2023 Parliament of the World's Religions - Recap (sort of)
It has been a month since the convening of PoWR 2023, and I am still processing all that I learned from that experience.
Although I have attended previous conventions, this had been the first in-person gathering since COVID, and one which I was delighted to introduce my good friend Pastor Andy Behrendt to.
Pastor Andy and I have held an interreligious dialogue between Pagan (Heathen) and Christian (ELCA Lutheran) for over three years; and what initially began online later expanded to discussions at his church in Waupaca, Wisconsin, and later now, at Parliament.
One of the highlights of this year (and indeed any such convening) was the Sikh Langar - a community meal served by the Sikh community to any and all Parliament attendees (over 7,000!).
As this is a sacred duty in Sikhi, all who entered the Langar tent were made to remove their shoes and socks, and cover their heads in white cloth. I was aptly prepared on the first day of Langar thanks to the educational and masterful Dastar (turban) wrapping by Davinder Singh - founder of the Sikh Resource Society. Langar is the epitome of hospitality as a spiritual practice, and it did not take long for this Heathen to take notice and admire over such dedication (not to mention several similarities between Sikh tenets and those Heathens created for themselves).
My purpose in attending PoWR was two-fold, and though introducing Pastor Andy was undoubtedly one of them, my primary goal was to represent my faith tradition, that of Heathenry to the interfaith circles of discussion. As luck would have it, there were many Pagans in attendance, and they would have a "faith room" whereby attendees may sit in lecture, ritual, or respite.
I had the opportunity to host a public Sumble (communal drinking) in the spirit of unity and compassion; where anyone may celebrate their chosen Deity and ancestors, as well as acknowledge the Land Spirits and those whose land we were on (although it was Chicago, it was originally the land of the First Nation peoples such as: Potowatomi, Ho-Chunk, Ojibwe, Onodaga, etc.).
Workshops were central to this, the world's largest interfaith conference.
My fellow Heathen and friend Rev. Brian Weiss presented a terrific panel concerning myth and storytelling and how such narratives change and shift over time (and especially how we change it now!).
Finally, it was time for my program and panel discussion.
Rev. Brian as moderator to the panelist consisting of Pastor Andy and myself.
Together, we continued our previous discussion with the extraordinary bonus of having a captive audience that is eager to enter into discussion with us!
See the full discourse below!
This is an ever paramount discussion to have in Pagan circles.
Myself, Pastor Andy, Rev. Brian, and all who were involved encourage Pagans, Christians (or monotheists more broadly) to have these open and frank discussions.
May they dispel misinformation and preconceived notions.
I might add more to this recap, but until then... May healing and reconciliation prevail, and showcase just what it is like to be human together.