Dear Universal Heart Networkers
I have been sending out Universal Heart Newsletters since the publication of The Universal Heart in 2000. That means some of you were with me during the year of my ordination (2005), and also during the year we started interfaith services at Pitt Street Uniting Church in June 2006. (Thank you so much if we have travelled together through that time! I am so grateful.) This year, this month – on 19 June 2016 – we celebrate 10 years of those spiritually inclusive services. If you can possibly be with us in Sydney, I would so love you to be there! They offer such an authentic expression of universal love, seeking, sacred living. We will meet as always at Pitt Street (264) Uniting Church, Sydney, 2000. We start promptly at 3pm. Please try to be there a little earlier. The beautiful old church is between Park and Bathurst streets, just a block from Town Hall. So very easy for all public transport.
Sustaining spiritual services without the support of an institutional church has been a huge challenge – and our welcome to all, plus the quality of teachings and music we have consistently offered, has been absolutely dependent on the passion and commitment of a few, along with the eager and enthusiastic attendance of the many. Of course not being part of an established temple or church is also liberating. We treasure that we are free of dogma, and especially free of any notion that there is “one right way” – other than living lovingly, respectfully, and with immense regard for this earth and all who dwell on it. We have also been incredibly fortunate in having a home at an inner city church that prides itself on a genuine open-door welcome. We are not part of the Uniting Church but we have been sheltered by it, and especially by the Pitt Street congregation: sheltered in the very best sense of that word.
Interfaith can be understood in many ways – beyond interest or tolerance for people who worship or seek meaning in ways other than your own. In this age of immense, wounding divisions between people, some of them religious, tribal and cultural, some gender-based, and at a time when literally millions live in extreme poverty, or without homes or countries, we can no longer afford to assume that those differences will heal with time or will simply cease to matter. A more active vision is needed that treasures diversity but also vigorously insists that what we share – our human and divine inheritance; our life as spiritual beings making a human journey – makes every person worthy of respect and care. I am particularly thinking of the world’s most vulnerable: children who live in poverty, or fear, and their families. The universal wisdom teachings that we rely upon, and that I have relied upon in my work and books and life for a lifetime now, live richly in all the traditions. Inclusive spirituality is as ancient as time! Our interfaith services, and the growing movements of spiritual respect and genuine inclusivity through community and sacred seeking, remind us that we can embrace and offer a way of living and being that is intrinsically healing, uplifting, curious, deeply consoling, and humble.
Interfaith and inter-spirituality are not “the answer” , not a new “faith”. We’ve had too many “answers” in our human history that simply reinforce hierarchies, putting some above and leaving some below. I think it’s possible to see interfaith – and especially its ethical vision – more as a way of living, of experiencing spirituality in and through daily choices. For some this combines very deeply with an original or loved home faith, and for others it provides community and wisdom and inspiration in and of itself. I also think of interfaith, or spiritually inclusive services, as a way of delighting in the vastness of human diversity, while at the very same time celebrating what we most deeply and inescapably share: life in this world together; life that is, as Rumi reminded us, “As short as a half-drawn breath.” The entire exquisite verse is: “With life as short as a half-drawn breath, why plant anything but love?”
In 21st-century life, in this global age, it takes great courage to “plant love”. To envision this, to make it possible, we need the companionship and inspiration of one another. Our services have played a small part in bringing a more loving vision of life to all who have attended them. On 19 June, we hope you will be there with us also. We would also ask that you extend this invitation to your own circles – forwarding this email, noting it on Facebook or other social media, or perhaps calling a friend: that, too, plants love.
Some of you may want to read a little more, via this article: http://www.stephaniedowrick.com/blog/what-is-interfaith-stephanie-dowrick-explores-a-very-contemporary-question/
Others of you may want to return to or discover Seeking the Sacred or perhaps Heaven on Earth.
Blessings to all. Peace in your hearts. Peace in our world.