All Faith Service Shines Light on Hope, Togetherness

All Faith Service Shines Light on Hope, Togetherness

Alexander Green confidently rose from his seat, walked to the front of the Shiley Theatre stage during the University of San Diego’s 27th annual All Faith Service Thursday afternoon and sang a song, “This Little Light of Mine,” beautifully.

The All Faith Service, held at the beginning of USD’s spring semester since 1994, “acknowledges spiritual foundations and our diverse community.”

Monsignor Daniel J. Dillabough '70 delivers a welcome and a final message to the audience, but everything in between embodies the Catholic teaching of what is true and holy in various religions and realizes that other faith traditions reflect, through different lenses, truths that enlighten all people.

Green's song, serving as the Christian contribution to the program and which makes sense given this year’s theme, “Be the Light Amidst Darkness: A Call to Action,” was also a nod to famed civil rights leader, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1964, Dr. King wrote: “If we go right through the great religions of the world we find a central message of love and the idea of the need for peace, the need for understanding and the need for goodwill among men.”

The song has been through a diverse journey of identity and impact. Initially a beloved children’s tune, “This Little Light of Mine” has been sung everywhere from churches to prison work camps to protests. It became a staple of the civil rights movement as an anthem of singular power. In the invocation of a light in darkness, the lyrics point to a resistance to oppression that still resonates for Christians today, All Faith Service organizers stated.

“This little light of mine/I’m gonna let it shine/Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”

Green, a junior music major and psychology minor, delivered the tune in his strong and confident voice. His performance was a highlight during an event that brought a wonderful cross-section of the campus community — including a visible representation of international flags and student flagbearers — and people of all faiths together in one space.

“Music is truly therapeutic,” said Green, who is a member of the USD Concert Choir, Choral Leadership Collaboratory, a cantor and is a student director for the University Ministry Founders Chapel Choir. “I’m proud I can come here, I’m accepted by the community and not feel excluded or feel out of place. That means so much to me. In the context of this service, it invites so many different communities and different faith groups to come together. Not only can they express their faith, but they can share it with one another, gain a better understanding of what others believe and how they go about expressing it in their everyday lives.”

The All Faith Service provided numerous expressions of faith traditions. Thursday’s menu gave us a Jewish reflection stated by Rabbi Lenore Bohm. Tracy Lee Nelson sang and played guitar for a folksy blues song as the Native American representation. The Great Compassion Chant was the Buddhist contribution from Venerable Tien Lien, Dr. Rose Bui and nuns from the Tinh, Xa Ngoc Minh Temple. Sri Rajesh Kumar Palai and Laboni Patnaik performed a wonderful Hindu dance of Moksha, which means liberation. USD Theology and Religious Studies Professor Bahar Davary read the poetry work of Sohrab Sepehi, one of Iran’s most famous 20th century poets, for the Muslim presence.

After each faith spotlight, USD students — Joshua Glasser ’21 (Jewish); Rhonda Papp ’22 (Navajo Nation, Native American); Summerlyn Caray ’20 (Buddhist); Riya Pandit ’20 (Hindu); Abdulqader Koshak ’21 (Muslim) and Anna Salvestrin ’22 (Christian) — delivered a short prayer of intercession. Founders Chapel cantors Danica Silan, Alex Retodo and Luke Leidiger performed a verse response, “May We Be a Light,” following each intercession prayer: “May we be a light amidst the darkness/Peace and compassion hope for all/May we bring a light to a world that so needs it/This is our call.”

Following Green’s performance, a benediction, an end-of-service blessing, was delivered by the USD Choral Leadership Collaboratory, a student-driven and project-based ensemble under the direction of Emilie Amrein and featuring collaborative pianist Lisa Pagan. As students who gave the intercession prayers held lanterns on the theatre stage to symbolize light amidst the darkness, the choral singers performed from the balcony of Shiley Theatre. Their piece was a 2011 song written by Norwegian composer Kim Andre’ Arnesen which was described as “a choral work about hope in the darkest time of life … an acappella credo to hope in the face of despair.”

The lyrics were taken from a poem found after World War II that had been scratched onto a concentration camp wall: “I believe in the sun, even when it’s not shining. I believe in love, even when I feel it not. I believe in God, even when He is silent.”

All faiths are powerful. All of us can provide light. Always.

— Ryan T. Blystone

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