Lamp of the Message
Vol. 2, Issue 2, Fall, 1995
This summer, I had the privilege of performing three weddings in the Pagosa Springs area. The common thread that ran through all three was that they were all outside weddings. So this was an opportunity to share the Universal Worship with about one hundred people who had never heard of the service before.
While in Mexico this past month I had the privilege to perform the Universal Worship service before a crowd of about eighty people on July 29th. Most were relatives of my wife’s that I met for the first time. The occasion was the reception of our daughter, Noor-un-Nisa, into the Church of All. To my knowledge, this was the first Universal Worship held in central Mexico and perhaps the whole country for all I know. ( if anyone knows different please share that knowledge with me)
As a baptism is the sacrament normally given to children in the Catholic Church (the predominant influence in Mexico), we retrofitted the ‘Service for the Reception of an Infant’ to fit the baptism customs.
My wife’s brother and his wife, Cesaer and Brigitte, were the compadre and comadre (guardians). The tradition is that the compadres are responsible for giving the party and buying the baptism clothing for the child. This they did in high style supplying rented tents, tables, chairs and dinnerware as well as food, four cooks, four waiters and ten mariachis who played traditional northern style Mexican music for seven of the ten hour event.
Rosalia and I were responsible for invitations and flowers. The day before the service we went down to the main market in Cuernavaca and inspected the thirty or so flower stands. We settled on an fabulous arrangement composed primarily of ‘Ave de Paraiso or Bird of Paradise which stood about three feet tall with a span of two or so feet. The cost; 65 pesos or about $10.80. We also bought smaller arrangements for the tables and one for my brother-in-law’s house as well as a number of bundles of loose flowers. We acquired the aide of three young boys who work the market for tips to help us carry them all to the car.
The service was well received with my wife translating into Spanish as we went along which made the service a bit longer but well worth the effort. For the sermon I explained the idea of the unity of religious ideals and the importance of receiving the spirits of young children into the world and the idea of initiation.
For the rest of the day and evening two of the mariachis kept staring at me and I wasn’t sure what to make of this but was relieved when the two used a free moment to relay to me how impressed they were with the Universal Worship service and the ideas behind it. They wished to share with me their similar recognition of the universal truth behind all religions. My Spanish isn’t that good so it was difficult for us to communicate very deeply but we were able to share a transcultural moment at any rate.
A visit from Rev. Majida Gibson On her national tour early this year Majida happened into town for a day to visit and get a look at Pagosa Springs. After a day trip out to the Tara Mandala Buddhist Retreat Center and a soak in the hot springs Majida joined us for dinner and an enjoyable evening of conversation. Thanks for stopping by Majida, we really enjoyed your visit!
Universal Worship News submitted by Very Rev, Prajapati O’Neill
Congratulations to four new Cherags who were ordained at the abode of the Message in August 1995.
Rev. Subhan John Lloyd of Rochester, New York
Rev. Jamila Carol Fournier-Gunter of Bristol, Vermont
Rev. Gabriel Leslie Mezei of North York, Ontario, Canada
Rev. Qayimma Jo Marshall of Washago, Ontario, Canada
Welcome to the community of Cherags and workers for the Universal Worship. May your lives be fruitful in the service of the vision of peace and unity.
UNIVERSAL WORSHIP BOARD OF DIRECTORS MEETING
The Universal Worship Board of Directors held its annual meeting at the Abode of the Message during the Leaders Training in August. The meeting time was limited so we focused much of our discussion on the on-going development of the Divine Feminine aspect of the service. The primary questions considered were: does this candle honor a tradition or a principal? what is the best name for this candle? where should the candle be placed on the altar? what texts should be used for this candle?
The Board agreed that this is an aspect of the service which is continually changing and unfolding. At this time we are most interested in hearing about how people are working with this candle and what the experience is. We want to empower people to explore the different questions raised. It does not seem appropriate at this time to make any final decisions on the questions raised.
In discussing the name for this candle the following have been used: the Divine Feminine (which is the most "official" name at this point), the Goddess tradition, the Great Mother, the Divine Mother, Gaia, and Mother Earth. We welcome reports from Cherags on what they are using and what feels right.
We discussed the placement of the candle. As you may recall last year we offered a suggestion that the Divine Feminine candle be placed between the God candle and the candle for the Spirit of Guidance and lit prior to the Hindu candle. Several members of Board have experimented with this with some being very favorable to this arrangement and others not feeling comfortable with it.
