“Welcoming the Stranger, Becoming Friends”
This Sunday at worship, our church will welcome our friends Swami Yogatmananda and members of The Vedanta Society of Providence
. We will worship God together and celebrate the 1893 visit from Swami Vivekananda (pronounced SWAH – Me Viv-Ee Ka-NAN- Da.) After worship we will gather together for some refreshments: savory Indian treats, sandwiches, and desserts. Gathering around a table and sharing food and conversation are important to many of the world’s religions.
The Hindu faith honors and accepts all of the world’s religions. They understand that there are many ways to worship God. Swami Vivekananda was born in India and visited the Annisquam Village Church 128 years ago! He was a very wise man and a Hindu leader. His followers now live all over the world.
How did Swami Vivekananda come all the way from India to Annisquam? Airplanes and cars had not been invented in 1893. Vivekenanda traveled for two months, by train and by ship from India to Hong Kong and Japan, by ship across the Pacific Ocean to Vancouver, Canada, and by train over the Rocky Mountains to Chicago. Look at a map! He traveled over 8,000 miles to speak about Hinduism at the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago. But, when he got there, they would not let him speak. He needed a letter of introduction. Vivekananda didn’t know anyone in this country, but had heard about a professor at Harvard. So, he traveled another 850 miles by train to Boston. When Professor Wright met Swami Vivekananda, he realized that Vivekananda was a very wise man. The professor invited him to spend a few days in Annisquam. On Sunday August 27, 1893, Vivekananda spoke at the Annisquam Village Church about “Customs and Life in India.” Vivekananda’s followers consider our church a holy site, because it was the first place their leader spoke to a large crowd outside of India. Here are some pictures of what Annisquam might have looked like when he visited.
What happened next? Professor Wright wrote a letter recommending Swami Vivekananda to the Parliament of World Religions; the professor told them that Vivekananda knew more “than all our professors together.” Swami Vivekananda returned to Chicago and spoke to a crowd of 7,000 people at the Parliament of World Religions. After that, he was invited to speak in many other places in the United States. One year later, in August of 1894, Swami Vivekananda returned to Annisquam for a two-week visit. People welcomed him into their homes, and invited him to join them for meals and gatherings. At first a stranger, Swami Vivekananda became friends with many people here.
It is traditional in India to greet people with folded hands, a bow, and the word “Namaste” (pronounced “Nom-OSS-stay.”) Try this: put the palms of your hands together with fingers pointed upward, say “Namaste” and bow toward another person. Try it again. When you do this, you are bowing to them – honoring the person and the spirit of God inside them. Jesus tells us to love our neighbor. When you greet people or are kind to strangers, you are honoring them, and sharing God’s love. When you welcome strangers or feed them you are honoring them and sharing God’s love. When you spend time talking with people, when you write a letter for someone, you are honoring them and sharing the love of God with them.
As you gather together with new or old friends, with family and with classmates, remember to respect and care for each other. As you gather to share food, whether a snack or a feast, remember to say thanks for the food you eat, and to the people who share it with you.
We look forward to seeing you on Sunday! You are blessed to be a blessing to others.
p.s. Mark your calendars for “The Blessing of the Animals”
Next Sunday, Oct. 3rd at 4 p.m. on the church lawn