Faith, Trust, and Interfaith Dialogue

I don't usually get choked up during the singing of the National Anthem, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it is probably the least sing-able national anthem on earth. But I did get a little choked up on a Sunday afternoon late in August when it was sung as a solo at a huge celebration of Eid-al-Adha, at the Ismaili Jabbakthana just down Shermer Rd. from St. David's.

Eid-al-Adha is known as the Feast of Sacrifice, which is observed throughout the Muslim world, though not always on the same date depending on the particular expression of Islam. It observes the story - sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims - of Abraham's trust in God, exemplified in his willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac - a willingness which God honored but did not ultimately require of Abraham. Our Ismaili neighbors invited a host of people from all walks of life to join them in their celebration which featured among other things a fantastic luncheon. The program began with QasimGillani - the representative to the Glenview Clergy Association - chanting the account from the Qur'an, followed by a spoken English translation provided by a young woman. The account, which we Episcopalians hear at our Easter Vigil - that's how sacred it is to us Christians- was familiar and yet different. And I was struck by its sacredness to Muslims in light of the fact that it is Isaac, not Ishmael - the Father of Islam - featured in the story. It is NOT the story of Hagar and Ishmael being miraculously saved in the desert by an angel of the Lord. So built into the feast is a story involving the near-sacrifice of the son through whom Judaism and Christianity recount salvation history. The very feast, from my perspective, suggests interfaith dialogue!

And following the telling and translating of the story, a Glenbrook South High School student who is a member of the Ismaili community, sang the National Anthem. She had a lovely voice, but more than that, it was sung within the context of amazing, gracious hospitality extended to people of a range of faiths and diversity of national backgrounds - and all of us American. The event was clearly sacred, but it was a wonderful reminder of our pluralism as a nation, pluralism guaranteed by the 1st Amendment which assures that there is no one national religion to which political preferment is extended. In addition to our Ismaili hosts, guests that day included Rep. Brad Schneider, Laura Fine, Jenn Gong-Gershowicz, Jim Patterson from the Village, and clergy from throughout Glenview and beyond. Speakers at the event talked about faith and trust, of the importance of listening to God and to one another, and of the importance of taking that leap of faith even as your heart is breaking. They also spoke of how Abraham traveled to a new land in order to worship God-Allah-YHWH as he was called to do. It was a powerful, joyful, celebration and I was honored to have been invited and to represent St. David's there with our neighbors.

QasimGillani, Pastor Kyle Syverson from St. Phillip’s, and I have been working this summer on establishing a day celebrating religious pluralism for Glenview. We hope to get this on the Village Board's agenda very shortly. We presented this idea to our colleagues in the Glenview Clergy Association in May and got full approval. We see it as a starting point for programs and projects celebrating religious pluralism in our community. More information on this to come!