I just returned from Salt Lake City, where I spent four days at the Parliament of the World’s Religions. The first Parliament was held in Chicago in 1893 — and many of the primary organizers were Unitarian and Universalist men and women! The second Parliament was a hundred years later, in 1993, and this one was only the third to be held in the United States (others have been in South Africa and Australia). The 1893 Parliament was the first time in human history that representatives from so many of the world’s religions had ever come together. It was the first time that women’s voices were heard, and it was the first time that teachers from the Buddhist and Hindu traditions were heard by Americans. That Parliament really marked the beginning of a liberal understanding of and respect for the great diversity of human ways of being religious.
It was deeply moving for me to be part of something that our movement helped begin so long ago, and to be in the presence of so many spiritual and religious people from all over the world and from so many faiths. I came away from the experience encouraged, inspired, and even hopeful. For those days in Salt Lake City, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Bahais, indigenous peoples, and so many others listened to one another, learned from one another, ate together, worshiped together, laughed together, and cried together. It was like tasting what true religious peace might feel like, in a world that has been torn apart so many times by religious conflict. I’ll be speaking about my experience at our Sunday service on November 8th.