The Reverend Vern Barnet, DMn
bio page CRES minister emeritus firstname.lastname@example.org
Your Club is fortunate to have you concerned about representing the diversity of faiths. I would also add that Freethinkers (atheists, agnostics, etc) also deserve recognition.
You may find my website page on the subject helpful: http://www.cres.org/pubs/InterfaithPray.htm
The website http://www.beliefnet.com/ offers "prayers of the day" for numerous faiths. The navigation at http://www.worldprayers.org/ is not so easy, but you'll find prayers from American Indian, Muslim, Hindu, and other traditions there.
When I joined the Overland Park Rotary Club over three decades ago the invocation was routinely assigned to clergy. I accepted the duty. But soon I discussed this with my clerical colleague. We developed a practice where everyone in the club, lay and ordained, could take turns. It is a stretching experience to pray for folks right in front of you, and members learned about each other and themselves through the process.The question of pubic prayers is critical in building community. Please see the columns from 1999 and 2004, below. Greg Musil's compilation of prayers was on our Club website for a time, but I don't find it today. You could write Greg at email@example.com.
Below you will find prayers from a number of traditions offered as part of our 2009 Thanksgiving Sunday Interfaith Ritual Meal. I do not recommend using these for Rotary unless everyone were clear about all faiths being represented over the course of several months, or at least four in the month of March.
I favor each person writing a fresh prayer for each occasion stretching his or her language to be inclusive of everyone. But offering an honored prayer from a particular tradition can also be, in context, quite meaningful.
Again, thank you for your writing me with your kid words about my column and your important inquiry!
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Invocators include everyone
While it is easy to enjoy friends of many religions in our neighborhoods and workplaces, we are just beginning to learn how to honor diversity at moments of reverence together.
We don't want to offend those of different faiths by offering invocations or blessings that exclude them, but ways of embracing everyone are not always obvious.
Three methods seem most common. The first is to eliminate prayers altogether. While no one is offended, neither is anyone blessed.
A second way is being developed by Jim Abbott, executive director of the Minority Supplier Council, for its annual luncheon and trade-fair breakfasts and lunches. Abbott encourages guest invocators to pray in the style of their own faiths, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, American Indian and so forth.
A pastor himself, Abbott has no difficulty in "celebrating the differences and the passionate expression of various faiths" because building relationships is important to him and his work.
A third way is followed by the Overland Park Rotary Club, where members take turns offering the invocations at the weekly meetings. Christians, Jews, Muslims, and those unaffiliated with any faith participate.
The invocator is asked to reach for language large enough to include everyone in the club. Because members want to join in the prayer and not be spectators of someone else's prayer, terms specific to any one faith are avoided.
"Jesus is my Lord and Savior," says Steve Hoffman, club president. "For me as a Christian, hearing fellow members offer words of aspiration respecting our diversity deepens our appreciation for one another."
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Rotary Club helps bring prayer around
“How do I pray in public?” is a question put to me so often that I’ve placed a detailed answer on my web site, www.cres.org/pray. But now there is a new resource, a set of examples drawn from members of the Overland Park Rotary Club.
Greg Musil, a member of the club, an attorney with Shughart Thomson & Kilroy and a former Overland Park City Council member, compiled and printed a set of 35 invocations because, he says, “I was inspired, invigorated, challenged and moved by what my friends and colleagues drafted or found to share.”
Musil prizes the prayers “because those who give the invocation put a great deal of time and thought into it, incorporating not only current events but the Rotary theme of ‘service above self.’ (The prayers are) directly meaningful to anyone but especially to charitable souls like we find in our Rotary Club.”
In gathering the prayers, Musil found they were similar in including “tolerance and respect for others different from ourselves, whether it be in skin color, religion, culture, etc. We also seem to have a keen awareness that we are blessed with so many material goods (not the least of which are food, shelter, clothing and medicine), and so many intangible but critical assets like education, friendships, security, etc.”
He also noted differences. “Poems, quotes, personally drafted thoughts, use of humor verses more somber thoughts, all demonstrate the individuality of the club members.”
I asked him, “What is the value of prayer in a setting such as a service club meeting?” He said, “Taking 30 to 60 seconds to close one’s eyes and relax in our busy day is, in itself, a spiritually renewing experience. Hearing good thoughts related to your work, service, family or business, and being inspired to do or to continue to do good in your community has an immeasurable value, at least to me.”
Many organizations whose participants come from different religious background have found it difficult to continue a practice of prayer or inspirational moments in their meetings because they fear offending someone. It is a legitimate concern. It is an awesome and intimidating responsibility to utter words on behalf of others at a sacred moment.
Still, the effort to bring awareness of the Infinite and the Eternal into a particular place and time is what the life of the spirit is all about.
As a member of Musil’s Rotary Club myself, I’ve watched the group over the years wrestle with prayer and ultimately decide it was too valuable to abandon. Perhaps members of other groups might be inspired by this example to discover the diverse riches available when their own members invoke the sacred.
AMERICAN INDIAN SPIRITUALITY —
Aho, mitakuye oyasin! Thanksgiving is our way of life. “Aho, mitakuye oyasin” is Lakota for the Native understanding of our relationship to All That Is: All beings, all creation, all situations in our life; present, past and to come. We are thankful for all that has been given us; both the blessings and the hardships. We give thanks for our elders, ancestors, teachers, our families, and communities. We are mindful of our relationship and interconnection to All of Creation. To you my brothers and sisters, then, Aho! Mitakuye Oyasin.
