We have begun filming the talks given at our Interfaith services. You can watch them all on our YouTube channel. Please subscribe!
At our April 16, 2022 Interfaith service, we held our annual Interfaith Community Passover Seder. During this Seder, we celebrated the liberation of Jews out of slavery in ancient Egypt, the rich history of the Jewish people, and all worldwide liberation movements since in this joyful and powerful meal. The Haggadah we use here comes from our dear friend and supporter, Susan Partnow. She is the founder of Global Citizen Journeys and one of the senior facilitators for the Compassionate Listening Project. You can watch the service here.
At our March 19, 2022 Interfaith service, we celebrated Ostara. The word “Ostara” comes from the Anglo-Saxon goddess name, Eostre. Eostre represents spring and new beginnings. Ostara is a Wiccan holiday and one of its eight Sabbats; it celebrates the Spring Equinox. In the Wiccan Wheel of the Year, Spring Equinox is the time when Nature truly awakens. This year, March 18th was also the Full Moon that Wiccans call the “Awakening Moon.” Wiccan Elder Morgana Sythove co-led this service. She lives in the Netherlands and is the International Coordinator for Pagan Federation International. During this service, she led us in a meditation on Ostara and the return of spring. She also talked about how this hopeful spring energy might be used to help us support the people, plants, and animals who are currently suffering because of the war in Ukraine. You can watch the service here.
At our March 5, 2022 Interfaith service, we celebrated Great Lent from the Orthodox Christian tradition. The term ‘Lent’ refers to the “lengthening of the days.” For Christians, it is a rite of purification, contemplation, and preparation for the Feast of Feast. In the Christian East, Easter is known as Pascha (Passover). It is a time of fasting, introspection, and special attention to God. Cornelius Swart, a member of the Orthodox Church in America and longtime student of both Eastern and Western mysticism, co-led this service. He shared about the ascetic beliefs and practices of the ancient Byzantine tradition of Great Lent. We also took time during this service to offer prayers from our various faith traditions for Ukraine and for all those impacted by the violence there that they might be protected, supported, and comforted. You can watch the service here.
At our February 19, 2022 Interfaith service, we celebrated Anti-Bullying Day. It is an initiative started in 2007 by high school students David Shepherd and Travis Price, whose friend was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. In support of youth and marginalized peoples everywhere, people around the world now wear pink shirts on this day to show that we stand in solidarity against bullying. Beth Hersom co-led this service. She is a long-time disability advocate who loves everyone but who stands up to bullies wherever she finds them. She shared her own perspective on bullying as a perversion of the virtues of joy, power, and unity and what she has learned about the best way to stand up to bullies without further antagonizing them. You can watch the service here.
At our February 5, 2022 Interfaith service, we celebrated Lunar New Year, which takes part over a 12-year cycle. Every year in the cycle is associated with a different animal, including the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. This year we are celebrating the Year of the Tiger. Arthur Xie co-led this service. He was born and raised in China and has lived in Canada since 2012. He is currently pursuing his Masters at Johns Hopkins University. Arthur shared the origin and history of the Lunar New Year, also know as the Spring Festival in China. He also discussed how it is celebrated in other countries around the world. You can watch the service here.
At our January 15, 2022 Interfaith Service, we celebrated World Religion Day, which was initiated by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States in 1950. Kamran Zamanian from the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Vancouver co-led this service. He shared about the history and significance of this holiday and how it is celebrated today by members of various faith traditions around the world. You can watch the service here.
At our January 1, 2022 Interfaith service, we celebrated the New Year. We took time to reflect on the joys, sorrows, and learnings of 2021, as well as our hopes and intentions going into 2022. Our Interfaith Leader, Cathy Merchant, led the service and later opened up the platform for group sharing and contributions. You can watch the service here.
At our December 18, 2021 Interfaith service, we celebrated Christmas and the hope that comes from Jesus Christ’s birth. Palestinian peace activist, Shadia Qubti, co-led the service. She shared about the significance of Jesus being born under Roman rule in ancient Palestine and what this means for Palestinian Christians living under Israeli rule today. You can watch the service here.
At our December 4, 2021 Interfaith service, we celebrated Bodhi Day, a Mahayanan Buddhist holiday celebrating the Awakening of the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. Our Interfaith Leader, Cathy Merchant, led the full service. She shared about the importance of the Three Refuges – the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha – and how these might bring hope to us all, regardless of faith tradition. You can watch the service here.
