The Universal Worship Service

The mission of the Sufi Message is that, instead of giving a new form of worship, it collects all forms in one, so that no one may say, ‘My form of worship is left out.’ It gives examples so that the followers of all religions may worship at the same time. It also brings all teachers known and unknown to the world as different beads in the same rosary. Imagine this idea spreading and penetrating through those separated because of differences of faith! Is there any human being who does not wish that there should be one truth and one idea of God understandable to all? This is not a new religion to upset the thoughtful, to give shock to minds who are tranquil, to hearts that feel deeply. This is the Message that will agree with their deepest longing and it is with that hope that we have the necessity of the Message of today.

– Hazrat Inayat Khan

Universal Worship at Dargah Inayat Khan, Delhi, India

The Universal Worship is one of the five concentration activities of the Inayati Order and is the ceremony offered for worship services. It is so named because its purpose is to promote the unity of religious ideals, to give an opportunity for those belonging to different religions to worship together, and to discover that there is one Source from which all scriptures have come.  Universal Worship is part of the Core Curriculum offered by the Sufi Order of Rochester Center for Sufi Studies.

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Valentine’s, 2010

In this ceremony, a lighted candle represents the One Being. From this candle, other candles are lighted, representing spiritual traditions of the world, known and unknown. Readings, chants, songs or dances are provided to give participants an experience from each tradition. A reading from Hazrat Inayat Khan is given, along with certain prayers. The emphasis is on the unity of religious ideals.

The Universal Worship is offered monthly in Rochester as part of “Eat, Dance and Pray,” every Sunday at 10:30 am.  We also offer Universal Worship at various community locations on an occasional basis.  Please see the calendar for locations and times.  We offer house blessings, reception into the Universal Worship, blessings for children, weddings, funerals and other services.  Jabbar Richard Briggs coordinates the Universal Worship for the Sufi Order of Rochester.

Image 1This montage illustrates the unity of religious ideals with symbols.  Clockwise from the top:  Divine Feminine, Hindu, Christian, Ba’hai, Zoroastrian, Jain, Buddhist, Tao, Native, Jewish,  Sikh and Islam

For more information, please contact any one of our Cherags: Jabbar Rick Briggs, Wadud Henry Cretella, Zaynab Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Amina Linda HallRahima Karen Keenan, Leelah Shoshan, Basira Karpinski and Shafi Skatharoudis.

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Universal Worship, Noor Sufi Center, Rocky River, OH with Cherag Wadud

The Role of the Universal Worship in the Crisis of Our Planet

Shahabuddin Less, Head of the Universal Worship,

North America

The Universal Worship is not only about bringing religions together, but also about connecting us to the living stream of prophecy in the world today. After Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets, humanity is evolving globally towards more collective action. As a result, our prophets are no longer individuals, but rather groups of people with shared visions and knowledge—such as scientists, artists, community workers—who come together to fulfill the function of the Prophet. The Universal Worship has a key role as one of these collectives, as we hold a living connection to all prophets and prophetesses throughout time.

Guidance for our role as the Universal Worship in the world can be found in the prayer Rasul, which is about prophecy. Its first words tell us that one of the tasks of the prophet is that of warner, “Warner of coming dangers, wakener of the world from sleep.” The dangers to our planet are manifest and many, and the eternal calling of the prophet is to alert society that a change in course is necessary. By our connection to the prophets of the past, the Universal Worship can serve as conduit to awaken people to the dangers of the present.

The world has been here before. We find in the sacred scriptures, history books, our myths, and the traces left in the ground of our planet that civilizations have been lost when the earth has been abused and the warnings went unheard. But there is also good grounds for optimism, for our presence on the earth today is testament that the warnings were not always unheeded.

Hazrat Inayat Khan noted that there were different degrees of warning from God, starting with subtle indications that if ignored become more direct and intense—in effect, going from a whisper in the ear to a kick in the pants. In the present milieu, we must warn without preaching. All the information is out there already; what is needed now should be conveyed as an experience, as something felt. Beyond the reach of the clamor of words, the Universal Worship can be the Voice in the Wilderness, guiding people to an inner, visceral realization. So, for example, a Universal Worship service with the theme of Judgment Day could guide people to feel the destruction of the earth, and to draw meaning from that experience. In the same way a mother feels sympathy before arising to answer her child’s cries, we can focus on first awakening the feeling of the cry of the earth. From that feeling, the appropriate actions will follow.

The prayer Rasul also invokes, The sun at the dawn of creation, the light of whole universe. At one level, this is a reminder to honor our physical connection with the sun. Sun worship was very much a part of early religious belief, but with the rise of monotheism we have cut ourselves off from the energy of the sun—not just symbolically, but also literally. Humanity now is working its way out of using the energies of black oil and coal, to using light directly to meet our needs. In this, scientists are leading the way, but religion is even more fundamental in shaping and honoring our relationship with the energies of the world.

