“There’s a lot of divisiveness in America, right now,” says Dr. Vicki Garlock, nurture coordinator at Jubilee Community Church and founder of Faith Seeker Kids, a nonprofit that offers Bible-based interfaith educational ideas for children. “We’re trying to create spaces where different faiths can come together and recognize what we have in common.”
An Evening of Spiritual Food combines faith and food to highlight these similarities. The event will take place at Urban Dharma, 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6.
Part of the gathering will involve a presentation and talk by Dr. Hun Lye of Urban Dharma. The event will mark the completion of a sand mandala that Lye and fellow monks Lama Sonam of Boston, Mass., and Khenpo Chopel of Pittsburg, Pa., are constructing.
Garlock says the presentation will shed light on the tradition, which uses colored sand to create a complex design that demands devotion, concentration and patience from its creators. After the event, the sand will be gathered into an urn and placed in the French Broad River.
“I thought it was an exercise in impermanence and nonattachment,” says Garlock. “You create this whole thing and then let it go. But what [Lye’s] explained is that the monks will be having various empowerment rituals — putting their blessings into the mandala as they construct it — and that these empowerment rituals will further bless the mandala, which they then put out into the world.”
The evening will also feature brief presentations on food traditions from other religious organizations, including samples of the highlighted edibles. Rabbi Justin Goldstein of Congregation Beth Israel will speak on challah bread and its significance in the Jewish tradition. Reda Ali of the Islamic Center will hold a similar discussion on dates and their role in Islam. A representative from Urban Dharma will offer dressily, a Tibetan ritual rice dish. Mother Grove Goddess Temple will also speak at the event about Pagan food traditions, but its food and speaker has not yet been confirmed.
“Part of what we’re doing is trying to encourage and inspire other people to reach out,” says Garlock. “Asheville is a really loving community, and people are really willing to share their faith traditions with people who are interested.”