At our November 20, 2021 Interfaith service, we celebrated Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s birthday. He was the founder of the Sikh faith and the first of the Ten Gurus. He was also an accomplished poet; nearly 1,000 of his hymns may be found in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the primary Sikh holy text. United Religions Initiative regional coordinator, Tahil Sharma, co-led this service. He shared about the life and legacy of Guru Nanak and what those of us from other faith traditions might be able to learn from him today. Also during the service, our partner organization through the United Religions Initiative – the Multifaith Action Society – launched its 2022 Multifaith Calendar. The theme this year is Resilience. The calendar’s designer, Marcus Hynes, shared a bit about the history of the calendar and how it may be used as a source of inspiration and education for people from all faith traditions. You can read more about the calendar and order copies of it here. And you can watch the service here.
At our November 6, 2021 Interfaith service, we celebrated Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. This ancient tradition originated in the Mexican region of the Aztec Empire and is largely observed today by our sisters and brothers of Mexican heritage. Unlike both Halloween and Samhain – other notable festivals of the dead – Día de los Muertos is more joyful than somber. It is a celebration of life ever after, as it plays out in a beautiful and cyclical way. Our friend and community member, Cynthia Robles, co-led this service. She presented the traditional ceremony and explained each aspect of the celebration and the symbolism behind it. You can watch the service here.
At our October 16, 2021 Interfaith service, we celebrated Mawlid al-Nabi, the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The Prophet was a messenger of Allah, the founder of Islam, and undoubtedly an advocate for the oppressed during his own lifetime. His birthday is considered a national holiday in most Muslim-majority nations, and it is widely celebrated throughout most, but not all, Muslim communities around the world. Human rights lawyer, El-Farouk Khaki, co-led this service. He shared about the Prophet’s legacy of social justice within Islam. Khaki is the founder of Salaam: Queer Muslim community and the co-founder and imam of the queer-affirming el-Tawhid Juma Circle in Toronto. You can watch the service here.
At our October 2, 2021 Interfaith service, we celebrated National Coming Out Day. Each and every one of us share many coming out experiences, all of which are transformational and part of a spirit-led human journey. Some are painful, some are healing, and all permit us the opportunity to experience the universal love that connects and holds us. Lynda and Tori Dickson co-led this service. They both come from United Church and Queer Evangelical backgrounds. Both have developed mixed media support materials, both came out as members of the 2SLGBTQ community in their 50s, and both continue to support those for whom this challenging journey is still unfolding. You can watch the service here.
At our September 18, 2021 Interfaith service, we celebrated the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkot with scholar and spiritual teacher Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan. Rabbi Laura shared from the teachings of the Rosh Hashanah prayer “Unetaneh Tokef” to give us guidance on how we might foster resilience during these difficult times. In addition, local Palestinian peace activist, Shadia Qubti, joined us and offered a prayer for Sukkot. You can watch the service here.
Happy birthday to us! Our service in celebration of our three-year anniversary as a community took place on September 4, 2021. At this service, we celebrated the growth of our congregation over the last few years. Community members took turns sharing about what they have learned during our time together and how their deepening friendships with members of other faith traditions have impacted them, over time. People also shared some of their ideas for future services and projects that we might be able to take on as a group, in the near future. You can watch the service here.
Our service in honour of the Bodhisattva Jizo took place on August 21, 2021. Jizo is known for his vows to take responsibility for all beings following the death of the historical Buddha and not to cross over into Nirvana until all hell realms are emptied. He is revered as the guardian of children, travelers, and all beings suffering the torments of hell. Zen priest, Myoshin Kate McCandless, shares here about the history of Jizo, his vows, and how he is honoured in Japan today, both in the Jizo-bon festival and elsewhere year-round. You can watch the service here.
Our service in celebration of International Forgiveness Day took place on August 7, 2021. The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance promotes it on the first Sunday in August each year, hoping to encourage forgiveness that will create “a safer, more joyful, and peaceful world.” Yet forgiveness is understood differently in different cultures and spiritual traditions. And it is misused and misunderstood perhaps just as often, leading to less safety, joy, and peace for all beings involved. Our Interfaith Leader, Cathy Merchant, shares about the uses and misuses of forgiveness and how wisdom from different spiritual traditions might help us all practice it in ways that bring about the most healing. You can watch the service here.
Our service in celebration of Eid al-Adha took place on July 17, 2021. Founding Sanctuary member, Sameer Merchant, shared about the history, rituals, and significance of this celebration. He also spoke at length about the diversity that may be found in Islam, both in regards to honouring this event and in many other occasions and practices. You can watch the service here.
