Lighting candles one by one, Sufis and members of Boulder’s other spiritual communities will celebrate their common dedication to honoring the world’s spirituality.Members of Boulder’s Sufi community have begun offering Universal Worship services to invite people of any religious background to get to know each other and share a mutual respect for the wisdom of the world’s religions.
Universal Worship will be offered on the first Sunday of each month in Boulder at 2 p.m. at the Community United Church of Christ, 2630 Table Mesa Drive. The February service is Sunday.
Hassan Suhrawardi Gebel, a member of the Front Range Sufi Order, said he wanted to introduce the Universal Worship services to Boulder as a way to welcome people to explore and experience different religious traditions. In a world where differing religious backgrounds can lead to conflict, Universal Worship encourages people to see each tradition not as better or worse than others but as valuable pieces of a greater universal puzzle. Each tradition offers valuable wisdom, he said.
“We want to give people an experiential education of the sacredness of different religions,” he said.
The services try to feature guest speakers to present their wisdom and honor all the religions of the world.
Participants light candles specifically for the Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, Native American, Goddess, Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions, and one additional candle that symbolizes those who have “held aloft the light of truth against the darkness of human ignorance.”
Though each candle represents a different teacher or religion, “it is one and the same light,” he said.
The concept of the Universal Worship service was introduced in the 1920s by Hazrat Inayat Khan, an Indian musician and mystic. He is credited for founding the Sufi Order in the West in the early 1900s. A later follower of Khan, Samuel Lewis, is credited for beginning Dances of Universal Peace, a spiritual tradition that incorporates sacred dance, in the United States.
In Khan’s writings, he describes Universal Worship not as another church or religion but an opportunity for people who belong to different religious traditions to worship together and learn about each other as spiritual people.
“Also, it gives practice in paying respect to the great ones who have come from time to time to serve humanity,” he wrote in a letter to his followers in the early 1920s.
Sunday’s Universal Worship service will explore how light is used in different traditions, such as lighting lamps for Hindu dieties in the aarti ritual, the eternal flame in the temple of the Zoroastrians and the candle lighting on Shabbat from the Jewish tradition.
Christine Hart, who practices healing arts in Boulder, will speak about her time learning from the Q’ero people of Peru, who believe all humans are beings of light. By using special rituals, people can clear their luminous energy fields of debris, she said.
Though each tradition uses different ways to interpret and honor the role of light in spiritual life, each can add value to everyday life, Gebel said.
“Universal Worship prepares us to sympathize with one another and to be blessed by all forms of wisdom which have come to us by different great teachers of humanity,” he said.
Megan Quinn writes a faith column once a week for the Camera. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.