Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022 |
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KOLOA — Through October, a bowl of sea glass has been sitting on the communion table at Koloa Union Church.
Rev. Dr. Alan Akana, the church’s pastor, placed it there to remind his congregation of two significant beliefs.
For Akana, it is a symbol of their brokenness and the rough places in their lives: Each piece of sea glass is a broken part of a bottle, jar or window that has been tossed and turned by the waves among rocks, shells and sand.
Second, it is a symbol of their beauty as a congregation: All the broken pieces of glass create a beautiful display; they are different colors, shapes and sizes, and together, they are stunning.
“The collection of sea glass is a symbol of the church, for they come together in their brokenness, and they are a beautiful family of faith,” Akana said.
Akana recently flew to Salt Lake City to attend the Parliament of the World’s Religions. He spent five days attending lectures, workshops and movies regarding particular faiths and interfaith movements and causes throughout the world.
“It was an inspirational time to be with people of so many faiths from so many places, knowing that we all want a world that is filled with peace, compassion, kindness and justice, and a planet where many generations to come will live with clean air and water,” said Akana, who is president of the Kauai Association of the United Church of Christ.
He was impressed with how many religions and faith traditions were represented at the conference.
There were Tibetan Buddhists, Hindus from India, Muslims from various places, and Native American faith practitioners. He met and attended sessions with Sikhs, Jains and Mormons.
“I also listened to a pagan priestess from Eastern Europe who worships Mother Earth, all its inhabitants, and the spirits of her ancestors,” he said. “As she described her faith and practices, she reminded me a lot of my Hawaiian ancestors from Hawaii Island.”
The Parliament in Salt Lake City was attended by about 9,500 people, representing 80 nations and 50 faiths. It was the fifth time the Parliament convened after its initial gathering in 1893 and only the second time it was held in the United States.
The mission is “to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.”
Akana’s favorite speaker was Jane Goodall, the primatologist who lived among the chimpanzees of Africa for years.
“She spent so much time simply sitting and observing — without judging, trying to change them, or attempting to get something from them,” he said. “She simply opened her eyes and observed. And, in doing so, she became their friend. I think we can all learn a great deal from such a simple practice.”
Meantime, that bowl of sea glass at Koloa Union Church has taken on a deeper meaning for Akana since attending the Parliament.
After hearing of the brokenness and struggles of the many religions and faith traditions, the sea glass has become a symbol of the entire world for him, because people of every faith have experienced persecution and struggle at some point along their journey.
He was pleased that 9,500 people of different faiths came together as many different colors, shapes and sizes for five days in Utah.
“I saw how beautiful we all are in our mutual desire for compassion, peace and justice in this world,” Akana said.
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