Our service in support of Indigenous self-determination in the Anglican Church (and elsewhere) took place on July 3, 2021. Our beloved friend, board member, and Cree sister – Sheila Cook – reminded us that when the mainline churches pulled out of the reserves after painstakingly trying to convert everyone to Christianity, Indigenous people turned to the Gospel for guidance. She writes that they “placed the Gospel in the centre of our Sacred Circle. That is where we hold our most sacred teachings, our medicines, the pipe. The people kept Christ alive and here is where our leaders and bishops are revealed, in Circle, prayer, and in dream.” During this service, Sheila introduced us to the Indigenous practice of “Gospel-based discipleship.” She led us through several different readings of Matthew 11:25-30 and helped us reflect on some wisdom from the Gospel that might help us during this challenging time. She also shared her own journey of reclamation and renewal on this land now claimed as Canada. You can watch the service here.
Our service in celebration of the Summer Solstice took place on June 19, 2021. Wiccan Archpriestess Mary Malinski shared about the rituals and significance of this occasion in Neopagan tradition. She talked about how it is celebrated today – both in her community, the Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Canada, and in others around the world – as well as what it might mean for the rest of us who are coming from different spiritual traditions. You can watch the service here.
Our service in honour of both the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School and World Environment Day took place on June 5, 2021. We did a Buddhist grieving ritual and shared stories from elders and prayers for these beautiful children and their families. Afterwards, Steve Crawford – one of the founders of our sister congregation, the Living Interfaith Church – spoke about the current climate crisis and why members of all faith traditions, including his own Humanist community, must join together for the sake of protecting our beautiful planet, its remarkable creatures, and ourselves. You can watch the service here.
Our service in celebration of Shavuot took place on May 15, 2021. Living Interfaith Founder, Reverend Steven Greenebaum, shared about the significance of the Jewish holiday and what revelation might mean to us today, especially when those of us from different faith traditions have received different revelations. You can watch the service here.
Our service in celebration of Ridvan took place on May 1, 2021. Connie Waterman from the Multifaith Action Society shared about the history of the Baha’i Faith, the journey of Baha’u’llah from Persia to Constantinople, and the spiritual significance of Ridvan, “The King of Festivals.” You can watch the service here.
Our service in celebration of Ramayana Week and Ram Navami took place on April 17, 2021. BK Harsha Palli from the Anubhuti Retreat Center and San Francisco Meditation Center shared about some of the meditative teachings hidden in the Ramayana and how Lord Rama’s journey can help us all live more virtuous, balanced lives today. You can watch the service here.
Our service in celebration of Easter took place on April 3, 2021. Living Interfaith Sanctuary Vice President Brynn Craffey is currently pursuing ordination in the Anglican Church. He shared here about his own journey from death and disillusionment in his teens to his full renewal in the Church later in life. Moreover, he discussed how Jesus’ resurrection can still impact us today, as we wait in hope for our own personal and collective rebirth. You can watch the service here.
Our service in honour of Shunbun no Hi (the Vernal Equinox) and Haru-no Higan (the seven-day Spring Festival) took place on March 20, 2021. Shinto Priestess Olivia Bernkastel and practitioner Sam Horvath shared with us more about Shinto tradition, practices, and beliefs; how Shunbun no Hi and Haru-no Higan are celebrated this time of year around the world; and how Shinto tradition fits in easily in the global Interfaith movement. You can watch the service here.
Our service in honour of International Women’s Day took place on March 6, 2021. The theme for International Women’s Day 2021 was #ChooseToChallenge. It highlighted the importance of challenging biases and misconceptions to create a more inclusive and gender-equal world. In keeping with this theme, Carolyn Rogers shared about her experience with gender-based violence and her work now as a faith leader who co-facilitates a support group for women who have experienced violence. You can watch the service here.
Our service in honour of U.N. World Day of Social Justice took place on February 20, 2021. Halchigul Pattar is a Uyghur human rights activist from Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China. At this service, she shared her personal testimony, as well as more information about the Chinese government committing genocide and crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs in East Turkistan. Please be aware that some of the experiences described here might be disturbing or upsetting to some viewers. You can watch the service here.
Our service in honour of Aboriginal Storytelling Month took place on February 6, 2021. Tony Snow shared about the “Wintercount Tradition” and how memory shapes community today. He is the Indigenous Minster in the Chinook Winds Region of the United Church of Canada. You can watch the service here.
Our service in celebration of World Religion Day took place on January 23, 2021. Community Interfaith Educator, Harold Rosen, from the Baha’i Spiritual Assembly shared a bit about the history and purpose of World Religion Day, as well as the long history of the Interfaith movement. You can watch the service here.
