My experience stepping into Kingdom Hall and embracing Jehovah’s Witness for who they are.

Allow me to introduce myself, I’m Pearl – a passionate old soul who whole heartily believes in divinity. Growing up on Sikh principals, values, and morals I have always welcomed and accepted others form of faiths with open arms and a curiosity to learn about the different paths to God people choose to take.

I was introduced to Jehovah’s Witnesses long ago when they showed up to my door to discuss teachings of the Bible and how to apply these teachings to everyday life, along with copies of Watchtower articles. Over the years my family continued to welcome them in to share beautiful comparisons and similarities between our faiths.

Walking into Kingdom Hall, I felt welcomed and although unaware of what the meeting had in store fairly confident that it would be easy to follow along. The Bible study was on dealing with anxiety, what most resonated with me was the teaching to give our anxieties, worries, and stress to Jehovah channeled through prayer. If one truly believes in the magnificence of Jehovah than they will recognize that he is here to aid us and relieve us from these worldly sorrows so we can pursue our perfect world (Mind, this is my interpretation). The second topic was about the power of our words and too only speak though the pureness and essence of Jehovah. This talk was interesting because the congregation was actively involved in bringing up relateable scenarios to watch and adjust our language and mannerisms to embody a holy essence.

Overall I found the Sunday meeting completely enlightening and delightful, it was apparent that those that made the effort to come were effectively trying to become better humans through the laws of the holy Bible. I found everyone to be completely welcoming and passionate about their faith.

Members of the community warm heartily welcomed us into their home for lunch, as we continued to discuss back and forth about the faith. If there is one thing I know for sure – it’s that Jehovah’s Witness will always have a direct verse and reference to any question asked from the Bible, very impressive. The conversation was warm, and despite typical stereotypes about Jehovah’s Witnesses I did not feel pressured into converting but more so to gain valuable knowledge about their beliefs. I definitely learned more about Christianity than I ever have before and I would recommend that to anyone ūüôā So grateful to have been a recipient to the hospitality of Emma and her beautiful family.

https://www.jw.org/en/

Interestingly enough later that day my friends and I met up to witness the beautiful sunset and full Moon to take place, unconsciously we ended up in a near by Jehovah’s Witness parking lot (which I’ve never acknowledged before). Once again a Divine force had played a little thought provoking event to peacefully end the adventure that was the day.

PS.

The kingdom hall we visited was located on the outskirts of Kitchener, Ontario… in Amish county – Definitely a culture shock to see the Amish lifestyle and I look forward to learning more about them.

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Crockpot Chilli with Jehovah’s Witnesses

This past Sunday, Pearl and I had the opportunity to meet up with Emma and Colin, an old friend and her husband at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses¬†in Elmira. ¬† Afterwards, we had lunch at their house with another family from her congregation.

I feel foolish admitting it now, but I was nervous sick walking in to the building.  Yet once I was inside, I was immediately put at ease.  The atmosphere was warm, safe and humble.

A Jehovah’s Witness meeting goes like this.¬† The meeting opens with a song and prayer. There’s a talk given by an elder. This Sunday it was on anxiety. Another song is sung and then a group discussion begins. This week’s was based on an article from the Watchtower about using the power of your tongue for good. ¬†A song and prayer close the meeting. ¬†It was like a cross between a conservative evangelical Sunday service, a group devotional and a university class. ¬†Interestingly, nothing that was talked about that morning would have contradicted with anything preached in more classical Christian circles.

In hindsight, I maybe shouldn’t have gone. ¬†I was getting over being sick and developed a horrendous hacking cough that morning. ¬†During the meeting, I had to keep running to the bathroom to let my coughing fits out, and when congregants realized what was going on, one of them brought me water and a few of them gave me some mints and cough drops. ¬†I was incredibly grateful, and impressed with their concern and hospitality.

The best part of the day though, was going back to Emma and Colin’s house for lunch. ¬†They also had another family from their church there, and the seven of us sat around the table. ¬†Emma cooked a crockpot chilli with cheese and sour cream to stir in, and veggies and dip on the side. ¬†It was delectable, and the afternoon conversation was a pure pleasure to participate in. ¬†Not only did I feel heard, I got the sense that everyone who wanted to speak got the opportunity to. ¬†I even felt safe enough to discuss a couple of concerns I had with the talk at the Kingdom Hall. ¬†That is pretty incredible, I think, because so rarely do we Canadians feel safe bringing up potential points of contention, especially over religion. ¬†Honestly though – THAT’S how at ease I felt.

Here is Emma’s chilli recipe:

Emmas Chilli Recipe

Sometimes, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a bad reputation in our society. ¬†My experience, though, was lovely. ¬†My pre-conceptions were badly bludgeoned and I left with a revitalized respect for this group and a happy lightness after having a beautiful meal and an equally wonderful conversation with old and new friends.

 

Hinduism: I Am But a Pepperoni Pizza

 

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Marion, Pearl and I outside of BAPS on an exceptionally frosty February day.  The architecture is all hand carved!

My experience at the Hindu Temple of BAPS Shri Swaminaryan Mantir resonated with me in a way that stunned me, overwhelmed me, entranced me and relaxed me.  The sounds, the smells, the communal rhythms Рand above all, the architecture Рwere like nothing I had encountered before.

The temple is Canada’s first traditionally hand-carved Hindu place of worship. ¬†It was completed in 2007 and built to last 1000 years. ¬†I found myself mouthing “Wow!” at every new step. ¬†Like being at the Canadian National Art Gallery, my eyes grew tired quickly from having more worth examining before me than I could possibly drink in during one visit.

Unlike being at a gallery, here is a list of things that I have experienced in my life that compare to how dwelling in this place made me feel:
– gazing out at the Swiss Alps
Рa misty morning sunset on a Northern Ontario lake
– a slow-paced conversation with a dear friend
– the unexpectedly warm tranquility of being inside a driveway-side igloo.

Take all of these experiences, throw them in a blender, add a generous scoop of religious and cultural oblivion, whip them together and you get something similar to what I experienced on Sunday. ¬†(Worth noting: I have been to some of Europe’s most famous cathedrals. ¬†I thought this was better.)

You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside the temple and frankly, I wouldn’t want to. ¬†It would be like taking pictures on your wedding night. ¬†The ultra magnificence of the place humbled me, reminding me that 1¬†√∑¬†‚ąě = 0. ¬†The way my Grade 12 Calculus teacher described that equation was to imagine a pizza being divided by an infinite number of people. ¬†First, there’s a pizza, and then POOF! ¬†Its gone. ¬†I was that pizza. ¬†I felt small but safe, like I was being put in my proper place in the grand order of things – close to the bottom.

I’m not about to convert to Hinduism, but I can’t help but sense that this 11,000 year old religion has had time to distill a few things about human spirituality down to perfection.

The encounter raised these questions for me:
What is spirituality? What is a spiritual experience?  Given the bitter conflicts associated with so many religions, does having regular spiritual experiences make you a more peaceful human being?

 

 

 

Grey: The Official Colour of Agnosticism

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 2.37.09 PMThis past week we didn’t go to any particular religious or cultural event. ¬†Part of the joy/pity of not belonging to a religion is that there’s nowhere for you to be on a Sunday, so at home alone I stayed, reflecting on my own belief journey.

My own belief melted into doubt.  Then it crystallized into what is turning out to be agnosticism.

The colour of agnosticism is grey. Grey is a neutral. ¬†It goes with everything.¬†¬†In embracing grey, I am free to explore a vast landscape of ideologies and ways of life. ¬†I am not concerned about dirtying my perceptions by wading through others’. ¬†I am able to acknowledge that there are good reasons to believe in something, or not.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 9.20.42 PMAs an agnostic, it has been more fun not knowing.  To look to myself as my own source of sustaining unconditional love. To stare at a starry sky and shiver at its unknown vastness.  To accept the finiteness of my own ability to discern truth and stand in awe of the Great Mystery that is that anything exists at all Рthese have been such wonderful blessings.

Grey is more accurately the colour of just about everything that we call black or white.  It is the colour of compromise.  It is the colour of storms, Depression, and consequently, the colour of many a ground-toothed liminal moment.  It is, perhaps, not the most pleasant of colours, but it is an un-ignorable part of our human experience.  And I intend to relish it.

Grey

 

Camomile Tea and Walking a Labyrinth

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My experience walking the labyrinth in the basement of St. Simon’s Anglican Church¬†was one of conviction and serenity. ¬†The labyrinth was painted blue on a large piece of canvas stretched out over linoleum flooring. ¬†The lights were dimmed and flameless tea lights sat symmetrically around the edge within the outer lunations. ¬†The atmosphere felt warm, even though the temperature of the room suggested the church paid close attention to their hydro bill. ¬†We were offered tea. ¬†I thought camomile seemed most appropriate for this cozy setting.

This labyrinth was a singular path one took with a beginning and an end at the centre rose.  The rose had six outer petals.  Walking a labyrinth is an active avenue for meditation.  The leader explained that it occupies the left side of your brain so that the right side of your brain can take over, bringing forth the potential for experiencing a meditative state.  Walking labyrinth is an ancient pre-Christian tradition, so ancient that it appears nobody quite knows where or how it began.  Its been practiced by several religious groups around the world for thousands of years.

Knowing that we weren’t Anglican, she thoughtfully made the evening as inclusive as possible. ¬†She set out quotes, psalms, ideas, pages to journal on and pens to use or not use on our walks through each quadrant. ¬†In total, there were eight ladies ranging in ages from their early twenties to late seventies. ¬†All of us were encouraged to do what we felt would individually help us get the most out of this experience.

At the request of Pearl, my Sikh companion who was eager to experience a real life enactment of a Christian tradition, we opened the evening up with the Lord’s Prayer. ¬†All eight of us stood around the centre rose holding hands, with those of us who knew the prayer chanting it to the sound of meditative music, the smoke of a candle and the flickering of the tea lights. ¬†It felt surreal and other-worldly, like we could just have easily been doing this same thing in a monastery 500 years ago.

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I think I was the first to walk the labyrinth after reading through some of the literary aids set out for us. ¬†I chose a card entitled “Self”. ¬†In her introduction, the leader had suggested we read through a resource a couple of times and if something jumped out at us, maybe that was what we should meditate on during our walk.

As I walked and read, the word “trust” jumped out at me, so I focussed on that concept for the rest of my time there.

The whole evening felt like a warm, therapeutic hug, like the atmospheric equivalent of sipping a mug of steamy hot camomile tea.