A Reflection on Sikhism: Faith, Food, and Fun!

On 09/04/16, history was made for the growing population of Sikhs in the United States....


Post-Mile Hi Church + Colorado Sikhs Making History

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Saturday, September 10, 2016: On 09/04/16, history was made for the growing population of Sikhs in the United States. Mile Hi Church , in partnership with the Colorado Sikh community, hosted the first full Sikh service to take place within Church walls. This event had a full interactive areas, authentic food, and live keertan.

AttendingSaldef (190K)The first time my faith was called into question was in my 7th grade science classroom. On one particular day, we were learning about evolution, and after telling my class that I believed in it, I was approached by one student afterwards. He told me how he wanted to learn more as to why I believe in it, and I honestly thought we would share a conversation. The next day, he came to school holding the Bible, and after I told him I wasn't interested in reading it, he proceeded to take my backpack and stuff it forcefully inside. I came home crying, not only because of the act itself, but because I didn't know how to stand up for myself.

NaureenWthRevShannon (158K)9 years later, Dilpreet Jammu of Colorado Sikhs, asked me to help plan an event that will be taking place at Mile Hi Church. I have never heard of this church, and was still skeptical because of my experience 9 years prior. Growing up as a Sikh American, I have always seemed to be identified in one of two ways: amongst my American friends I would be the Indian Sikh, and amongst my Sikh community(primarily immigrants), I would be the American. It was a constant struggle for me to find the happy medium with the two identities. This opportunity couldn't have come at a better time, as I was still dealing with a fallout from a previous blog (you can read it here) and the way it was poorly handled by many members of the management.

Any doubts I had quickly disappeared the moment I met the Mile Hi Church team. Not only were they inquisitive about the Sikh faith, they wanted to make sure they put on the service with the highest amount of respect possible. The next week, some of the MHC community came to a Gurudwara service to film a documentary, that will be released in 2017. I was so grateful to be asked questions and demystify my faith and share conversations about what Sikhi meant to me.

Decorating (187K)Over the next few months, there were conversations about how exactly were we going to pull this off, what we were going to do, etc. Every conversation was met with open dialogue on both sides, something I don't see too often in the game of politics in places of Sikh worship. Totally a breath of fresh air.

Dilpreet had a vision of wanting to incorporate interactive activities, in addition to the langar and Sikh service, such as henna, Sikh women/bullying advocacy, punjabi name writing, roti making demos, punjabi clothing, Sikh Student Association, education about the 5K's, and the teaching of bhangra. Months of planning with many members of both the Sikh community and Mile Hi Community led to a final program that would feature a diverse group of Sikhs and a Sikh service.

The day before the Sikh event, I wanted to help out with the preparations of langar ( Mind you I can't cook whatsoever :)) I witnessed first hand so many Sikhs of so many ages come together and work together to prepare a meal that wasn't going to be distributed in a gurudwara. It was SO spectacular seeing my Langar at #SikhAtMHC community come together, putting aside our differences, and just preparing food with love.

Langar#SikhAtMHC (189K)That night, in between all the chaos of figuring out things, Reverend Shannon O'Hurley, asked me to present a small speech about the turban. Not only I was incredibly honored, but I was excited to have my voice, as a Sikh female youth in Colorado, represented and heard.

Day of, after putting the finishing touches on my speech and making my way over to MHC, I was greeted by fellow Coloradans opening the doors to everyone while saying "Sat Sri Akal." As an Army Brat, I have been greeted before. But, this time, I walked away smiling from such a warm welcome with my own language, and proceeded to watch as everyone who entered the sanctuary take off their shoes and cover their heads, in a traditional way. I think I can speak on behalf of all Sikhs that witnessed this, that I was truly impressed with the community getting so involved with the little things my faith had to offer.

Upon entering the sanctuary, it was fascinating to see every seat filled, and people actually having to watch the service from the lobby because it was SO packed. ReverandShannonO'Hurley (156K)As I made my way to the front, everyone was greeting each other with open arms and open hearts. Watching Reverend Shannon enter wearing a traditional Punjabi salvaar kameez, and Dr. Ro ger Teel wearing a Sikh turban warmed my soul. The service first featured energetic Punjabi Bhangra dances, and then a conversation about Sikhism with Dilpreet Jammu and Shannon O'Hurley. (You can watch the full live service here and the highlights video here). Sitting next to others from MHC listening so attentively and appreciating many aspects of the Sikh faith such as equality, love, and meditation brought tears to my eyes.

Growing up in a post 9/11 era and post Oak Creek, it was truly magnificent to see my fellow Americans fall in love with my faith in the same way I did.

And then the moment came for me to give a speech about the turban, something so widely misunderstood all my life. I wrote the speech with my heart and my story, not knowing how it was going to be received. As I spoke, I could see people in the front row smiling, and my mom tearing up. When the speech ended, I saw everyone in that room stand up and applaud. Needless to say, I was speechless. As I took in that moment, I had to remind myself that everyone in that room walked away with acceptance for Sikhs, and that was beyond beautiful. For me, the even better part (if there is one ), was watching the glows across many Sikhs in that room, feeling proud of their turban amongst a community that was so filled with love.

NaureenSingh (120K)Following the Sikh service, everyone in that room came together as ONE. There wasn't no "you vs me" or "your faith vs mine", because we are all so similar in more ways than we can count. It was a shared transformative experience, and once where communities came together to end hate and misunderstandings. Seeing people break bread and barriers while eating langar, side by side, was definitely a highlight. People were so curious about every table in the Interactive area, asking thoughtful and insightful questions. I know I heard a few times how excited individuals were in getting a turban tied on their heads <3 Watching my fellow Sikh youth get so excited about sharing their faith and answering questions with a smile was truly heart warming for me as well.

As the night ended, I walked away changed. I wasn't skeptical of my fellow Americans anymore when wanting to learn more about my faith. I was walking away in Chardi Kala, or in high spirits.

I would like to sincerely thank Shannon O'Hurley, Marjorie Helms, Lauren Dartt, Bobby Dartt, Annette Helson, Kelly Harsbrouk, I Am Ministry team, and anyone else I missed from the MHC planning team. You all have been so incredibly kind and supportive throughout this entire process, and it was a true blessing to work with you. I have new friends from this experience :)

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I would also like to sincerely thank all the sewadaars from Colorado Sikhs, specifically Dilpreet Jammu who gave underrepresented voices a chance, KP Singh who managed all the sewa with langar and turban tying, and Raghbir Kern who encouraged the Youth voice. I would also like to thank all the sewadaars who worked tirelessly preparing the langar, helping and leading tables in the interactive area, and everything else with this event. This event could not have been possible without all of you coming together and doing this sewa.

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