Our service in honour of the birth of Guru Gobind Singh Ji took place on January 9, 2021. Former RCMP Officer, Baltej Singh Dhillon, shared about the lasting impact that Guru Gobind Singh Ji made on the Sikh faith and also in Dhillon’s own life, as he sought the courage to fight and win the right to keep his beard and wear his turban while in uniform. You can watch the service here.
Our Christmas Interfaith service took place on December 26, 2020. Reverend Louise Mangan, United Church of Canada, retired, shared about the miracle of Jesus Christ’s birth and what it means for those of us from a wide variety of religious traditions to honour the incarnation of God into the world as a newborn baby. You can watch the service here.
Our service in celebration of Bodhi Day took place on December 12, 2020. Our Interfaith Leader, Cathy Merchant, shared about the life of the historic Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, and his journey to Enlightenment. She also reflected on what it meant for the earth to bear witness to the Buddha’s awakening and how that might impact our understanding of awakening today. You can watch the service here.
Our service in honour of Transgender Day of Remembrance took place on November 28, 2020. Lauren Kirkey, a Candidate for Ordained Ministry within the United Church, spoke to us about this sombre occasion and what it means for her, as an aspiring minister and member of the Trans community. You can watch the service here.
Our service on Diwali – the Hindu, Sikh, Jain, and Newar Buddhist festival of lights – took place on November 14, 2020. Indian writer and theology student, Nirmalya Das, shared a bit about the history and multi-layered spiritual significance of this joyous holiday, as well as how it is practiced today across India. You can watch the service here.
Our service on Samhain, the Celtic New Year festival, took place on October 31, 2020. Dr. Alexandra Chauran – an author and High Priestess of British Traditional Wicca – shared about the history of Samhain, its connections to the modern-day celebration of Halloween, and how it is observed today by members of the Neopagan community. In addition, she told the ancient story of the Goddess Inanna’s descent into the Underworld. You can watch the service here.
Our service on what it would mean to decolonize the Thanksgiving holiday took place on October 17, 2020. Reverend Murray Pruden – a United Church minister and member of the Cree nation – shared his perspective on the history of the holiday and the importance of developing gratitude for every gift the Creator has given us. You can watch the service here.
Our service on the benefits of meditation took place on October 3, 2020. Writer and podcast host, Brett Dupree, told a story about how our brains function normally versus the changes that come about when we begin to implement deep breathing exercises and meditation. You can watch the service here.
Our service in honour of the Jewish High Holy Days took place on September 19, 2020. Living Interfaith Founder, Reverend Steven Greenebaum, shared about the significance of the New Year of Rosh Hashanah and the days leading up to Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. He explained at length about the importance of forgiveness in Jewish tradition and how one might reflect on forgiveness in their own lives during this sacred period. You can watch the service here.
The first week of September was our two-year anniversary as a community! We celebrated at our September 5, 2020 service by taking turns sharing about what we love about this congregation, what we have learned about other spiritual traditions and one another over time, and our individual and collective hopes for the future. You can watch the whole service and discussion here.
Our service dedicated to the inner work of anti-racism took place on August 22, 2020. Our Interfaith Leader, Cathy Merchant, shared about the work we must do – both in ourselves and in our spheres of influence – if we are to uncover, acknowledge, abandon, and heal from our racist ideas and behaviors. You can watch the service here.
Our service in honour of Lughnasadh took place on August 8, 2020. Writer Patrick McKenna shared about the practical and spiritual importance of this ancient harvest festival and what it means to him as a modern Celtic Pagan. You can watch the service here.
Our service in honour of Hajj took place on July 25, 2020. Sheikh Nasir Zaidi shared about the spiritual and historic importance of Hajj in the Muslim faith and what, exactly, this means for us this year when most Muslims around the world were self-isolating at home during this most important occasion. You can watch the service here.
The video of our service in honour of the Báb took place on July 11, 2020. Community Interfaith Educator, Harold Rosen, shared about the life-changing teachings of the Báb that helped pave the way for Baha’u’llah and the later Baha’i vision for peace and justice among all the world’s religions. You can watch the whole service here.
Our National Indigenous Peoples Day service took place on June 27, 2020. Council member Reverend Mary Fontaine – a local Presbyterian minister and founder of the Aboriginal healing circle, Hummingbird Ministries – shared about the deep faith and resilience of her own Cree people. She talked about the significance of this holiday for all First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people across Canada, yet also about the deep racism and injustice they still face today at nearly every level of society. Cree Elder Dorothy Visser also joined us to share her perspective and to offer the Lord’s Prayer in Cree.
