I attended the World Sabbath at Fort Street Presbyterian Church in Detroit with high hopes and it delivered. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The music and dancing enlivened my spirit, and the prayers offered in song and in so many different languages lifted me up. It was also an opportunity to hear about interfaith efforts, which was both encouraging and sobering with how much work is yet to be done.
It was a great event and I look forward to next year, but there were some things of concern that stood out to me. One was the number of people in attendance. This is one of Michigan’s premier interfaith events, taking place in a wonderfully diverse area. While there was well over 100 people there, many were participants, parents of participants, faith leaders, organizers and volunteers. There did not seem to be many people like us, interested ‘lay people’, invested in the value of interfaith efforts. I don’t feel the organizers are to blame for this. It seems only a small community recognizes the desperate need for understanding and respect, and value of diversity among faiths. This consciousness has yet to reach society at large with respect to religion.
The other thing that stood out to me was that the event seemed to take on the tone of a performance rather than worship. At times applause seemed inappropriate. The prayers made me want to reflect and bask in the afterglow of serenity, but applause interrupted and took away from that sacred feeling. To me this illustrates a lingering discomfort worshiping in others’ faith traditions. Here the various faith groups put on a sort of show and tell. There is nothing wrong with this, but there could be so much more. In the right context, the music, dance and prayer at the World Sabbath, could have profound effects providing a shared, sacred experience. I hope that next year those that gather are plenty, and that they take advantage of the opportunity to experience the worship offerings rather than simply observe them.