We have just concluded the 2015 Parliament of World Religions in Salt Lake City. It is a gathering of people from around the world representing many many traditions 0f faith-based practices, and those interested in studying them. They are primarily concerned with interfaith communication and action to address the most important issues of the times. Climate change got a lot of attention this year. There was a lot of energy surrounding women’s rights. The first ever Women’s Assembly was held and there were numerous workshops devoted to women in religion, including discussions about the Female Divine. Issues addressing indigenous beliefs and practices, history, and human and civil rights, and the relationships between dominant cultures, their governments and religions were also examined. Another subject of study and calls to action focused on war, violence, and hate crimes ranging from global nuclear disarmament to testimonies from survivors of the massacre of Sikhs in the temple in Wisconsin in 2012.
Having just received my degrees in Anthropology and Religious Studies it seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to take my next step forward as a professional cultural astronomer. As the announcements for the programs unfolded earlier this summer, it became apparent to me that I would have to be very selective to make this event as meaningful for me as possible. There was just going to be too much to take it all in. What made sense to me as one who is studying why people have put their religious beliefs and practices into the sky? To try to find religions that have a relationship to the celestial sphere. It is apparent that most indigenous groups do. But many ancient civilizations did as well. It is through the study of the feminine divine that this material is accessed.
I signed up early for the Women’s Assembly. This was to be a historic event. Plus it early on looked like the list of women speakers was going to be far more interesting than the men. I approached the conference as a student of religions with a foundation in anthropology. I thought I would hang out on the sidelines, observing and taking notes, and take all this information and organize it into my files for future reference. Very early on I found myself invited to participate, and being moved emotionally by what I saw and heard. Unexpectedly, I have been challenged to make improvements in my personal life that will enable me to progress more easily and successfully, and which will improve my interaction with other people. The work has begun.
It is too early for me to provide an overall review and assessment of the conference. I am still recovering. Some of the most important occurrences were the serendipitous moments that randomly appeared throughout the five days. You just had to be in the right place and the right time for these experiences. It was a very special time for all of us. Within that space there was an exceptional feeling of warmth, kindness, respect, and trust. I think we all felt it. The volunteers and the Salt Palace employees as well.
I am going to try to highlight individuals who affected me the most strongly and provide links to their websites so their own representations can speak for themselves. This is going to take awhile. I am looking forward to continuing many of the conversations I began at this Parliament. I am grateful for this community that I have discovered. I believe that I myself have a contribution to make.