We discussed an alternative arrangement of this candles in which the God candle would be moved farther back on the altar with the Divine Feminine candle placed in front of it, but in the same arc as the other candles with the Spirit of Guidance candle in front of the arc. (I will submit a sketch for the next issue.) We also discussed using a circular arrangement of the candles which has been done at various times. We are interested in hearing the reports of your experience.
Texts which were suggested included:
Women in Praise of the Sacred, Earth Prayers, the Homeric Hymns.
We welcome other suggestions. The Universal Worship Board welcomes your input. Please feel free to contact any of the members. The current Board is composed of: Arifa Miller, Qahira Qalbi, Prajapati O'Neill, Sharif Graham, Tasnim Fernandez, Suhrawardi Gebel, Abdul Wahhab Sheets, Saraswati O'Neill.
In June 1995 the first Cherag Convocation was held at the Abode of the Messagein New Lebanon, New York. This gathering attracted about 35 Cherags and candidates from around the U.S. and Canada. These days were a time of deep communion and attunement, an opportunity to share our experience, inspiration and ideas, a chance to develop a stronger sense of community and mutual support and to envision and empower our work for the Universal Worship.
We developed a beautiful, scared atmosphere as the meeting tent became a Universel temple. We began Friday evening by attuning to the weekend ahead and sharing our hopes, questions, concerns and expectations. During the early morning meditation of Saturday we invoked many great prophets, teachers, mentors, inspirers and examples and invited them to become present to our gathering. After breakfast we spent time attuning together and then created an exquisite altar in the center of our temple of natural objects from the surrounding woods. This experience provided a starting point for contemplating how one creates a sacred space and attunement. It also made us aware of the importance of beauty in the presentation of the service.
Later in the day we attuned to how the Universal Worship is living in our own lives and what it means to us which led to a deep sharing of our vision, experience and attunement to this work. We also spent time going through the form of the service, sharing ideas for creative services, discussing interfaith work and ways to reach the public with the Universal Worship. We had an extended discussion of the unfoldment of the divine feminine candle and different experience and approaches to this candle.
Saturday evening was a "Living Gallery" evening during which participants shared poetry, art work, music and other creative work. This was an inspiring evening which left us marveling at the level of creativity, inspiration and beauty in within our community.
The high point of the weekend for many was the formal Universal Worship service performed as the early morning mediation. Since many Cherags have not experienced this, it was an opportunity to see how the service was done originally in the time of Murshid. Gabriel Mezei has described his impressions of this service in a separate article.
The remainder of the day Sunday we spent in sharing our ideas and visions for the Universal Worship. This time was made more dramatic by a powerful thunder and rain storm that surrounded us for about 45 minutes. Even the heavens seemed to be excited by our gathering!
Those attending agreed that the Convocation was a significant and meaningful time of community building and support and that we should have more of these gatherings. I hope to hold another Convocation at the Abode next summer and would enjoy holding similar gatherings in other regions of the country.
The First Convocation of Cherags by Rev. Karima Paula Hendrick
At the Convocation of Cherags at the Abode in June, participants shared successful creative ideas for Universal Worship services and Cosmic Celebrations. Here are the notes from that section.
1. When planning a service, start with what turns you on and trust that the way to evolve this into a service will come. Or, start with whatever the issue is that you're dealing with in your life.
2. The sermon expresses the Message in our time.
3. Do not be bound by any convention or non-convention. Find your own personal attunement.
4. If doing the service in a church for church members, fit the form into the existing framework. Work closely with the minister.
5. Donations: "If you put something in, you get something back." Pass donation bowl (between Gayan & sermon or after sermon); then pass bowl with sayings from the Gayan for people to take. 6. Parabola magazine is a good source of ideas on a variety of religions.
Services with Children
1. Ask families to spend time together beforehand talking about gratitude; at the service the children say what they are grateful for and light a candle. Afterwards, the parents can add something to what the children have said.
2. Bring in someone to teach the children something related to the theme of the service. This can be the first portion of the regular service. For the sermon, tell a story, don't read it.
1. In place of (or in addition to) a sermon, people can stand and say something about the bride and groom.
2. Have friends and family choose readings. A dance, etc., may be chosen instead of a reading.
3. Wedding for the public: frame the service as representing the world's wisdom.
4. At the beginning, ask people to direct well-wishing toward the couple; this neutralizes any family tensions.
5. Try saying the prayers looking into the eyes of the people attending.
1. Each participant brings something that related to their work to place on the alter and also brings a quotation from Murshid that relates to their work. Each lights a candle to a quality that's behind their work.
2. Participants light candles to the qualities of healing and share experiences of spiritual healing.
3. Ask people what they would say if they could address all of humanity. What prayer, what invocation, etc.
4. Service honoring the Divine Feminine: have the alter in the round. Get ideas for music, scriptures, poems, etc. from Chrysalis Connection (Alice McDowell, 109 Blake Hill Rd, Van Etten, NY 18889).
5. Reflect on the problems of the world; each Cherag brings something from that reflection.
6. Convocation participants recollected a service on Ziraat theme, led by Shahabuddin, that invoked the prophets that are behind the light.
7. Sermon: find a way to speak of your own experience. Perhaps share why the scriptures are meaningful to you.
8. Participants can light candles in the sermon section - ie people light candles for someone who has passed on. (These candles are in addition to the traditional candles, which have already been lit).
10. Give a little background for each religion.
11. Live music is great; people love to be invited to share their music.
12. Do dancing at the end (to avoid too much chair moving). Sometimes dancing in the middle breaks the participants' attunement.
13. Song and dance help people feel the meaning of the scripture.
14. Go within deeply - then the joy at the end comes from a deep place. Reading scriptures without practices can support this; then the joy - ie dance - comes at the end.
15. Photocopy the readings, cut them into short passages labeled Hindu 1, Hindu 2, etc., and pass them out to congregation. Then the congregation reads the scriptures.
16. Introduce the service at the beginning - assume there's someone there who hasn't attended before. Then say something about sacred time and place. Then introduce the theme. Introductory talk is like a blessing at the beginning; it sets the atmosphere.
17. Theme: the Message in our time. Divide people into groups and have them select something from different sections of the NY Times. Read different poems in place of prayers and use contemporary music.
18. Pose a question: "Why are we here? What brought you here?" Cherag can offer reflections on what the quality of each religion (wisdom, compassion, etc.) means in our everyday lives.
19. Ask people to name a quality that touches them deeply and light a candle to that quality.
20. House blessing is a wonderful community activity.
A TRADITIONAL UNIVERSAL WORSHIP SERVICE By Reverend Gabriel Mezei
The first Cherag's Convocation was a great success. To have so many Cherags and candidates together from as far away as Hawaii, San Francisco and Ottawa was a real joy. The sharing of special creative services was illuminating. The "living gallery" of creative expression was moving. The stories by Qahira Qalbi and Arifa Miller about the old days were inspiring. But the highlight for me was the traditional formal Universal Worship Service.
Picture yourself sitting silently at 6:30 AM on a beautiful summer Sunday morning on the tent platform at the Abode. We sanctified the place the day before by evoking the Masters, Saints and Prophets and many, many other beings, and by creating a natural altar around the central tent pole with things we found in the surrounding forest. Now there is also a traditional altar with white cloth, incense, tall brass candleholders and white candles standing proudly in front of the living forest.
We all stand as three Cherags walk in majestically in their white robes. Qahira Qalbi lights the taper, raises it to the God-candle, and recites the Invocation, with every word ringing out clear like a crystal, full of meaning and spiritual feeling. As Prajapati O'Neill, the Dean of the Universal Worship, explained in the introduction, the whole service is spoken aloud only by the officiating Cherags in turn. This gives us a chance to absorb the words and what is behind them internally, to realize them with an inner type of activity. It is something we should all experience from time to time.
Qahira then lights each of the candles in turn, "to the glory of the Omnipresent God." The lights enter our being, we become attuned to each great religious tradition in turn, and to those who brought them to us. As she is lighting the candle to the Spirit of Guidance, she becomes "all those who whether known or unknown to the world, have held aloft the light of truth." Her face is radiant, her voice so sweet. Then we all stand, as she delivers the prayer Saum, sideways to us, facing the God-candle. Her melody, harmony and rhythm opens our hearts toward God's Beauty, illuminates our souls with Divine Light. God's Love and God's Light pour upon us.
Then Arifa Miller reads from each of the scriptures and offers each sacred book with reverence, homage and gratitude. And with an unquenchable spirit of joy and enthusiasm, as if this was her first service. The theme of the Message and the Messenger comes through so clearly. With no interruption between the readings from the various traditions, the Unity of the Message and of those who brought it and exemplified it to humanity comes through so vividly. In the period of silence for reflection I see that there is only one Message, there is one unbroken tradition of the bringing of the message. What joy it is that we are among the current carriers of it.
