Diwali Celebration -- Belleville Market Square
Nearly a month ago there was a gathering in Market Square in Belleville to celebrate the Hindu festival called Diwali, anticipating what was the actual date of November 4th, which was yesterday. We were out of town, otherwise we would probably have attended, but there were upwards of 300 people on hand to take part in what was the first such celebration in our small city of 50,000.
Diwali is one of the biggest festivals in India and observed across religions. People clean their homes, decorate every corner with lights, lamps, flowers, and candles. Families also perform what's called Lahshimi Puja nd pray to the goddess of wealth to bless them with health, wealth, and prosperity.
I am a Chistian and not a polytheist, so my outlook of faith is not the same as Hindus. Still, I've had interesting and mutually respectful conversations with Hindus through the years. Nearly forty years ago I was on a flight from St. John's Newfoundland to a job interview in Ontario. The person sitting next to me was a civil servant who was originally from India. When he found out I was a United Church minister he shared that his children attended a United Church Sunday School because the group of Hindus in St.John's was small and he wanted them to have a sense of religious connunity. I was a bit surprised and impressed at the same time. Through the years I'm come to realize that cross-cultural and interfaith understanding is essential to a healthy society and doesn't require me to compromise my own faith.
In 2016 the United Church published an educational document alled Honouring the Divine in Each Other, one of a series of studies which included Jewish/Christian and Muslim/Christian dialogue. I've included the link here. I sense that not many congregations have used these well-prepared documents for conversation along the way, but I'm glad that they exist and they reflect our ethos as a denomination. In a world of so much religious strife it's important to uphold the ways in which we can find common ground and understanding.
Here is the link: