Interfaith Forum 21 Nov 2019

Our annual function this year was rather special. It was held on Thursday 21st November 2019 at the Falconer Hall. You may remember the Falconer Hall as a dull and dusty community hall where events such as jumble sales were held.

Well, in 2018 it was taken over by the Jain community and is now called Shrimad Rajchandra Mission Dharmampur, London Spiritual Centre. There are not many Jains living in Bushey but the centre serves a substantial community living within a five-mile radius of Falconer Hall. Ashwin Mehta is their representative on our Forum and is very enthusiastic and efficient. The outside of the centre is well signed and well lit.

As we arrived we were greeted at the front door by very welcoming volunteers and shown into a cloakroom where we were asked to remove our shoes. The Jains do not allow leather into their temple as the centre is regarded by them and it was only by prior negotiation that we didn’t have to remove our belts and leave our wallets or handbags in the cloakroom as well! Women who are menstruating are asked to sit in the gallery and men and women normally sit separately. None of that was enforced on our evening. The whole building was decorated in white. The temple upstairs had its walls lined in white marble specially imported from India. The rest was painted white with ornate decorations. In addition there were silver and gold baubles hanging much like Christmas decorations. The Jain community don’t allow food into the premises o refreshments were restricted to drinks, so although I had brought some kosher biscuits they remained out of sight!

There were two large TV screens on which our slides were projected. The hall was full to capacity, around 200 of us. We were welcomed and those who hadn’t already done so before the meeting started, invited to visit the temple proper upstairs during the break. It is their custom to light a lamp before the commencement of proceedings and all the speakers and Rabbi Feldman participated in this. I was speaking on behalf of the Shul so I with the other speakers took our places on the stage. As most of us were unaware of what Jainism was about, we had arranged for an introductory talk by one of the community to explain it all to us. Basically, Jainism is a peaceful and ancient religion established in the 6th century BCE in India and teaches liberation by perfection through successive lives and non-injury to living creatures.

We then moved to our main agenda which was for this year “Symbols and Signs – Are they Pointers to Faith?” Paul Higginson, deputy head of a local Catholic School, showed us and explained ten Catholic symbols. They included Rosary Beads and Crossed Keys. Komal Mehta for the Jains showed us their symbols which controversially included a swastika. Sheikh Jaffer Ladak explained the Muslims avoided symbols and signs in order to ensure there was no wavering from their monotheistic belief. Father Andrew Burton for the Anglicans gave a summary of their use of symbolism. I explained about the sins and symbols of Friday Night Dinner. It was only afterwards that Rabbi Elchonon mentioned that perhaps my description of the role of Chopped Liver, Lokshen Soup and Roast Chicken was less than tactful in the temple of the strictly vegetarian Jains!

We broke for Interfaith chatting and refreshments and returned for a Q&A session with some testing questions that included “what did we each think about Jesus Christ” and “what was the most important symbol in each of our religions” The evening concluded with a vote of thanks to our speakers, the audience and the Jains for the warm & generous hospitality. The speakers were each given a book of Jain Prayers called Sadgura Communion and each member of the audience given a small organza bag that contained some nuts.

The leaving collection raised over £300 for Herts Musical Memories, a charity delivering vibrant singing sessions that are both fun and therapeutic for people with dementia and their carers.

Return to Interfaith page.