“FAITH, DIVERSITY and PEACE”
On Monday, May 1, 2017, nearly 100 women gathered at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Manchester for this event sponsored by Interfaith Women of NH. Our 3 presenters spoke from personal experiences about ways in which their diverse faiths brought them to work toward peace and justice.
Nancy Frankel, a member of Temple Adath Yeshurun and a New Hampshire board member of Kids4Peace, spoke of her experience with this organization and it’s work in NH and Jerusalem with Muslim, Jewish, and Christian youth, with a goal to help young people of diverse faiths form friendships and build community through camp experiences and programs.
Barbara Miles is currently archivist for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester. She shared her past, sometimes frightening, experiences helping to develop leadership among Protestant and Catholic youth in Northern Ireland (1980 to 1990). Many of them were brought to the U.S. and Canada for a time of respite and freedom from the violent conditions under which they lived. Protestant youth were placed with Catholic families and vice versa, leading them to discover that we are really all the same.
Sarah Jane Knoy, director of the Granite State Organizing Project, told of how her lifetime faith experiences led to her long-time work in community organizing in Manchester and in the world. She assists faith communities and labor groups in organizing/engaging in the work toward justice and peace. “None of us are free unless all of us are,” she quoted.
All 3 presenters touched on the idea that shared stories lead to relationships and an appreciation for differences.
“I AM A MUSLIM WOMAN”
On Monday May 13, 2017, more than 200 women crowded into St. Catherine of Siena School auditorium in Manchester to hear three Muslim women talk about their faith, women’s and men’s roles, and common misunderstandings about Islam. All three of the presenters came to the US from three different predominantly different Muslim nation states.
Interfaith Women of New Hampshire, sponsored the program. Masooma Athar originally from Pakistan, spent her youth in the multicultural environment of the United Arab Emirates, gave an overview of Islam to open the program. She is a geriatric physician who now lives and works in Manchester, after moving to New Hampshire from Detroit.
Munice Ulker, a board member of the Turkish Cultural Center in Manchester, discussed the roles of women and men in Islam. Munise, a real estate agent who lives in Bedford with her family, first lived in Pittsburgh after arriving in the U.S. from Turkey.
Riman Dwiadari, a newly married graduate student at Southern New Hampshire University who came to Manchester from Syria, spoke about the concepts of jihad and shared personal stories about the curiosity of new acquaintances because she wears the hijab — the Arabic name for the head covering worn by some Muslim women.
The women stressed that religious practices across the world’s various Muslim countries vary greatly and that most of those differences are because of culture rather than the religious teachings of the Quran.
The women did not know each other before planning their program with Interfaith Women of New Hampshire.
“A GATHERING THROUGH THE ARTS”
On Thursday December 5, 2016 Interfaith Women of NH presented “A Gathering Through The Arts” their annual holiday event hosted by First Congregational Church of Manchester. The evening of music, dance and art celebrated the sights and sounds of the festive and faith filled winter season. Barbara Papagian, the Director of Parish Care, welcomed the audience, who braved a bad weather night, to enjoy the joyous and uplifting program.
Young Natyanjali dance students of Jeyanthi Ghatraju, a Bharatanatyam dancer and choreographer affiliated with Alagappa University, India performed traditional Hindu dance. The youngest dancers began with an invocation to the “Lord Supreme”. The invocation message and story are highlighted using hand gestures. Traditional “pure” dances followed showing interesting patterns of rhythm and tempo.
The Brookside Congregational Hand Bell Choir, under the direction of Kim Whitehead lifted our spirits with seasonal, as well as traditional bell choir favorites.
Rachel Spierer led us all in singing a Hanukkah song, Rock of Ages — Ma’oz Tzur, a hymn well known to both our Jewish and Christian congregations.
During the evening Meyra Ozcan introduced us to, Ebru, the Turkish art of marbling. Our audience was delighted to watch as Meyra created her beautiful designs.
Marbling is the art of creating colorful patterns by sprinkling and brushing color pigments on a pan of oily water and then transforming this pattern to paper. The special tools of the trade are brushes of horsehair bound to straight rose twigs, a deep tray made of unknotted pinewood, natural earth pigments, cattle gall and tragacanth. It is believed to be invented in the thirteenth century Turkistan.
Our evening was completed by group of four friends known as “Happy Hour” who sing together for fun and entertainment. Their music is energetic, heartfelt, and filled with life. They were delighted to share with us their renditions of old and new holiday favorites. Women of the “Happy Hour” quartet are members of the Nashua-based chorus “New England Voices in Harmony”, a chapter of the international barbershop organization Harmony Inc.
