Minggu, 22 September 2013

Community living traditions: Stony Point Center

Community living traditions : Stony Point Center

By Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta

Just yesterday, I was at the meeting in Stony Point Center, New York to attend  a national consultation of the Presbyterian Church USA to discuss together on  how the church can build an  understanding of the practice of interfaith dialogue.  After 11 September 2001, the life of religious communities in the United States have changed. Communities’s awareness related to the question of how the roles of religion in building understanding among mankind  grows rapidly.  Human beings are divided through religious and ideological clasiffications.  The signs of fragmentation of the body politics can be seen in the United States when religions are divided because of traditions that are kept from the original place where the residents came from to be moved to their new life in the United States. The division within a particular religion based on rituals and practices can be found widely here in US.  Perhaps in the original place, the presentation of religious differences might be seen as a herasy.   Supposely among  the Christian traditions, there are so many Christian denominations to grow together side by side. Various streams of Islam begin to grow here too. Black moslem appear to be distinguished from the other Islamic tradition.  Unlike the French which does not allow religions appear publicly , in the United States religion’s growth have been  amazingly despite this country practice the principle of the separation of religion and politics.

The life of interfaith practices came out from the grass root movement not as the results of  policies  issued by  religious institutes like churches, synagogues, mosques, temples etc. People need to live together in peace therefore they reach out other to understand their belief on how human behaviour are shaped religiously. Interfaith dialogue becomes  a movement that has appeared in different forms. The current discussion about interfaith dialogue conducted at Stony Point Center aims at showing how the practice of community living tradition together is possible.  Stony Point Center is a place where people hold their various meetings but also here there are residents who come from different traditions to live together.  Stony Point Center now has four Muslims, four Jews and Christians 7, 2 Quaker of friends who live together here. For example, in one house there are Jewish families living with Muslim families.  Being here, it reminds me about  Indonesia like in Yogyakarta, where we can find a family whose members embrace different religious but living together in the same house.


Coming to Stony Point Center brings me back into  my memorial experiences in 2002 when I was studying in Amsterdam.  I was invitied by Presbyterian Church USA to join their first Interfaith Listening Program. I flew and met my sister, Syafaatun Almirzanah who is now a professor at State Islamic University Sunan Kalijaga in Yogyakarta.  At the time sister Syafaatun was doing her PhD at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. We travelled together to churches to share about the hope and peace to this world that our religions can contribute.  For the September 11 memorial day, we were taken to attend the interfaith Abrahamic religions which brought Christians, Muslim and Jewish people to worship together at the East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh. I remember people performed praying, singing,  chatting the sacred scriptures to move our heart. Tears remained in our faces and heart to promise for always trying to bridge to others who are different from ourselves.



Now I came to see the change that has happened in this Stony Point Center where religious communities to live together. The practice of living together in spite of the very influential on the micro level actually showing how people build their understanding and practicing  justice, mercy, forgiveness and the compassion of  the Creator in this life.  Religious community living together beside practicing the experiecian of being together in various religious cycle of life, encountering together unjust systems that might appear in workplace that can be advocated together for the change.  Living together  is  an invitation which has to be built from our existing traditions within religions. Christian tradition teaches invitation to live together as noted in the story Lidya that open their homes to those who come in her city. Hospitality is the way to build relationships which is gracious for others.

It was the morning when I sat down on the breakfast together with  a Jewish sister, Joyce and a Christian brother, Layne who live here at the center. I told them  about the previous experiences when I walked around Sukkah  in the beautiful morning with scattered sunlight. Sukkah is a Jewish tradition to celebrate before the arrival of the new birth. The transition period is a period of vulnerability in human life. Sukkah traditions teach about human vulnerability. Representation of human vulnerability seen directly on fabrics posted formed a large tent with leaves as a roof covering touched entire myself when I was rotating  to make it like a labirn.  The first evening of our arrival, we were invited to attend the ceremony Sukkah when the leaves and citrus fruit were used in the Jewish liturgy to represent life in the world as a unity of the north, south, west, east, up, down connecting to our heart.


So at breakfast I asked them about how Sukkah was prepared. Turn out, as they explained, religious communities living together at Stony Point Center participated with their Jewish sisters and brothers to plan the process for presenting Sukkah. It took about one week to build the tent which represents the tabernacle in the celebration of Sukkah when people can pray outside on the nature to remember the time when the Jewish people in the way to find their promise land they had to encounter with their own fragility as human beings.   The Sukkah that reflects our vulnability was touching my heart during my morning meditation. I was walking around to come to the side when the sunlight reflected on the hangging clothes to make like the screen as on the Indonesian Wayang Puppet. There I saw the shadow of vulnerability that is placed on a cloth hanging. Like a puppet presentation at the screen, I feel like looking at my own vulnerability. Human beings in any religious tradition has a way to remind him or herself about the existing vulnerabilities.


Contemplating as an attempt to construct meaning interfaith dialogue as part of the Christian gospel as I reflected on Sukkah which remind me of human vulnerability. Interfaith dialogue is necessary because human beings are all vulnerable. Humans seek strength from God because of human limitations in understanding the mysteries of life including violence, arrogance, and humility that existes in the human heart. Human vulnerability is the very appropriate starting point for understanding why humans need to build mutual understanding to nurture the peace in this world.

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