multi-faith commissioning

I’m leading a commissioning service next week for the metropolitan prison chaplains here in Melbourne – it’s a multi-faith group.

I’m not a fan of multi-faith services – not because I don’t believe in the principles of multi-faith, but because they often seem to dilute that which is most true, most important to each religion – or they can become patchwork services with elements from different traditions plonked in, in the hope no-one notices the inconsistencies. That said, sometimes the reason for having them outweighs the inadequacies behind them, and we’re doing this one anyway…

This is the statement of purpose which will call us together [the quotes / readings are projected, not read]:

[Rumi quote on slide: “Out beyond the ideas of right-doing or wrong-doing there is a field- I’ll meet you there.”]

We gather
as an unlikely community of faith,
each bringing with us stories that have given us life;
that tell of truths
inadequately described by any theologies and philosophies;
that share in common our longing for a very different world;
that offer age-old and tested paths to transformation

Here we will pray for the insight to know that none of us holds the whole truth
and the grace to respect the faith brought by another in this group.

We gather because,
we hold a shared belief that lives can be re-shaped by compassion
and renewed by forgiveness;
because we know the men and women we work with
are more than the story the world knows of them;
because we can witness to hope and life and peace.

Here we will pray for the courage to advocate for justice;
and the wisdom to offer an alternative to the fear of the world.

[change slide to 1 Corinthians 12:7-11]

We gather, a community of individuals with many skills, both well-honed and imperfect,
with both honourable and flawed motivations,
sometimes bewildered and bemused that we have been trusted with this most holy task:
to speak of life in the midst of fear
to be the presence of hope in darkness.

Here we will pray for the humility to understand both the potential and the limitations of the gifts we bring,
and the generosity to honour the gifts offered by those around us.

We gather because we cannot do this work on our own.

So here we will pray for each other…


  1. Cheryl, this is great!

    FWIW, when we do multifaith events for tertiary chaplaincy we tend to go with the “plonking” approach. We decide on a theme and ask the people from the various faith groups to provide something that is appropriate to the theme from their faith tradition. (Of course, the prior step is making sure that the theme is appropriate to all the faith traditions.) We don’t actually hope that no-one will notice the inconsistencies, though. Instead, we put something in the handout or projected onto the screen to the effect that the material being presented is drawn from different religious traditions and we are aware that not everyone will agree with all that is presented but that we hope they can join with us in celebrating the fact that we can all come together as people of faith to mark this particular occasion. We also use some bits like the one you’ve shared that articulate the things we can agree on/have agreed on.

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