The entertainment was followed by social time and refreshment, served by the ladies of First Congregational Church. A free will offering was collected and donated to Operation Drum drop, to aid Haitian relief.
The mission of Interfaith Women of NH is to share religious beliefs, cultures and traditions among women of diverse faiths in order to develop understanding and friendship among us and within our community.
On Monday, September 19, 2016, First Church of Christ Scientist hosted our fall event “Individual Choices” which featured the life of Mary Baker Eddy and gave us key information about the Christian Science Movement. Our audience was very engaged in this interesting topic. The church of Christ Scientist and the Christian Science Publishing company were founded by Mary Baker Eddy 1879 and 1898 respectively. One of the many Christ Scientist publications, the Christian Science Monitor (founded in 1908) continues to be published today.
Our presenters for the evening were Pollyanna Winslow, member of the board of Directors of the Derry Christian Science Church, Martha James, First Reader Manchester church, and Kerry Reed, Christian Science Nurse.
The evening concluded with social sharing and refreshments provided by the Interfaith Women’s Steering Committee.
“END OF LIFE RITUALS AND TRADITIONS”
On Thursday evening, May 16, 2016, InterfaIth Women of New Hampshire welcomed nearly 90 women of many faiths to our event, graciously hosted by Temple Adath Yeshurun in Manchester. Our panel included Rabbi Beth Davidson, representing the Jewish faith; Sr. Pauline Maurier, CSC, the Catholic faith; Nur Gunes Almaskili, Islamic faith; Anne Rodman and Susan Walker, the Protestant faith. Each explained in depth the ceremonies and faith perspectives surrounding death and burial in their respective faith traditions.
We learned the rituals surrounding the care of the body after death, the ways in which the family of the deceased is cared for, and the accepted ways in which they are able to eulogize their loved one and participate in the sacred ceremonies. The ritual and manner in which the burial takes place was also presented, as well as the ways in which the deceased is remembered In the days, weeks and months that follow.
The panel presentation was followed by a question and answer period. Those in attendance had many interesting questions which enhanced the discussion. The lively discussion continued afterward over refreshments.
“Who is Malala”
On Thursday March 17, 2016, Interfaith Women of New Hampshire presented “Who is Malala”, a discussion surrounding the book “I am Malala” written by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. The event, attended by a large audience of women from diverse faiths, was hosted by St Catherine of Siena Parish in Manchester, and facilitated by Sarah Basbas, former manager, West Side branch, Carpenter Memorial Library.
Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. She is known mainly for human rights advocacy, for education for women in her native Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. Malala was targeted by the Taliban and severely wounded by gunshot. Her advocacy has since grown into an international movement.
The event began with a summary of the story, and a brief history of Pakistan as a nation state beginning in 1947, and information about the Pashtun culture/people of the Swat valley and more. The presentation was followed by small group discussions involving all in attendance.
“Sharing the Joy”
At this Dec. 3, 2015 event, Interfaith Women of New Hampshire celebrated the richness of various holidays observed in our many faith communities. We were welcomed to the Unitarian Universalist Church in Manchester by the Rev. Julie Lombard, who served her internship for ministry at our host church for the evening.
The program included:
An explanation of the joyous Jewish Holiday of Simchat Torah, which was presented by Rachel Spierer of Temple Israel. Simchat Torah is celebrated in the fall with music and dance by both children and adults to mark the centrality of the teachings of the Torah to Judiasm.
Pam Pleas, First Congregational Church, shared with our audience of about 90 women from various faith backgrounds, the Christian tradition of focusing on gifts from God at Christmas time. Pam included a couple of examples of blessing that she and her family have experienced during this season.
Nur Gunes Almasikli, Turkish Cultural Center, outlined the significance of Noah’s Pudding (Ashure) as a traditional food served during Muslim celebrations associated with the story of Noah’s Ark on the 10th day of Murarram, the first month of the Islamic calendar.
JoAnn O’Connell a member of Holy Trinity Polish National Catholic Cathedral explained for our audience the traditional Polish Christmas Eve (Wigilia), including the Oplatek wafer which is broken and then shared with another. This tradition usually includes wishes for health, happiness, good fortune, and after this life, an eternal crown in heaven.
The evening concluded with those attending joining in a holiday sing-along lead by Mary Singer, Temple Adath Yeshurun, and ending with “Let There be Peace on Earth.” Refreshments were served following the program and everyone had the opportunity to sample “Noah’s Pudding” and share “Oplatek” with each other in the traditional way.
Please click here to see photos from this event.
“Women of Faith and Strength”
On September 29, 2015, St. Joseph Cathedral, Manchester, hosted our event “Women of Faith and Strength.” More than 100 women attended this Interfaith Women of NH program.
