Saturday, April 23, 2011

Multi-faith Seder: Building Bridges with Ceremony

On Tuesday, April 19, I traveled to Stony Point Center with my pastor, Cynthia, and two other church friends, to take part in a Passover Freedom Seder. Stony Point is a retreat center owned by the United Presybyterian Church, but is also home to a growing interfaith community. At the Seder, Christians, Jews, and Muslims shared symbolic foods, prayers, song and dance. While the food was traditional, the message was not.

The focus of the Freedom Seder was on peace and non-violence. The traditional Seder includes a recitation of the plagues that were perpetrated on the Egyptians to force the Pharaoh to free the people of Israel. In this interfaith Seder, one participant read: “I love reciting the plagues! Blood, frogs, lice, boils, wild beasts...”

But another reader interrupted: “STOP! We’re not reciting the traditional plaques anymore.” The reason given was: “…we do not want to perpetuate cycles of violence, nor be the cause of feelings of remorse, grief, or revenge. The only list of plagues we recite, are the ones that we, around this table, have a hand in causing.” Then a moving poem was read that laments the Palestinian experience of being removed from their homeland and forced to live under occupation. A prayer followed, asking for an end to military occupations around the world. This can happen when enough people of goodwill want it to happen. When people lay down their weapons and celebrate the joy of peace between all sectors of humanity, no matter what their nationality, race, or religious background may be.

As the Seder continued, there was much feasting and joyful celebration among the participants who represented all generations as well as several religious faiths. The traditional Passover meal celebrates the time that the hand of God passed over the homes of the Israelites, sparing them from the plagues that were sent to destroy many of the Egyptians who enslaved them. In metaphysics, the Israelites symbolize "our spiritual thoughts; the thoughts that pertain to the real and enduring ideas upon which humanity and the universe are founded" (Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, p. 305). Metaphyscially, the Egyptians represent "thoughts that pertain to the subjective consciousness in its unawakened state" (MBD, p. 184). We celebrate when our spiritual thoughts lift us to a harmonious existence with our brothers and sisters of the world. And we celebrate when our divine-consciousness destroys those negative and fearful thoughts that plague us and create disharmony in the world.

The true Passover will then bring peace and goodwill to all people on earth. Shalom. Salam. Pax.

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