You may be aware that the Vatican sponsored a forum this year to ask what role religion can play in developing a sustainable relationship with Nature. The Universal Worship can do analogous work, exploring the role of religion in our stewardship of the planet, and transforming society to have a positive relationship with all planetary energies. I encourage Cherags to do this at the most local level. We currently have Healing Cherags; we might also have Ecological Cherags, whose inner concentration would be on awakening, and whose outward work would be to bring the Spirit of Guidance to their own communities. Because the Universal Worship is inclusive, it is also a symbolic forum where many religions can come together in a safe place. Perhaps we can work with other community spiritual leaders to use religion as a force for repairing the earth rather than as a cover for consumption.

We seek refuge in thy loving enfoldment.” Love needs to be involved in this change, and we should bring the ideal of loving enfoldment into our lives and work. And it is very important that this enfoldment always includes any or all of those who may oppose our goals. It is through awareness of God’s unending love for us all that the next steps will come.

Thou art the life eternal. The task of awakening the world is not hopeless. In fact, it has been done time and time again, as humanity awakens and then falls back asleep. This is the eternal cycle, and the Prophet has an essential role to play. Thou art our Savior. It is our privilege to be able to take part, in any small way.

Letter from the Board of the Universal Worship
Photos from the Parliament of the World’s Religions

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Cherags at the Parliament of World Religions, Salt Lake City, October 2015.

Letter from your Board members
Dearest Cherags,
We are writing to reconnect and engage at a time when our role as divine lamp-lighters is much needed. In June, Shahabuddin wrote on the Role of Universal Worship in the Crisis of Our Planet:

“The Universal Worship is not only about bringing religions together, but also about connecting us to the living stream of prophecy in the world today. After Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets, humanity is evolving globally towards more collective action. As a result, our prophets are no longer individuals, but rather groups of people with shared visions and knowledge — such as scientists, artists, community workers — who come together to fulfill the function of the Prophet. The Universal Worship has a key role as one of these collectives, as we hold a living connection to all Prophets and Prophetesses throughout time.”

Moved by this message, more than 50 Cherags from around the globe met with Shahabuddin, Annapurna and us in Salt Lake City to attend the 2015 Parliament of World’s Religions. We joined 10,000 participants from over 80 countries, representing more than 50 different religious and spiritual traditions in sessions, heart to heart conversations and shared prayer and practice. The theme of the conference, “Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity — Working for a World of Compassion, Peace, Justice and Sustainability” provided us with a completely natural connection to the conference topics and to others joining the conference.

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On each day of the Parliament we participated in worship, rich conversation and shared prayer with participants. The Universal Worship hosted a booth with a standing Universal Worship altar (photo below). Cherags presented two Universal Worships as part of the sessions for large groups. We also joined in the presentations of our brothers and sisters from the Abrahamic Reunion, the Rainbow of Being Journey and the Ruhaniat.

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The powerful and sacred aura of the Universal Worship service, the attunement of the Cherags and the beauty of the atmosphere of our entourage provided a powerful magnet, and we made many deep connections with people embodying thoughts, feelings and traditions from around the world. We all expressed the joy of being fully engaged in our sacred task.

Our Sacred Task is to awaken among those around us and among those whom we can reach in the first place, the spirit of tolerance for the religion, scripture and the ideal of devotion of one another; our next task is to make man understand people of different nations, races, and communities, also of different classes. By this we do not mean to say that all races and nations must become one, nor that all classes must become one; only what we have to say is that whatever be our religion, nation, race or class, our most sacred duty is to work for one another, one another’s interest and to consider that as the service of God… The whole humanity is as one single body, and all nations and communities and races as different organs, and the happiness and well-being of each of them is the happiness and well-being of the whole body.
~Pir-O-Murshid Hazrat Inayat Khan~

In the spirit of this akasha, we invite all of us to connect again. We would like to plan to hold within the next year another large gathering of Cherags, in order to build the magnetism and power of the Universal Worship and to strengthen our role as divine lamp-lighters holding this attunement.

With great love and many blessings
The Universal Worship Board of Trustees:
Shahabuddin David Less
Tara Anne Muir
Jessica Bromby
Daania Rebecca Kester
Subhan Inayat Jim Burton
Lorell Frysh
Amina Linda Hall

Link to videos of services
http://livestream.com/accounts/3116574/events/4361397/videos/102256287

All religious observances were at 7 AM. Nonetheless, about 100 people and all the Cherags came to each of the two services. Here, Rev. Cherag Hermione Garland lights the candle. Sri Karuna Mayee with her group (in the background) played before the service. (The candles were electric!)

The booth for the Universal Worship was a gathering place! It was moving to see how people were deeply affected by seeing the altar, with all the scriptures, for the first time. It was a kindling of the light in the mind and heart. The Sikhs and the Bahai brought their holy books and asked for them to be included as well. Pictured from left: Mahdiah Jacobs-Kahn, Subhan Burton & Kismet Weeber (standing).

The Women’s Walk for Peace was inaugurated by Elana Rosenman & Siham Halabi of the Abrahamic Reunion. Cherags joined with hundreds of women walking silently, arm in arm with thoughts of peace, through the vast halls of the Salt Palace. (In the back, men participated as well.) We held olive branches cut by Elena’s husband from their own trees.

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The Sufi Order of Rochester Center for Sufi Studies, 494 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607, the Carriage House behind the AAUW mansion (Carriage House is 492).