RANDOLPH, NJ- The Randolph Interfaith Council held the second session of the program, “Exploring the Essentials of the Three Abrahamic Faiths”, on Tuesday, Jan. 17 at St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Randolph. The theme of this session was “The Place of Prayer, “and again, featured the clergy who founded the Council: Father Dan Murphy of St. Matthew’s, Rabbi Menashe East of the Mount Freedom Jewish Center and new addition to the Council, Imam Deen Shareef of the Masjid Waarith ud Deen mosque in Irvington.
Father Murphy opened with a summary of the rationale behind the Council and the interfaith program it sponsors. First, he expressed his optimism that by joining together in mutual respect, people of different faiths are united in helping to “build the kingdom of God” right here in Morris County. Second, he voiced his belief that “diversity enriches,” the apparent truth of which was on display in the nods of understanding and empathy that could be seen throughout the substantial and diverse audience throughout the evening.
Most of the session was dedicated to presentations about both the role of, and mechanics of, prayer in each of the three represented faiths. The three clergy’s presentations made clear that, while each of the faith traditions: Jewish, Muslim and Christian puts unique prayer obligations on its adherents, if one peers beneath the veneer of ritual, one sees many more similarities than differences.
Deen Shareef agreed, saying that from “…a better understanding of these common principles we hope will enhance and strengthen our bonds with each other.”
Rabbi East also affirmed this sentiment, observing, that as Jews, Christians and Muslims “our words (of prayer) and structure are different, but our hearts are the same.” For attendee, Anne Beacken of Randolph and a member of the Mt. Freedom Jewish Center, these sessions are “so important to promote understanding and good communication within our three faith communities.”
All the presenters agreed that a reverential prayer life is a vital and “indispensable” aspect of faith as they practice it. Deen Shareef observed that our “souls get richer and are nutured by prayer”.
As in all of the sessions, the program ended with a vigorous Q&A panel discussion. Most of the questions remained in the general arena of “prayer” and included topics such as the appropriateness of informal prayer, the potential role of meditation, and even a difficult question from a self-identified atheist.
The next session, “Our Father Abraham” will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 7:30 pm at the Islamic Center of Morris County, Rockaway. This is free of charge and open to the public.