understanding of women: women are nurturing, loving, mothering, etc., etc. I find that language problematic and unhelpful in many ways. It doesn't resonate with me, and, to be honest, it makes me feel a little uncomfortable.
So, I skipped out early [with Jennifer Crist!] and we went to the Sikh Langar--the free meal the Sikh community is preparing for anyone and everyone every day of the Parliament. The food was delicious--as much as you wanted [and all vegetarian!], and I was glad I attended; after lunch, I went to a session on "Langar: Sikh and Interfaith Perspectives." Former Bishop Mark Hanson spoke, and he made an interesting connection between a Lutheran understanding of the Eucharist as a means of grace, and the embodiment of neighbor love in the Langar. But I especially appreciated hearing the Sikh presenters talk about what it means to them. One of the women said something about the Langar as beliefs being put into practice, which then become habits; in that way, our beliefs become who we are. I liked that. I also appreciated the Muslim woman who shared that for her, when she first experienced the Langar, she thought--wow, we [the Muslim community] aren't doing enough: for her, it was competition between religions in a good way. I thought that was interesting.
Then, I went to this very powerful performance piece titled "Kultar's Mime"--it's based on a poem written by Sarbpreet Singh about the horrible "pogrom" that was perpetrated on the Sikh community in Delhi after Indira Gandhi was shot and killed by her Sikh bodyguards. [It was inspired by the poem "In the City of Slaughter," which was written by Hebrew poet Haim Bialik, after the pogrom against the Jewish community in Kishinev, Russia in 1903.] Singh used eyewitness accounts of the terror; in the scene depicted in the picture above, the actress is recounting the gang-rape of a young girl. This is from the description of the play: "Drawing upon the raw imagery of both poems, [Kultar's Mime] tells a story of human suffering and courage, reminding us that in the end all innocent victims are the same, regardless of how they worship God and what tongues they speak."
I ended my evening with a Shabbat service, and the beautiful chanting of Psalms.
Oh--also, as at the last Parliament, Tibetan Buddhist monks are constructing a sand mandala: it's the most amazing thing to watch.
Now it's time for bed!