Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Parliament of the World’s Religions, Part II

Saturday, October 17th was the third day of the Parliament of the World’s Religions. I didn’t get to the Salt Palace Convention Center until around noonday. That means the first session I attended was the 1:30 PM plenary on income inequality. This ended up being the only plenary session I attended in its entirety. Prior to the plenary session, I passed some time listening to musicians, exploring a few more of the exhibits, and visiting with people. I also snapped several more photos. This was my third day of lugging around a camera which had barely received any use, and I decided to change that. Let me begin by sharing some of those photos now.

Tibetan Buddhist monks creating a mandala.  This photo was taken on Friday, October 16th, but I failed to share it in my previous post.

When I arrived at the Salt Palace on Saturday the 17th, it was to the sounds of Solaris.

Having your photo taken with the cardboard cutout of Joseph Smith III became the thing to do for members of Community of Christ who visited our booth.

Giving you a sense of the Exhibit Hall.  The Community of Christ booth is to the right, nearer to the viewer than anything you can actually see here.  Our booth was at the end of a row, so it would be facing toward you if you could see it, perpendicular to the booths more obviously showcased here.

The Tibetan Buddhist monks kicked off the plenary on income equality.  Check out the video directly below.

A sampling of the monks' chanting (praying? singing?).  You should really do yourself a favor and see the beginning of their chant, which you can do by clicking here.  It's fascinating.

I ran into a couple of guys who were tour guides in Nauvoo with me this past summer. Before the plenary session, I saw Jared. After the plenary, I happened upon Shad. I got photos with each of them. Both Jared and Shad attend college in Utah, but in cities are that are roughly 90 minutes away from SLC. This was my first and only time seeing them since coming back to Utah.

With Jared.

With Shad.

At 3:30 PM, I attended a session called “Poverty and Transcending Greed.” Community of Christ President Steve Veazey was the first presenter at this session. He spoke about Outreach International, one of the church’s charitable organizations. Apostle Barbara Carter followed President Veazey, talking about the Open Table project, which Community of Christ has collaborated with. The session concluded with Pamela Ayo Yetunde, who had years earlier left her job as a financial consultant because she could no longer stand participating in a business that had the primary purpose of facilitating greed. Ms. Yetunde spoke about the importance of engaging in spiritual practices that foster non-greedy mindsets. A video recording of this particular conference session can be accessed by clicking here. The same video appears below.

Steve Veazey, President of Commmunity of Christ, speaks.

Community of Christ Apostle Barbara Carter.

Although it was 5 PM at this point, I wanted to stick around for a 7:30 PM Havdalah service, a Jewish ritual celebrating Shabbat. In the interim, I went to dinner with my pastor Robin and fellow SLC CofC congregants Brittany, her husband Josh (whom I had hung out with much on Friday), and Monica. We opted for the food court at the nearby City Creek Mall, which made dinner much cheaper and more casual. When we wandered back to the Salt Palace, most people were planning on attending the 7 PM plenary on war, violence, and hate speech. Because the Havdalah service overlapped with the plenary session, I couldn’t attend both. But I heard my associate pastor, Seth, might be getting a shout-out at the beginning of the plenary, so I decided to go for the first 20 or 25 minutes, which would still allow me to attend the Havdalah service in its entirety. This ended up being the best decision I made during all of Parliament. Barb Carter (mentioned earlier) also had reason to leave the plenary session early, and so she and I ended up sitting by ourselves in a place where our leaving wouldn’t be so interruptive. This gave us an opportunity to chat. Now, I had already spoken a little bit with Barbara on a previous day, and I could tell from that very brief interaction that she is a really neat person. Her sincerity and love shines through as she speaks with you. She’s one of those people who can’t help but radiate such warmth. That drew me to her from the get-go, but I believe I can say that my conversation with her as we waited for the Saturday night plenary session to begin was for me the true spiritual highlight of the entire Parliament. It all started with Barb asking me to tell her more about myself. I gave my spiel, which included an admission that, in certain aspects of my life, at least in certain ways, I feel kind of aimless right now. Barbara then counseled me. I don’t think she was trying to counsel me, exactly. She was just a good listener who then shared some of her own experiences, very much from the heart. But it was a truly sacred moment for me. Barbara’s words resonated deeply with me and spoke very much to my own thoughts, feelings, and experiences, even beyond the more superficial details I had shared with her. It was a beautiful moment, and I was on a spiritual high. Within a few minutes, Emma’s Revolution would be on stage, performing an opening song for the plenary, a song titled “Peace, Salaam, Shalom.” They would be accompanied by a chorus of children, and they would indeed begin with a shout-out to Seth. (Watch the video below for more details.) Riding the spiritual high of my conversation with Barbara, this was all very powerful to me. I questioned my decision to leave for the Havdalah service, but it was time to do so. I found the willpower to drag myself away and headed outside, where the Havdalah was set to take place.

At seemingly random times, in seemingly random places, a group of angels would appear at Parliament.  They would sing and walk.  Some of them didn't sing.  Some of them just made eye contact with anyone they could, a beaming smile on their faces.  This group appeared just as my entourage and I made our way out of the Salt Palace to go to City Creek Mall for dinner.

Emma's Revolution performs "Peace, Salaam, Shalom" at the Saturday evening plenary session.

"Peace, salaam, shalom!"

If you play the video here, you’ll start at the beginning of the plenary session. If you click here, however, you will be taken immediately to the moment when Emma’s Revolution takes the stage and introduces the song.

While I couldn’t hear much other than the singing at the Havdalah service—whenever the Rabbi simply addressed the crowd, he was so soft-spoken that his microphone didn’t help much—I very much enjoyed myself. Huddled together in a group, under the night sky, a candle flickering, with those who were able singing along in Hebrew—it felt holy. At one part of the service, various fragrant items were passed around—sage, something like a lemon, etc. We were told the scents were meant to invigorate and restore us. There was a mindfulness in the passing of these items that truly made it feel sacred. I remember holding out my hands, close together, as the woman beside me gently and purposefully placed an aromatic object in my hand. I remember gently lifting it to my nose and inhaling, slowly but deeply, taking the scent deep into my breast and soul. Perhaps it sounds strange, but I wanted to preserve the inner tranquility I was feeling, and so I chose to slip away before the ceremony officially came to a close. I was heading for the train, but I did not want to slip my headphones over my head, as is usual for me. I wanted that internal stillness to persist. I wanted to be alone with my thoughts. I wanted to enjoy the melodic rise and fall of Hebraic chant-singing fading away behind me as I walked into the night. It was a lovely conclusion to my Saturday.

Parliament lasted another two days, but this seems like a good spot for a break. I’ll end with a photo of Barbara Carter and me taken on the night of Monday, October 19th. Barb attended our monthly Community of Christ Book Club meeting, and I didn’t want to let her go without getting a picture with her. She graciously agreed. So, yes, this is officially a non-Parliament photo, but since Barbara was here for Parliament, it all makes sense.

To be continued…


  1. This all sounds so wonderful! I'm glad , you're sharing with us.

  2. This all sounds so wonderful! I'm glad , you're sharing with us.