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Visit an Unfamiliar House of Worship

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The end of Benedict XVI's papacy also marked the somewhat conspicuous beginning of his journey as a "simple pilgrim." Benedict, the first pope to resign in 600 years, ended his tearful farewell by pledging, "I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth." Benedict's farewell address and his passage from pontiff to pilgrim, points to the enduring value of the religious sojourn. It's unlikely that Benedict has too many Zen chapels, Muslim shrines or Hasidic shtebels on his itinerary, but that doesn't mean that you can't! Sojourning to an unfamiliar religious site can be inspiring, confusing, and educational. Gaining a perspective on what someone else calls "holy" can also make you a better global citizen. So visit one otherwise unfamiliar religious site this week.



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Stories (3)

  • Jelena Woehr

    This is the Sikh temple in my neighborhood. The building is called a gurdwara, or "gateway to the guru." Outsiders are explicitly welcomed to visit, provided they are willing to follow some simple rules (no shoes inside, cover your head regardless of your gender). Delicious Punjabi food is part of the Sikh religious experience, and the local gurdwara is known for being very generous in that way, especially to the hungry USC students who stop by for a meal! (For those of us who are not hungry broke college kids, cash donations are accepted and appreciated.) Services are primarily musical, with Punjabi singing and an English translation projected on the wall.

    I was a little leery of visiting until I did a little online research and discovered two interesting things about Sikhism: All gurdwaras worldwide are open to the public (Sikh or not!) and attempting to convert others is actually against the Sikh religion. This creates a very welcoming environment and one that, as it turns out, often includes as many non-Sikhs as Sikhs, in my neighborhood. The priests believe deeply in welcoming guests, and will often offer a snack even to visitors who walk in outside of service times. I think I'll continue stopping by now and then to meditate, hear Punjabi music, and share a meal. I know from the number of people who walk to gurdwara that many of my neighbors are Sikh, but I never seem to see them around the neighborhood except on Sunday! It worries me that perhaps this is partly because they fear anti-Sikh hate crimes. Although most don't speak English (or, at least, choose not to during religious services) I hope to communicate well enough to learn more about what it's like to be Sikh in Los Angeles.

  • CarolynW

    I have learned so much from visiting the religious institutions of my neighbors. I had the chance to visit a Sikh Gurudwara, a Buddhist Vihara, a Quaker Meeting, a Hindu temple, several mosques, churches, synagogues, and more. I can't even begin to explain the powerful and positive impact this had on my understanding of human compassion and spirituality!

  • Annie Wadhams

    I was at the Vatican 2 weeks ago. I'm not a Catholic, I'm not particularly religious, but I'd call myself spiritual (one of those types) ... it was fascinating to visit the Vatican and take in the cultural relics - especially now, especially as conversations with Europeans floated in my head and especially with the idea of this pope's 'pilgrimage' in mind.
    It's a great to-do that I'm pleased to mark as "done".