Ormond Uniting Church will devote October to exploring four of the world’s great faiths.
The north-east Melbourne congregation will spend four successive Sunday mornings delving into Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism.
Normal worship time will begin at 9.30am followed by a 10-minute talk from a representative of the faith tradition being examined. Music, readings, group discussion and questions will follow the talk.
A multicultural meal with a panel discussion led by the representatives from the different faiths will follow the last Sunday session on 28 October.
“Our aim is that our congregation is opened up to understanding different expressions of faith, that God speaks to us in many different ways and to be open to that,” Ormond member and retired minister Ron Townsend said.
“Another aim is to show that you can worship with other people. We must find ways of connecting so we realise we’re not against each other but that we are all part of God’s kingdom.”
Ormond minister Rev Andrew Boyle will lead the first session on Christianity.
Amna Iqbal will share from the Islamic tradition, Cynthia Mackenzie will speak about Buddhism and Pam Spiegel will represent the Jewish perspective.
Ms Spiegel said that forums like this were important in an ethnically and religiously diverse country.
“My expectation is that we can discover the similarities that unite our faiths with the hope it will lead to better understanding,” she said.
The idea for an interfaith month came out of Mr Townsend’s home group and was spurred by the interaction of church members teaching conversational English classes with people of different religious backgrounds.
“We sort of dabbled with looking at Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Christianity,” Mr Townsend said.
“And we said ‘why don’t we look at this seriously?’”
The month has been organised by four Ormond home groups, with each taking a responsibility for a Sunday.
Home groups are also preparing different types of food, such as halal and kosher, for the lunch and panel event following the last themed Sunday service.
“We’re asking people to particularly think about food and how that might reflect the faith of the people,” Mr Townsend said.
Each of the presenters will be invited to participate in the final panel to answer questions about the four faiths.
Ormond member and synod artfull faith coordinator Christina Rowntree and synod interfaith community development worker April Kailahi are preparing a creative response to the month-long initiative.
Mr Townsend, who as a school chaplain taught world religions, said he hoped the month would have a strong educational value.
“I cannot understand why we as a society, and our education facilities, aren’t teaching world religions,” he said, arguing the majority of the world’s seven billion people adhere to some type of faith.
“To understand the world, you’ve got to understand something of these religions, whether you believe in God or not.
“Even as Christians, we don’t understand our faith very well.”
Mr Townsend said everyone is invited to attend the sessions.
“We would really like people to come along and be a part of it,” he said.
For catering purposes please RSVP for the 28 October meal and panel event by 14 October by calling Christine P: 95781553