You can watch the whole service and the group discussion following it here.
The video of our service in honour of Guru Arjan took place on June 13, 2020. Former World Sikh Organization director and activist, Sukhvinder Kaur Vinning, shared about Guru Arjan’s life and contributions to the Sikhee movement (known in the Western world as Sikhism) and what people from all faith traditions can still learn today from him. You can watch the whole service here.
Our Eid Al-Fitr service took place on May 30, 2020. Creative Consultant and Educator, Sister Jaminah Shannon, shared about her organization Wasat. She also led the second half of the service with stories from her family’s Eid celebration and beautiful recitations of the Takbir Al-Eid prayer and from the Qur’an. You can watch the whole service here.
Our Ascension Day service took place on May 16, 2020. Our Interfaith Consultant, Dr. Eloecea, led the second half of the gathering and spoke about what ascension looks like in different religious traditions and what it might mean for us today. You can watch it here.
The video of our Easter Interfaith service – held on Zoom on April 18, 2020 – may be viewed on YouTube here. Jean and Steven Ward from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints preached the sermon.
The full video of our Annual Interfaith Passover Seder, this time held via Zoom on April 4, 2020, may be watched on YouTube here. Compassionate Listening facilitator and Global Citizen Journey founder, Susan Partnow, led this Seder using her family’s own Haggadah.
Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, our services have been moved online via Zoom starting March 21, 2020. Zoom automatically records all gatherings, so here is the recording for the entire service that day (minus the “Sharing of Our Hearts,” where participants share their own personal joys and concerns with the group). Watch it on YouTube here.
This talk was given by Indian writer and theology student, Nirmalya Das, on the joy of Holi, the Hindu Festival of Colour, on March 7, 2020. In it, he speaks about the history and spiritual significance of this joyous occasion, as well as what it means for us today, as both Hindus and non-Hindus in a largely non-Indian context. You can watch it here on YouTube.
This dharma talk was given by Daniel Francis from the Vancouver Triratna Buddhist community on February 22, 2020. In it, he shares about his sangha’s eight-step Buddhist recovery practice for those who are in the process of healing from any manner of addiction. You can watch it on YouTube here.
This story was told by Vancouver General Hospital Chaplain Lauren Sanders on January 25, 2020. In it, she gives us a snapshot of our shared Indigenous and Intercultural history and then gives us time to reflect on how this history continues to play out today in innumerable ways, across our entire society. You can watch it here on YouTube.
This sermon was given by Bijan Adlparvar from the Vancouver Baha’i Community to the Living Interfaith Sanctuary on January 25, 2020. In it, he discusses the origins of World Religion Day and the core tenets of the Baha’i Faith that make it almost the perfect representative of an “Interfaith religion.” You can watch it on YouTube here.
This sermon was given by Presbyterian Minister Peter Sanders to the Living Interfaith Sanctuary on December 14, 2019. In it, he discusses the differences between Advent and the Christmas season, the difficulty in honoring Advent in our consumerist culture, and how these six holy weeks can bring peace and joy to us all, regardless of religious tradition. Watch it here on YouTube.
This sermon was given by Living Interfaith Sanctuary Council member, Brynn Craffey, on November 30, 2019. In it, he discusses his experience living as a queer person in San Francisco in the 1980s and ’90s and the way in which the AIDS epidemic impacted the city and his loved ones. You can watch it here on YouTube.
This sermon was given by our Interfaith Leader, Cathy Merchant, during our November 16, 2019 service. In it, she discusses the fears and habits that keep us from reaching out to people from different spiritual paths and how we can work through these to develop more Interfaith relationships. You can watch it on YouTube here.
This talk was given by Sikh World Organization director and activist, Sukhvinder Vinning, at our October 19, 2019 service on the birth of the Guru Granath Sahib sacred text. You can watch it on YouTube here.
Here is our first sermon given by our Interfaith Leader, Cathy Merchant, on February 4th, 2018 at Trinity-Grace United Church:
‘Can You Teach Us Those Prayers?’
You may have noticed when I came in that I did the three prostrations that Tibetan Buddhists do when they enter a holy sanctuary. This is done both to humble oneself and to express reverence for the place one has entered; you not only lie flat on the ground at the entrance, but you lift your hands up to raise up the wisdom that emanates from such a place. I think this is a beautiful tradition, and I have been doing it in one form or another since 2005. Read more.