Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
August 20, 2001
Worship service spans faith
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Action tried to hit two birds with one stone with an Aug. 5 prayer service in Hawrelak Park.
The interfaith service not only welcomed the athletes, coaches and officials of the eighth World Track and Field Championships, it also provided a spiritual dimension to the Heritage Days Festival.
Officials of the two events supported the prayer service but it only drew 130 people although it was well received by the different faith traditions in the city.
"I think it went well. I think we had wonderful support from the different faith groups of Edmonton," Interfaith Centre President Neil Loomer told the WCR.
"We did not expect the athletes to be here because of their busy schedules but we wanted them to know that Edmonton is a city represented by many different faith (traditions)," said Loomer.
"The faith communities were very cooperative and willing to name people who would say the prayers," said Rosaleen Zdunich, who coordinated the event.
Loomer believes that an interfaith prayer fits well with the multicultural aspect of the festival but learned that a 7:30 a.m. service does not draw a huge crowd.
"The timing is not the best but we're very appreciative of the Heritage Days committee for giving us this time and the venue," said Loomer, who is a Jewish ritual director.
"It's nice to have a prayer service early in the morning like this one," said Zdunich.
The service opened with the song We All Care, which was written and composed by Marilyn Rose, a local Edmonton artist who also led the singing with the Interfaith Choir.
Thirteen religious groups including the major world religions were represented. Prayers were said in various languages like Arabic, Avesta, Chinese, English, French, Hebrew, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Vietnamese and Yoruba.
Although said in different languages and in ways peculiar to each religion, sacred harmony was the central message in the service.
"To mingle with people of other religions is a wonderful experience," Lola Sonuga, who represented the Christians, told the WCR. Sonuga is a member of All Saints Anglican Cathedral Parish.
Sonuga recited the Prayer of St. Francis in her native tongue, Yoruba. The prayer was later recited in English by Imho Austin from the same church.
The P.J. Perry Trio, composed of bass, guitar and saxophone, provided a jazzy mood in the service.
The service ended with the singing of the familiar We are the World, a song composed and popularized by Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie in 1985 to generate AIDS awareness.
Bloomer and Zdunich hope that a prayer service like this will become a regular feature of the festival.
"This was the first so we didn't get as many people as we would like to have, but now we know how to get more people next year," said Bloomer.
If the festival committee decides to include the service as a regular activity, the centre will seek a different time slot.
In connection to the championships, the centre coordinated chaplaincy services for the two athletes' villages. Sixteen chaplains, mostly Christians as well as three Muslims, were available in the U of A and Delta South Villages.
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