Then we stand again, and she says the prayer Salat, evoking again so many of the holy names and forms of the messengers. "May the Message of God reach far and wide." Then she reads from the Gayan: "If anyone strikes my heart, it does not break, but it bursts, and the flame coming out of it becomes a torch on my path. ... My deep sigh rises above as a cry of the earth, and an answer comes from within as a message. ... I am a tide of the sea of life, bearing towards the shore all who come within my enfoldment." Then she offers our gratitude for the light of the Divine Truth of all traditions and Messengers.
Driving in solitude,
Through the vast abode of the saguaro cactus,
Over hills, around curves, soaring and turning.
No straight roads, Like riding through life.
Huge saguaros rise everywhere I look.
They fill my seeing.
Green, silent, powerful, wise giants
Drinking in the sun-washed air.
Strong round arms slowly, patiently
Carving their spaces,
Speaking their statements,
Reaching high, up and up,
Curving out, opening and offering.
My heart’s question arises,
“What is prayer?”
I ask the saguaros,
Trusting their ancient knowing,
“Tell me - What is prayer?”
Recognizing God’s hand in each and every moment of my day?
Seeing the face of the Divine everywhere?
Asking my body to speak louder?
Surrendering to God’s support?
Giving into God’s embrace everyone in my heart?
Knowing God has His schedule for our healing?
Receiving in gratitude all that is offered to me?
Accepting totally and peacefully God’s design of my life?
Telling God everything I need?
Sobbing and crying out, ‘Help me, Lord’?
Asking just to be God’s eternal servant?
Desiring only to make a home for God?
If only I could be as a giant saguaro,
Reaching out to embrace everyone,
Lifting all to God’s presence,
My silent song heard as hope’s clarion call.
The music of the saguaro answers me,
“There is nothing that is not prayer.”
The Electronic Mail Room various e-mail correspondences
from: Tansen-Muni Fraley,
Hi Hamid, I just received your vol. 2 - #1 issue
"Only You Can Save The World" by Fatha Engle
I'd like to talk about a book that Cherag(a)s
may find valuable since it was written by someone who worked with and accompanied
Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan when he was in the west. I noticed in Vol. 1
- #2 that you included a pattern for a robe. That robe, that we still have,
belonged to Fatha Engle (as
The book was published by Ziraat Publications but all of the remaining copies of the book were sent to me when Mikail Davenport moved from Washington to Texas. Copies of the book can be obtained from Omega Press (It's in their catalog) or ordered directly from me at:
928 Mission Drive, Camarillo,
CA 93010-1242. The price is $12.95.
Don't be discouraged by low attendance at UW. In the seventies, we preformed a service at a small chapel open to the street at a Unity Church in Santa Monica, CA for three years. The experience and tuning we received at that small place (and small audience) really helped us to be ready for much larger experiences. Qahira's mother, Bhakti Engle, always reminded us that the Universal Worship was a broadcasting station and the size of the audience didn't matter. What really mattered was the atunement that was established by the Cherags who were performing the service. Thank you again for your effort put into "Lamp".
PS - It would be helpful if you included your Internet address in each of your publications. You mentioned e-mail in your latest issue but I had to look through several issues before I found it.
Thanks for pointing that out, I have been lax in including the e-mail address and from this issue forward it will always be on the last page under the return address. And thanks for the encouragement about the service. Actually, between the Lamp of the Message, Heart of the Message, weddings and an interfaith dialog that we recently started here twice a month with the fundamentalist Christian ministers and ‘New- Agers’, I’ve got my hands full at the moment anyway!
Dances of Universal Peace News
Rev. Tasnim Hermila Fernandez, Dance Mentor,
Tasnim Hermila Fernandez, is proud to announce that the Sufi Order mureeds listed below have successfully attained a level of proficiency and presence in leading the Dances of Universal Peace and the Walking meditations. They are recognized by the International Network for the Dances of Universal Peace and the Sufi Order in the West as Certified Dance Leaders. I've personally worked with them as their mentor and companion and I stand by their work.
Beate Kathleen Connell from Flushing (Bronx) New York. Certified at LEVEL I.
Majida Tris Bedsole from St. Augustine, Florida. Certified at LEVEL I.
