-A Service Rooted in the Sikh Tradition-
Last night, hundreds of people of the city of Boston and greater Massachusetts gathered at Trinity Church in Copley Square to show support to the Sikh community and learn more about their religion.
I went on a whim. I have an urge to learn that has never been sated and I was aware of my ignorance about the Sikh community. I read the article in the Boston Globe that my old college roommate provided about the service and decided that I wanted to pray together in Trinity Church and show my support. Obvious point: No one should ever be attacked for religious or cultural differences.
Jeannie and I got there a few minutes early and sat close to the front near an American Sikh who was learning more about her community and a young family. We were a sea of scarves.
Those who didn’t already have them were given scarves to wear for the service as a sign of respect to the members of the Sikh faith, who wear them as a humbling before God. The borrowed scarves were neon orange so you could really see how many people came out that were of other faiths.
The capacity of the Trinity Church is 1500 people and an estimated 1400 were in attendance. They ran out of scarves and started giving napkins to people who wanted to show their respect. I was glad I had hastily bought a scarf before attending, although it was not made for being worn on your head and was stiflingly hot. I was nervous about accidentally being disrespectful by not wearing it correctly, but no one seemed to mind. As I said before, people were wearing napkins.
The service was as much of a learning experience as a religious one. It was set up so that one speaker from each of the larger faiths in the city of Boston spoke about the tragedy of August 5th and about learning more about each other rather than living in ignorance. In between there were traditional Sikh songs and prayers. Even the children sang along.
It was a great message and it was really needed. The tragedy was on the edge of my consciousness. I didn’t know a lot about Sikhism, the fifth largest religion in the world, when the shooting happened. There have been a lot of erroneous messages in the news about the Sikh faith.
At the beginning of the service volunteers passed out a few different informational pamphlets, which really enhanced the experience. There were translations of the traditional songs, the lineup of speakers, and a couple of overviews of the religion and the terms they were using.
Sikhism is a religion born from India and the basic ideals are equality between men, women, and different classes. Ideals that date all the way back to 1469 when the religion was founded. There’s also a large focus on working and sharing the fruits of your labor with those less fortunate. After every service there is a meal called the Langar, “the common kitchen”, where people of any creed or status are invited and the Sikh community works together to feed the people.
After the speakers were done and we prayed together, we lined up to go down to the church basement in a mass exodus that reminded me of my days at St. Bonaventure, and why I usually avoid the larger churches. However, everyone was very respectful and patient and the meal was beautifully organized. The basement of Trinity Church couldn’t accommodate the hundreds of people that turned out for the service, so we took our food outside and had a picnic together in Copley Square while the kids ran around and played in the fountains.
I’d like to say thank you to the Sikh community who fed us very well and were so friendly and patient with everyone who came out. I’d also like to thank the organizers of this event. This was more about learning and having harmony as a Boston community than a religious service. The message was that every one of every faith should come together and try to understand each other. Our country was founded because of religious persecution; No matter if you are Sikh, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Shinto, Taoist, and any others I’m forgetting you should be free to worship however you want to.
At the end of the service Sarbpreet Singh gave us a short introduction to the ideals behind the Langar and closed with this remark. “Your presence here shows that for each hate-filled bigot there are millions of people of faith and peace. What unites us is much more powerful than that which tears us apart.”