By April Robinson and Larry Marshall
Uniting Through Faiths – Synod of UCA
ON a warm sun-kissed autumnal day, we head out to the seaside at Frankston. This will be a guided journey to three faith communities organised by the local Frankston Inter-faith Network (FIN). We work in the Synod, facilitating respectful inter-faith conversations and we are keen to experience and map what is already happening at the grassroots.
ARE you doing interfaith work in your community?
Tell us about it and win a mystery prize.
Throughout Victoria and Tasmania, Uniting Church congregations are participating in a wide rage of interfaith work.
Uniting Through Faiths wants to know what each UCA church is doing. We would like to map this work by recording it at the Synod so that we can support these wonderful grassroots initiatives.
Please email: April Robinson- Interfaith Network Development Officer or call 92515276 (Larry Marshall, Project Manager Uniting Through Faiths)
FIN has good support from the local council but still relies on volunteers and funding from the Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC) for projects such as this bus tour. Throughout Victoria, 38 local councils play a similar, crucial role supporting local inter-faith networks.
This will be a faith journey by bus for 20 adventurous and inquisitive locals with an interest in how others conceive of God and prayer; a chance to learn important rituals and traditions; to ask questions of the links between culture and faith, and to savour the many riches that religious diversity offers our multi-faith community.
Our first visit is to a blossoming Serbian Orthodox church in a converted house in Carrum Downs, just outside Frankston.
Our host, Susan, is a quietly spoken and passionate Christian who is proud and happy to greet us on the cusp of Orthodox Easter celebrations held according to the Julian Calendar (first introduced by Julius Caesar in 45 BC).
There are many questions for Susan from this lively group of women (only one man has joined us today).
The central role of women in the Orthodox church is evident, even though the priesthood remains a male domain. ‘Changes will come with this next generation of strong young women’ proclaims a firm voice at the end of our discussion.
Next stop is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – The Mormon Church.
Pam Hamouney has deep faith and a fierce commitment to inter-faith work. She was a Methodist but converted many years back.
Her three children have been missionaries, proselytizing all over the world for this evangelical church. Our male guides, who have the title of ‘Elders’, are very young men from other states on missionary training.
Pam created a safe space for honest discussion about this church that has been steeped in rumours and myths. We even discussed the controversial issues of homosexuality.
After lunch we visit the Hindu Shiva Ashram. Julie Deitz (Ambika) walks us through the beautiful inter-faith garden around a peaceful lake; the water in the lake represents our shared humanity. Each religion is represented with a plaque inscribed with a teaching and surrounded by flowers.
We sit barefoot in meditation with Swami Keshavananda who explains that there are many images of Gods here but they are all manifestations of the one God. He speaks lovingly of all the joyous singing and dancing that forms part of Hindu celebration.
This has been a journey which opens hearts and broadens the mind. The group agrees we are now even more curious about other faith journeys. There is joy in hearing of the things we share and also great pleasure in understanding the rich differences in our traditions and beliefs.
The next Places of Worship Bus Tour will be on Thursday the 6 June incorporating Frankston Uniting Church.