Sunday afternoon’s interfaith “Prayers for the City” service, the second annual, wouldn’t have happened in Burma, China, North Korea, Cuba or Iran.
To be sure, some of these countries even have freedom of religion written into their constitutions.
In this country, we mean it.
Mayor Tom Henry convened the event at the University of Saint Francis Performing Arts Center in downtown Fort Wayne.
The program featured leaders from a number of religious traditions. That included a Jewish rabbi, a Catholic nun, a Baptist preacher, the UCC minister, a Muslim imam, a Sikh, a member of the Miami Nation and my Unitarian minister, Rev. Shelly.
An interfaith chorus set just the right tone with “Unity,” taken from the Psalms. The verse set to music declares “How good and pleasant it is for kindred to dwell together in unity.”
Sister Kriss led the congregation in a prayer of Pope Francis that petitions God, “Grant us peace, teach us peace…”
We heard a Buddhist chant. A beautiful young Hindu girl danced, often on one leg, to Eastern music. Her peaceful pose helped reinforce the theme. She had everyone charmed.
The interfaith chorus sang one of the favorites my college choir often did, “The Prayer of Saint Francis.”
Local clergy took turns leading the congregation in a responsive reading. At the close, as we filed out to the Performing Center’s lobby for the refreshments, I was struck by how friendly, even energized everyone seemed.
I studied in colleges and a seminary where you often heard there was one church and you were in it. There was none of that at Sunday’s interfaith service. There was no narrow, bigoted spirit to be found in that center, that day. Yet there are lots of places in the world where your beliefs, practiced openly, can land you in prison or get you killed.
In this country, an interfaith service such as Sunday’s in Fort Wayne is as common as an interstate highway or the 11 o’clock news. We practice religious freedom here every day and don’t give it a second thought.
Thank you, Founding Fathers.