Tools for Building Interfaith Community
Sacred Sound & Music
by Todd Glacy
Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.
Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy
- Ludwig Van Beethoven
The Universal Language
During a recent visit to Arizona, I was invited to be the guest on a local Baha’i radio show sharing some of my songs and insights regarding music and spirituality. Near the end of the interview the host, who was also a well-traveled musician, suggested we close the program by singing the Mac Davis classic “I Believe in Music.” One set of words struck me as remarkably poignant:
“Music is the Universal Language and Love is the key,
To brotherhood and peace and understanding and living in harmony.”
As an Interfaith minister, musician, and self-proclaimed “Enlightenment Advocate,” my primary work and intention is to offer experiential events that help people relax and reconnect with the core “essence of reality” that all true religion and spirituality, in their purest form, serve to guide us towards. Sacred sound and music can help us gain access to these trance-mystical experiences and awaken to our connection with our divine nature, one another, and All That Is.
The reference and use of sound and music is found in practically every known religion and culture. It shows up in sacred ritual and ceremony, worship and celebration, healing and meditation:
- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” - Christian
- “For in the beginning of the times so did we all share in the Holy Stream of Sound that gave birth to all creation.” - Hebrew
- In the beginning was “OM” - Hindu
- “The Essence of Reality can be found reverberating like a thousand different thunders” - Tibetan Book of the Dead.
- “Sound is the source of all manifestation … The knower of the mystery of sound knows the mystery of the whole universe.” - Sufi
As someone who has been involved in organizing and participating in dozens of Interfaith events, I know it takes a huge amount of trust, faith, and courage for people of diverse faith affiliations to come together in an unfamiliar setting, especially in a culture where religious difference is often actively promoted as a way to classify certain groups of people as strange, unholy, or evil. Music is a way to move past these obstacles and help people connect on a level beyond judgement, labels, and false beliefs of separation. When presented in a manner that is respectful of everyone, music offers a chance for people to let go of their fear and separation and come together in co-creation, celebration, and blessed community.
I tend to think of Sacred Sound and Music being grouped into three categories:
1. Spiritual Practice: This includes the use of sound or music as a tool to help us enter a relaxed or “altered” stated of awareness by quieting the logic/ego mind and open up to deeper/higher levels of consciousness. Examples include:
- Sound Meditation - using instruments such as singing bowls, bells, gongs, didgeridoo, drums, flutes, voice or other drone-type instruments.
- Chant/Mantra - using the voice to repeat specific sounds, words or affirmations. Can be done individually or in a group. Community Kirtan (call and response chanting) is one of my personal favorites.
2. Interfaith Service/Celebration: When people come together as interfaith community, I find it best to focus on areas of spiritual/religious common ground or what would be considered “universal” topics such as peace, love, and unity. By avoiding denomination-specific references, it is less alienating and more inclusive of us all. Some resources I use for presenting “Interfaith” appropriate music include:
- Writing original songs with words that are “Universal” in nature.
Examples: songs about peace, love, oneness
- Secular/sacred songs that have universal message/appeal.
Examples: “All You Need Is Love,” “Give Peace A Chance,” and “Let’s Get Together”
- Re-writing words to traditional secular/sacred songs to be more universal in nature.
Example: “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow”
Praise God from whom all blessings come
Praise all creation, we are one
Praise for the light within us all
Illuminating Love’s true call
- Instrumental Music
3. Community Building: Using music as an invitation to come together and share in a common experience, connect with one another on a personal level, and hopefully have fun! Examples include:
- Community drumming - Community drum circles are a great way for people to come together, relax, and share in exhilarating co-creative music making. There are a variety of facilitation styles and techniques that can be used for social ice-breakers, listening practice, empowerment/self-esteem, and group composition. It’s also a great way to help people connect without verbal dialogue!
- Interfaith song sharing or “Open Mic” - bringing people together to share their sacred music/songs in a safe and supportive setting. When we interact and open ourselves to opportunities to share and learn about one another, our preconceived judgements and stereotypes begin to fall away.
Over the years I have had the pleasure and honor of being included in a wide variety of interfaith/interspiritual events ranging from dinner dialogues to community memorial services and social justice rallies. I never cease to be amazed by the beautiful ability sound and music has to open hearts and minds and dissolve separation. It brings people together in a present-moment remembering that, behind all of our vast diversity and individual uniqueness, we are ultimately connected to each other and all of creation in this vast uni-verse (one-song) of sound.
Learn more about Rev. Todd Glacy’s work at http://www.sacredsoundandliving.com
Header Photo: Max Pixel