Bahai News -- The Patriot-News - Midstaters celebrate religions with music

Midstaters celebrate religions with music

Program brings various religions together

Monday, January 20, 2003

Of The Patriot-News

Representatives of the Buddhists chanted, members of the Dutch Reformed Church played the harp and members of the United Church of Christ rang bells.

All worshipped together yesterday in "Music That Brings Us to God," an ecumenical program sponsored by the InterReligious Forum of Greater Harrisburg and the Baha'i faith at Bethany Village in Upper Allen Twp.

"Today is World Religion Day," said Behzad Zandieh of Harrisburg, organizer of the 90-minute service. "This day has been observed for 50 years on the third Sunday of January. Harrisburg has a lot of different faiths, but we all worship one creator."

The program, in the Bethany Village community room/chapel, stressed that unity. Virginia Parkum of the Blue Mountain Lotus Society began the service with Buddhist chanting.

She taught the audience of 75 a Buddhist chant that translates into "I am one with the universal spirit of compassion." She led them in chanting it over and over as she hit a tiny drum. Finally, she paused a few minutes for meditation.

The audience sat in a peaceful silence. People who hurried into the room looking stressed seemed to relax, some staring at nothing and others shutting their eyes and bowing their heads in prayer.

Parkum rang a bell to end the meditation, then stepped aside so Azra Syed could offer some Islam Sufi chanting, which translated into "God is merciful and forgiving."

Minutes later, David Bernitsky of Chambers Hill United Methodist Church in Swatara Twp. played his guitar and sang two songs he wrote.

He then performed "Back on the Path" and "Oh, Carry Me," telling the audience that "God carries us through tough situations."

Louis Lynch, representing the Dutch Reformed Church, played and sang three songs on the harp. By the time he reached "Blowing in the Wind," people were gently tapping their feet in time with the music.

Susan Leviton, representing Judaism, performed some Yiddish melodies, noting that people should pray for peace while the world is close to war. Three women from the Penbrook United Church of Christ Bell Choir brought smiles to people's face as they played "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."

The Baha'i Joy Singers ended the program with three hymns. Zandieh called the service enriching.

"We worship in different ways, but God understands it all," he said. "This service helped us understand and respect each others' ways. Music is the universal language. We're not all that different after all."

MARY KLAUS: 255-8113 or

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