BAHÁ'Í FAITH —
“We yield praise unto God – hallowed and glorified be He – for whatsoever He hath graciously revealed in this blessed, this glorious and incomparable Day. Indeed if everyone on earth were endowed with a myriad tongues and were to continually praise God and magnify His Name to the end that knoweth no end, their thanksgiving would not prove adequate for even one of the gracious favours We have mentioned in this Tablet.” (Baha’u’llah: Tablets of Baha’u’llah)
We are the result of what we think. Our thoughts of gratitude produce a life of spiritual abundance. Buddhists are thankful for the three jewels of the Buddha, the Teaching, and the Community. For the leaders, the teachings, and the communities of all faiths, we give thanks.
For the Word of God made flesh in Christ, and for the opportunity we are given to serve Him by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting those imprisoned, we give thanks.
CHRISTIAN—ROMAN CATHOLICISM —
Loving God, we acknowledge you as the only source of growth and abundance. With your help we plant our crops and by your power they produce our harvest. In your kindness and love make up for what is lacking in our efforts. Make our work fruitful and give us a rich harvest. Help us bring you glory by using well the good things we receive from you. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
O Existing One, It is truly befitting the majesty of Thy holiness that we should praise Thee and offer unto Thee with contrite heart and spirit of humility this our rational worship. Do Thou receive [our] unfeigned praise and thanksgiving for all that Thou hast provided for us in this world and the next, and enable us to walk before Thee in holiness and purity all the days of our life in fitting gratitude for Thy loving-kindness! [from the Prayer of Basil the Great]
In the Hindu tradition Thanksgiving is our expression of gratefulness to the Lord through prayers, chanting, singing and devotional offerings during worship service. The important thing is not what we offer, but how devoutly we offer. This sentiment is expressed by Lord Krishna in the Hindu Scripture Gita. The good Lord said, “Whosoever offers me with devotion, a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or even plain water – I gladly accept any devout offering of the pure in heart.” Let’s make our heart pure and pray, “May all be happy, may all be peaceful, may all be blissful. Peace, peace, peace.”
Peace, happiness, and blessing; grace and love and mercy: may these descend on us, on all Israel, and all the world. Bless us, our Creator, one and all, with the light of Your presence; for by that light, O God, You have revealed to us the law of life: to love kindness and justice and mercy, to seek blessing, life, and peace. O Bless Your people Israel and all peoples with enduring peace! Praised be the Eternal God, who enables us to seek the blessing of peace.
On this day of gratitude, O Almighty God, thank you for clothing my nakedness: please help me clothe someone in need of clothing. O Almighty God, thank you for feeding me after hunger; may I feed a hungry person. O Almighty God, thank you for family and friends; help me give friendship and comfort to the lonely. O Almighty God, thank you for guidance on my path; help me give guidance to the lost. O Almighty God, thank you for the gift of knowledge after ignorance; please help me to give knowledge to those who need it.
For and to the One God we are grateful. As Sikhs we are grateful every moment of every day. And in this gratitude we remember: O blind and unhappy one, why do you cherish the ego? Why do you not enjoy the Love of your Lord within the home of your own heart? Your Creator and your essence is so very near, O foolish one, why do you search outside? Apply the Knowledge of God as the decoration to adorn your eyes, and make the Love of the Lord your jewelry. When, in Grace, your Lord accepts it, then you shall be known as the successful soul. [From the Sikh scriptures, the Siri Guru Granth Sahib]
The only secret of happiness . . . is to keep our eyes open to appreciate every little privilege, to admire every glimpse of beauty, for every little love, kindness or affection shown to us by young or old, rich or poor, wise or foolish. In this way, continually developing the faculty of appreciating life and devoting it to thanksgiving, we arrive at a bliss which no words can explain, a bliss which is beyond imagination: the bliss that we find ourselves having already entered the kingdom of God.
UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM —
I give thanks for the gift of awareness, which allows me to feel, to think, and to love. I give thanks for the smell of rain, for the sight of each red-gold leaf of autumn, for the warm touch of a friend’s hand, for the beautifully crafted sounds of Bach, for the taste of an orange. I give thanks for the ability to think and act responsibly, knowing that my choices and actions affect myself and others. I give thanks for the ability to love and be loved, for the gift of friends and family. Spirit of Life, I give thanks for my awareness of the precious gift of life.
. . . Of the Goddess and the God—By the earth that is her body and the grove that is his home, by the air that is her breath and the music of his song, by the fire of her bright spirit and heat of his passion . . . : We offer gratitude for the wisdom of ancestors, the bounty of this earth, the fruits of our labors. . . O Divine Ones who reside within and around us, we offer gratitude for the many traditions you have inspired. And we remember your blessing: May you never hunger, may you never thirst. Blessed Be.
O' Wise Lord, for Your creation of this magnificent living world according to the universal order and for granting us life, conception, intellect and liberty to make our choices, as a matter of gratitude and dedication we offer to You: our fruits of good thoughts, words and deeds gained through righteousness, and devote our whole strength to fulfill the ideal goal of serving humanity and progressing the living world toward perfection.
Freethinkers are grateful for the heritage of religious liberty enshrined in the vision of our nation's founders. They separated church and state in our Constitution. Our system of government protects those who choose any religion and those who choose none. With the insights of science and the arts, we give thanks for the freedom to think afresh and work with others to make this world a better place.