The Wondering Process of Spiritual Inquiry: A Description of an Interreligious Event in Chicago
One of the ways in which the SGTI engages with others who practice different religious, spiritual and ethical traditions is by participating in ‘day pilgrimages’, which are experiences in sacred spaces. Recently, one of our co-founders attended an event that The Chicago Theological Seminary, in collaboration with the Lutheran School of Theology Chicago, Parliament of World’s Religions, American Islamic College, and Hyde Park and Kenwood Interfaith Council hosted: A trolley tour through Chicago in acknowledgment and celebration of the convergence of so many sacred holidays during the month of April.
The trolley tour stopped at five different sites and the experience culminated with iftar, the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during the month of Ramadan.
The title of this post is credited to a statement that one of Chicago Theological Seminary’s staff used in an introduction to the event. Indeed, the entire day felt like a “wondering process of spiritual inquiry” as we made our way through Chicago’s diverse southside neighborhoods. The first stop was Rockefeller Chapel, a Gothic Revival Chapel on Chicago Theological Seminary’s campus. We heard from three speakers: a Sikh who described Vaisakhi, the collective unification of the Sikh community; a Hindu who discussed Ram Navami, which celebrates the birth of Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of the deity Vishnu; and a Jain, who discussed the celebration of Vardhaman Mahavir, the birth of the last enlightened one.
On our second stop we visited Ebenezer Baptist Church, a former Jewish synagogue and the birthplace of gospel music. At the church, we heard from the leadership about the Christian holiday, Easter which celebrates the cycle of life, death, and resurrection.
On our third stop we visited KAM Isaiah Israel Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Chicago. There, we learned about the Jewish holiday, Passover, where Jews look to the past to remember the Israelites’ freedom from slavery in ancient Egypt and expectantly look to the future.
On our fourth stop we visited Claret Center, an organization that incorporates psychotherapy, spiritual direction, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture, and workshops. We also had a conversation with two scholars and practitioners who identify as multiply religious: an ordained Buddhist and ordained Christian who identifies as Christo-Buddhist and an ordained Buddhist priest and Zen monk.
Our fifth stop before returning to the seminary for iftar was a mosque, the Taqwa Center for Community Excellence Rehab Project associated with the African-American Muslim leader, theologian, philosopher, Muslim revivalist, and Islamic thinker, Warith Deen Mohammed. We learned about Muslim culture and the celebration of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to sunset.
On our final stop, we learned more about Ramadan and participated in a prayer before iftar. We considered how fasting is both a metaphor for emptiness for God to inhabit, as well as a mechanism for calling us to live in an “altered and restored state where we are more connected to people”.
The overall experience was very positive and served to facilitate new questions about the traditions, people and practices; considerations of interior movements, such as thoughts, imaginings, emotions, inclinations, desires, feelings, repulsions, and attractions; physical/body sensations that were felt during the event; and growth in appreciative knowledge for the dedicated and devoted seekers of the religious, spiritual, and ethical traditions. Experiences like the trolley tour and iftar remind us that building relationships across traditions enhances respect and understanding, promotes continued learning, improves our attitudes towards differences, highlights our commonalities, and diminishes fear.
We extend our gratitude to Chicago Theological Seminary and additional collaborators and sponsors for hosting such a meaningful event.
~ Jeanette Banashak
We love supporting and contributing to the great work of Spiritual Directors International (SDI) and wanted to share briefly how in this month SGTI is present in SDI videos and publications. Jan Lundy is a member of its Coordinating Council and was highlighted in a video entitled An Invitation from the SDI Coordinating Council: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4DeEt5gzHQ
Jeanette Banashak wrote a piece entitled In Praise of Slow and it can be found in the February edition of Connections. (You need to be a member to access.) https://www.sdicompanions.org/content-restricted/?r=151626&wcm_redirect_to=page&wcm_redirect_id=151626
And we are proud to announce that one of our alumna, Allyssa Jomei, has been selected to be a part of the 2022 New Contemplatives community with SDI: https://www.sdicompanions.org/sdi-events/conferences/conference-2022/new-contemplatives/?mc_cid=81761ca414&mc_eid=40c3119a6a
SGTI Featured in GTF Newsletter
The monthly newsletter offered by The Graduate Theological Foundation features this article: "Spiritual Guidance Training Institute Launches First Cohort in Chicago."
We are delighted to be featured in this way by our PRIME partner in inter-religious eduction.
Collaboration in Education
In Dr. John Morgan's book, The New Paradigm in Ministry Education: A Radical Philosophy of Collaboration, Dr. Morgan outlines the myths that have pervaded academia and which have ultimately produced individuals who have paid their tuition and served their school, rather than having the experiences of being served by the school. He suggests that educational institutions have spent so many resources on the grounds, library, and sports complexes that they have not been "freed up to concentrate" on what the institution ought to be in the first place: education.
Dr. Morgan advocates for educational institutions to offer the student opportunities to create their own programs that are based on the unique context from their professional sphere, rather than completing a checklist of university-deemed requirements that may or may not align with real and current needs. His solution is to facilitate multi-institutional collaboration where students can create a program based on their discernment of what courses and experiences are most valuable to them. This kind of institution becomes student and learning-based very much akin to Paolo Freire's model of education as liberation. Freire believed in informed and value-based action that leads to emancipation—from the self and oppressed systems.
The Spiritual Guidance Training Institute is honored to collaborate with The Graduate Theological Foundation, the educational institution of which Dr. John Morgan served as president and is a longtime faculty member. Participants in the SGTI certification program may fulfill all of a master's degree in Pastoral Counseling and all but a project (or non-project) for a doctor of ministry degree. You can read more here: http://www.gtfeducation.org/about-the-gtf/the-spiritual-guidance-training-institute.cfm
At the SGTI, we value justice and peace that promote the healing and transformation of people through spiritual guidance and friendship. We believe that through deep listening, curiosity, hospitality, respect, and compassionate action, we can "inter-be" with family, friends, and strangers, as well as all living and non-living things. Our hope is that our educational model promotes the freedom to make choices that work for the inter-connectedness and betterment of our world.
Jeanette Banashak, PhD, EdD
About this blog
Deepening the understanding, practice and importance of spiritual guidance-companionship across traditions.