“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!’ ” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream.”)
On Martin Luther King Day 2018, Interfaith Yoga Project held a free yoga class at Spring of Life Methodist Church. The event was attended by more than 45 participants ranging in age, faith and various levels of yoga experience. “The point of Interfaith Yoga Project is to bring people together who normally wouldn’t come together,” said Candace Martin, an organizer of Interfaith Yoga Project. “We meet new people and find our commonalities.”
The evening began with Mrs. Martin joyously welcoming all the participants. She was warm and inviting, and it placed new yogis at ease. Pastor Josh Bell then welcomed everyone to his congregation and briefly explained the meaning of being a Christian and Methodist and welcomed all to Spring of Life.
The evening continued with the resonating voice of Dene Gainey as it projected across the room. He sang Lift Every Voice and Sing, the black national anthem, and the hairs on my arm began to rise as I heard the powerful lyrics on a day to remember a man who fought for those ideals. Mr. Gainey then sang This Little Light of Mine, and the participants began to sing along.
The participants were led in a gentle yoga class with live guitar played by Edwin White. The focus was breath and opening the heart or chest. Everyone was guided to move at their own pace and level. Bodies of all shapes, sizes and abilities breathed as one and moved in a way their body allowed them to. During the practice, Julia Chinnock and Joanmarie Seacord, organizers of Interfaith Yoga Project, adjusted and demonstrated modifications for the various levels. For savasana, or the final resting pose, Natalie Ford sang We Shall Overcome, and once again, the participants sang along in what felt like a magical union of souls.
“The meaning of yoga is to join,” said Candace Martin, who is of the Jewish faith. The Interfaith Yoga Project was born after the Jewish and Muslim communities were creating interfaith dialog two years ago. Yoga is simply a vehicle to meet new people and gain a better understanding. “It’s a welcoming activity where we are taught to simply hold space for one another.”
Pastor Josh along with Spring of Life have been participating in interfaith programs for two years as well, holding a forum for Christians to learn about Muslim and Jewish faiths. The project began after a Spring of Life member became friends with a neighbor who was Muslim. The member and Pastor Josh were invited to the mosque, where they met the imam, or worship leader. From there, Pastor Josh was introduced to Rabbi Skolnik through the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, and thus he has pursued interfaith awareness at his congregation.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “I have a dream that one day…little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.” Shortly after singing, Natalie Ford said to me, “Seeing the diversity in the group and seeing the blonde boy in a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., shirt made me think, his dream has become reality.”
To learn more about Interfaith Yoga Project, visit www.InterfaithYogaProject.com.