Reflection from The Rev. John Forman, Episcopal Deacon, current Master of Divinity Student"There’s an old Buddhist sutra that tells the story of a group of blind people who come upon an elephant—an animal that none of them had ever encountered before. Each person approaches different part of the animal and tries to describe it to the others. One person, feeling the elephant’s leg, says that they have found something like a tree trunk. Another, holding the elephant’s tail, describes something very much like a rope. A third, feeling the ear, wonders why no one else is talking about something more like a fan. It goes on depending on the version of the story. Two things must happen for the people to come to something approaching clarity about their discovery: first, everyone must maintain an attitude that each person has at least some part of the truth about the entire animal but that, at best, the truth that anyone finds is partial and further learning will come by listening to each other. Second, each person must do their best to voice what they are noticing with integrity, so that they share the experience that they are actually having without discrediting the perspectives of others.This analogy works remarkably well as a way to describe the experience of the prayers offered each day during the recent Interfaith Harmony Week. Unitarians, Methodists and Sufis took turns offering their acknowledgements of the Divine in ways that resonated with their particular understanding, while staying open to the transcendent Mystery that knows us better than we know the Mystery, but that we seek to know better. The more people participate and speak with integrity and openness to each other’s insights, the greater the learning for all of us. Seems a reasonable intention for an ecumenical seminary!
For more information on Interfaith Harmony Week, visit here.
For more on Worship & Liturgy at Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry, visit here.
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