The evening started in St. Joseph’s beautiful and historic sanctuary with a warm welcome from Rev.Msgr. Anthony Frontiero, which was followed by presentations from Barbara Miles—Archivist for the Diocese of Manchester; and Diane Murphy Quinlan, Esq.— Chancellor for the Diocese. Both Barbara and Diane are the first lay women to hold their respective positions.
Barbara shared the stories of 3 historical Roman Catholic women, who founded orders in the areas of health, education and welfare: Rev. Mother Francis Xavier Ward, American Sisters of Mercy; Rev Mother Katherine Drexel, Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament; and Rev. Mother Anne Dengel, Medical Missionary Sisters who established and developed International Midwives.
Diane addressed the “Role of Women in the Contemporary Church,” explaining how women are increasingly filling administrative positions in legal and financial roles. Women continue to serve in education, medical and missionary fields in traditional roles including executive positions in private as well as religious institutions. She cited Pope Francis’ comments on women in his recent U.S. tour.
Together, the two presenters gave the audience, a deeper understanding of the roles that women have played in the last century and a half, including reflections on the changes since Vatican ll and their impact.
“Breaking Bread Together – Sharing the breads from our many traditions.”
First Congregational Church hosted this event which was organized by Interfaith Women of New Hampshire on Monday, May 5, 2015.
Different breads from a variety of faith traditions were presented by members of the Steering Committee and Sr. Pauline Maurier, CSC, one of our popular guest presenters.
There are numerous rituals and traditions attached to bread, and in some languages the word ‘bread’ literally means ‘food’. Even today at the start of the 21st century, we still have a sense of its supreme importance, something that was highlighted at this event. In Biblical times, leavened bread was common. Today Jews bake unleavened -matzos- for Passover in remembrance of the Hebrews’ escape from Egypt, and unleavened bread is frequently the bread for ritual or sacred occasions.
Bread also plays a central role in Christianity. Jesus fed the five thousand with bread, and at the last supper broke unleavened bread ( Passover) giving thanks to the Lord and literally identifying with it with the words “this is my body” recalled in every Christian Communion.
Event attendees were each given a recipe collection of all the breads presented, heard how these breads are used in the presenter’s own faith tradition, and other cultural and family traditions of a religious nature when people gather to Break Bread Together.
All attendees had the opportunity to taste the breads, baked by members of the Steering Committee, at the social gathering in the church parlor after the presentation.
“Alva de Mars Megan Chapel Art Center”
The Interfaith Women of New Hampshire met at the Alva de Mars Megan Chapel Art Center at Saint Anselm on Thursday, March 26, 2015, to hear Father Iain MacLellan, OSB, the Director of the gallery—along with his Assistant Curator Maggie Dimock—address topics of interest.
The mission of the Interfaith Women of NH is “To share religious beliefs, cultures, and traditions among women of diverse faiths in order to develop understanding and friendship among us and in our community.”
That interfaith mission overlaps with the 125th anniversary of Saint Anselm College, founded by the Benedictine brotherhood over a century ago. The art gallery at Saint Anselm is a space converted from the former chapel for the college, and its ceiling is decorated by former members of the Benedictine Community which has run the college for all of these years.
The Curator told the participants about how the Benedictines understand and use art in terms of spirituality, as evidenced by the beautiful ceiling paintings at the gallery. These works were the product of two painters of the Order of Saint Benedict (OSB) who have very much left their marks behind for all to see.
For many years, these two painters ran a Studio of Christian Art which flourished and left its mark not only on the Saint Anselm campus, but by painting commissioned pieces for many Catholic churches in the United States and in Europe.
Assistant Curator Margaret Dimock showed the audience the photographs of St. Anselm’s college students who posed, some time between 1915 and 1930, for the decorative panels above each stained glass window in the gallery—which was at that time the chapel for Saint Anselm’s College, as it was then called.
Together, the two presenters gave the full house audience an understanding of how “holiness” and “wholeness” can come together in a “contemplative aspect of appreciation,” as Father Iain said.
“Rejoice and Be Glad”
This event organized by Interfaith Women of New Hampshire drew 120 women to Temple Adath Yeshurun on Monday night, December 8, 2014, to hear and see four musical acts: the Sacred Dancers who performed two dances, Rahel Limos who lead the group in Israeli dance, featuring “Zemer Atik”. Mother and daughter Aprajita & Karishma Manchanda,the Indian Classical Dance “ Kathak” was performed by Karishma and Aprajita delighted us by singing a song usually sung at the Hindu festival of Diwali. Our event was concluded by Aksara who blessed us with holiday favorites in a cappella style.