Thursday, July 18, 2013

Heathrow's Multi-faith Prayer Rooms

Not long ago, my adult daughter and I were waiting for a flight in Terminal 4 of the London Heathrow Airport, when I noticed a sign for an multi-faith chapel down the hallway. While she saved our seats at the gate, I walked down and looked at the rooms. One room had an altar for Christian prayer, and the adjacent room had Muslim prayer rugs, with an arrow indicating Qibla, the direction toward which a Muslim prays. In another room, Bibles in different languages, a Jewish prayer book, and a Qur’an lay upon a table, along with additional prayer rugs.

Muslims perform wudu (ablution) before prayer and must pray in a clean place. Thus, the chapel also  contained a wudu stone for the ablution (see below).
The chapel included “a prayer for people of all faiths":

Lord of all creation, we stand in awe before you, impelled by visions of the harmony of man. We are children of many traditions, inheritors of shared wisdom and tragic misunderstandings, of proud hopes and humble successes. Now it is time for us to meet, in memory and truth, in courage and trust, in love and promise. 

In that which we share...
...let us see the common prayer of humanity;
In that in which we differ...
...let us wonder at the freedom of man;
In our unity and our differences...
...let us know the uniqueness that is God. 

May our courage match our convictions, and our integrity match our hope.
May our faith in you bring us closer to each other.
May our meeting with past and present bring blessing for the future. 

There was also a "traveller's prayer" on display:

I am just pausing, O God, to clear my mind before my journey beings. 
You know that at this time, I have a mixture of feelings, including a certain amount of stress---the luggage, the paper-work, the point of departure, the flight itself. 
Please speak to my heart with your still, small voice of calm.
Grant me an inward oasis of tranquility.
Help me to remember that the earth, the sea and the sky are yours, and that wherever my journeying takes me, You will be there.
I pray for a sense of your nearness and strength, hour by hour and mile by mile. 
In turn, I ask that I might be a resource of comfort, friendship and dependability to others I meet along the way.
Thank you, ever-present God. 
Let us travel together. 

What a wonderful place! Chapels such as this can provide a wonderful sense of peace as one experiences the inconveniences of travel---as well as a sense of our common humanity, for I saw many Muslims, a few Hindus, and a few Orthodox Jewish men queuing in places like the various gates, and also the international terminal's passport control center for non-EU visitors. We're all the same and interconnected, I thought, in that none of us are at our own homes, and surely most of us feel at least a little anxiety.

After I originally posted this piece, the director of airport services at Heathrow contacted me and asked if I could also post this link to the airport's worship services. 
Also, the purpose and values of the airport's religious facilities are explained at this site: I loved the "core values" explained there:

Each faith community and each chaplain will have their own core values but there are some values that are shared by the whole chaplaincy.
We hold to:
A high respect for all people, their beliefs and culture
Kindness in all things
Honesty in all things
Continual spiritual growth among ourselves and others
A desire to serve this airport community.

(When I first posted this piece, we were in Ramadan, and if you're interested in Muslim prayer, here are two sites:

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