“Go out into the world today and love the people you meet. Let your presence light new light in the hearts of people.” St Teresa of Kolkata shared this wisdom when she was working in India, a country of many faiths and cultures.
The last event at Te Ngakau Waiora Mercy Spirituality Centre before its closure at the end of July concerned “Feeling a Divine Presence in the Light of different Faiths”. About 50 people attended.
The July 29 event was organised by the Mercy Spirituality Centre in cooperation with the Auckland Interfaith Council (AIFC).
Ten speakers of different faiths reflected on the theme of “presence”. Ruth Cleaver, the AIFC president and Beate Matthies, the manager of the Mercy Spirituality Centre, welcomed the participants and speakers together.
Ms Matthies, who is also the Catholic representative on the AIFC, commented that “presence” was often considered as rather mystical. Referring to the Bible, she mentioned the prophet Elijah’s search for the Almighty God in a great wind, in an earthquake or in a fire. God was in none of them. God was present in the silence. (1 Kings 19:11-13)
The next speaker, Ram Lingam, recalled a little anecdote on a mistaken identity during his last visit to India. Mr Lingham, then turning to the topic, said that, in his Hindu tradition, human beings are always in the presence of the divine – and the divine is present in us. Therefore, the Indian greeting is “Namaste”, which translates to “I bow to the divine in you”.
Diane Winder, an Interfaith/Interspiritual minister, said that the divine presence was everywhere, and that she felt it, for example, when walking in silence through the kauri trees.
Paul Wilton, a Jewish speaker, explained the concept of believing that the world stands on three things: the Torah (God’s word), Avodah (worship, service of God) and Gemilut chasadim (acts of loving kindness). He concluded his speech with a song of praise. Everybody turned silent when he chanted in Hebrew.
Imam Muhammed Shaakir had asked another member of his Muslim congregation to give a speech on the divine presence, according to Islamic traditions. Anzar Chida, a young man of Indian heritage, stated that we human beings could never understand what God is – God is always bigger than anything we would be able to understand. Mr Chida then recited a poem that he had written on his feeling about God.
Harpreet Singh Kohli represented the Sikh community, and explained how he was meditating on one of the mantras: “Sing . . . Tuhi Tuhi Tuhi – This is you, this is you, this is you.” For the Sikh, the divine was inside of oneself.
Muriel Samuela from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mentioned the importance of gathering to worship and the efforts to keep the Divine Covenants, especially to show love for one’s neighbour.
Steve Drake, who represents the Baha’i Faith on the AIFC, shared his spiritual experience of a pilgrimage to a sacred place. It was a very special experience, and a strong feeling of love that will always stay with him.
The last speaker of the evening was Rev. Ivica Gregurec from the Anglican Church in Auckland. Following on the notion of sacred spaces, he mentioned special places of presence in churches, shrines and sacraments – and people standing on holy ground.
The Buddhist member of the Auckland Interfaith Council, Caitlin Bush, had provided a quote from the founder of Buddhism, which was printed on the leaflet that was given out to the participants: “If you wish to know the divine, feel the wind on your face and the warm sun on your hand.”
The atmosphere during the event was relaxed and positive. People commented on the obvious love, camaraderie and fellowship amongst the council members.
Other comments were that the evening was heart–filled, professional, interesting, enlightening and beautiful . . . the best yet, they said.