Chalis Peirce from Tucson, Arizona. Certified at LEVEL I.
Rev. Malika Merrill-Endres from Laytonville, California. Certified at LEVEL II and Apprentice Mentor.
Louise Jacobus from Las Placitas, New Mexico. Certified at LEVEL I.
Rev. Azimat Schreiber-Cohn from Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Certified at LEVEL I, enrolled at LEVEL II and Apprentice Mentor.
Hakim John Bushnell, mureed of the Sufi Islamia Ruhaniat Society, from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Certified at LEVEL I enrolled at LEVEL II
PIR VILAYAT AND THE DANCES
As you may know, Pir Vilayat continues to support the work offered in Dances and Walks training by the International Network for the Dances. He has stated his wishes to all Sufi Order initiates that if the Dances of Universal Peace are offered under the auspices of a local Sufi Order Center, Universal Worship, and/or by a Sufi Order initiate, that those persons seek training; whether a new dance leader or an "old" one, very much like continuing education participation among many professionals.
If you are a Representative in a Center that has a dance meeting, but you are not the dance leader and do not attend the meetings, please consider going and thus increasing your direct experience of what is being offered to the public which, by direct or indirect association, casts a reflection on the Sufi Order. This might satisfy Pir Vilayat's concern that the Dances of Universal Peace are being done with a sense of sacredness.
Knowing how many of us love these dances (in fact were introduced to Sufi Mysticism through encountering the Dances) I sincerely believe that we recognize the powerful transformational effect they can have, especially in these times of intolerance and alienation. Our recognition is shown by the respect with which we dance leaders and initiates approach this Sufi murakkabba - concentration.
To obtain a copy of the Certification Guidelines please send $3 for photocopying and mailing to
I.N.D.U.P. 444 N.E. Ravenna Blvd., Suite 306, Seattle, WA 98115-6467. (206) 522-4353.
Greetings in Love and Peace, Grace comes my way and seems that I'll be at the Abode to conduct the second training in Dances of Universal Peace and Walking Meditations. This will be offered as part of the Leaders' Training component.
I've just returned from Frontenac, Minnesota, where I directed the 5th dance camp/retreat there. What a genuine, full-hearted pleasure it is to sing and dance and eat and pray (and play) together. This is a most integrating and integrated approach to living sufism, I've found. The proof is in the degree of transformation which occurs not only during the week long retreat, but one sees it in the individuals who return, year after year. Praise The One.
I must give my thanks and praise for the beautiful contribution, this year, of Rev. Prajapati O'Neill who presented daily teachings on the major religions of the world. I felt it was time to strike this note of deepening. My feeling was confirmed many times over as I heard positive comments all 'round.
I'll leave space for Rev. Prajapati's own description of his experience of the Frontenac Dance camp/retreat. He and I will collaborate again in the work of serving The Message. When one includes the dynamic body prayer which is dance, one's whole self prays! Allah willing, we'll see you at the Abode.
Salaam, Shalom, Shanti, Peace. Rev. Tasnim Hermila Fernandez
From Suhrawardi Gebel
I have just encouraged two people to send you articles for the Lamp of the Message. It just occurred to me that one category of article which should be encouraged is answers to the questions in the Cherag training course which are particularly inspiring. I received one from Subhan Lloyd on the topic of the Invocation and I asked him to send it to you. I will also speak with Prajapati and ask him to convey to other reviewers this idea to watch out for inspiring lessons.
The other person I asked to send you an article is Majida Aschmann. She has been a Cheraga for a long time in Louisiana, Texas, Maryland and now in Kansas. Recently she performed an ecumenical service for a joint congregation of 300 people (packed church) from a Presbyterian, Methodist and Unitarian church. It was enthusiastically received and many people were amazed to find out that other religions besides Christianity had the values of lovingkindness.
Thanks for your dedicated work and your great service to the work of the Universal Worship.
from: Saadi Neil Douglas Klotz
You're welcome to include my email address in your cherag/as list. My snail mail address for your records is:
Acorn Cottage Holwell, Dorset DT9 5LL England My partner, Kamae A. Miller, is also a cheraga and is on email at her own address: firstname.lastname@example.org. We were ordained in 1977. For the record, I am a "very Rev." according to the way we translate siraj. Many thanks for your excellent work! When I come up with something that feels right, I'll send it your way for Lamp of the Message. How long do articles usually run?
Yours in peace, Saadi Long or short!