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
On Being a Pilgrim
Last year, my partner and I became “dual pilgrims” after walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain and the Kumano Kodo in Japan. Right as we took our first steps on the Camino, we said to each other, “We have been preparing for months for these first steps in the Pyrenees.” We felt hopeful, anxious, excited: Did we prepare enough? Are we ready for the challenges? Are we really pilgrims? A dear friend shared some sage advice that we turned to daily – “You will encounter a physical, emotional, or spiritual issue everyday.” And indeed we did.
Lacy Clark Ellman teaches that people walk the Camino, or take any pilgrimage, for a variety of reasons, including for healing (emotional, physical, spiritual, mental or any other type of healing), the pursuit of self-knowledge and self-discovery, creating community, and renewal. We learned that a person’s reasons for walking (or cycling, bussing, training) were varied, yet similar, and always personal. Some days I had no answer for why I was walking the ancient pilgrimages, while other days, I knew I was doing it because it was what I needed to do.
On day 23, we passed words painted on a large rock that read Santiago is not there. Is in you. That phrase has been my meditation for months now and has been a meaningful perspective as I navigate my emotions, thoughts, ideas, identity, and habits. The journey is both an outer exploration of the world with all its surprises, as well as an inner exploration of my values, attitudes, and perspectives. The destination is already inside of me, and I access it when I trust my inner teacher to guide my actions.
Isn’t this what we do as spiritual companions? We provide a safe and loving space for our companions to find their way to their inner Santiago.
At the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto last year, I went to a workshop on Pilgrimage by Robert Nash, Soumaya Khalifa, and Noam Marans. In the workshop Soumaya outlined three levels or types of pilgrimage: out of the country; in the city; 1 on 1. At the heart of what we do as spiritual companions is journey as pilgrims together, either 1 on 1 or in a group.
In addition to 1 on 1 pilgrimaging, we are thrilled to be offering our first Urban Pilgrimage in June of 2020! During our journey, we will explore both the outer world of Chicago, with its variety of sacred sites, as well as our inner world, with its variety of sacred rooms. Please consider joining us in this interspiritual experience as we, like Robert Nash expressed, “make the familiar unfamiliar, and the unfamiliar familiar.”
~Jeanette Banashak, PhD, EdD
SGTI's Urban Pilgrimage is open to the public. Send us an e-mail if you'd like to be added to the "I'm Interested!" List.
About this blog
Deepening the understanding, practice and importance of spiritual guidance-companionship across traditions.
Chat with us on Facebook