Variety is the spice of spiritual life at the monthly Soul Food readings and music sessions hosted by the Baha’i community on P.E.I.
This unique interfaith initiative held at Studio 2 in the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown features music, audio-visual pieces and readings from various faiths, philosophers, authors, leaders and indigenous cultures.
“I like to mix it up and have a variety of musical types. (As for the readings) some of it’s poetry, some of it is Scripture, some of it is cultural stories and anecdotes. It’s a little bit of everything,” says Sonjel Vreeland, who is co-organizer of the local Soul Food gatherings.
The concept for Soul Food, which started in Australia, is now being presented in California and Botswana, as well as Charlottetown.
“The program involves different cultures and different religions and the arts. Because the arts express a lot of abstract concepts really well, I thought having it in a venue that is already associated with the arts would make that connection a bit stronger,” Vreeland says of the Confederation Centre location.
The monthly gatherings, which are free and open to the public, started in May 2012 and are sponsored by the P.E.I. Baha’i community, which numbers about 50-55 in Charlottetown and about 100 Islandwide.
The program changes from month to month, but the format usually features two people reading from the program and a musician, such as a Korean drumming band, the Legion choir or a local harpist, performing to a backdrop of projected images that set a soothing tone to the Soul Food scene.
“You will find writings from the Baha’i faith in the program, but you will also find a lot of other writings. And so it’s my hope that it’s a little bit of something for everyone,” Vreeland says.
Louise Mould of Charlottetown, who regularly attends Soul Food, is a member of the Baha’i faith.
“(Soul Food) is a community service because we believe that without that spiritual component in your life you’re really lacking something in it,” she says.
“Because most people do yearn for something other than their mundane life and material things. We’re very rich in material things aren’t we? So this is something that we offer.
“There are Baha’i writings in the program, but there are also writings from philosophers and different people who are well known and not so well known.”
It’s Anne Furlong’s second time at the podium reading the pre-chosen selection of material for Soul Food.
“There are certain kinds of sacred Scriptures which require a kind of majesty and there are others which are just funny. And they are all over the place, but the thing is telling the difference . . . ,” she says.
“When all of these readings and these texts, when they are revealed for the first time, when they are written or spoken for the first time, they are supposed to touch your heart, and they can’t touch your heart if they sound like you’re sawing wood.”
Soul Food wraps up with an informal get-together that has a pleasant party-like feel.
“It’s an opportunity for people to get together,” Furlong says.
“A lot of people here know each other; some are here for the first time. And the social part of it is as important as everything else . . . .”
Farah Razaei is originally from Iran but has lived in Kuwait for much of her life. This longtime member of the Baha’i community came to Canada seven months ago. She is familiar with the eclectic arrangement of materials at the readings that is part and parcel of the Baha’i community.
“Because we are a very international diversified religion, for us it’s very normal that we sit and through our meditation we use different phrases from different sources; the Bible, the Koran, the religious leaders of the world. But it might be interesting for others who join us to realize that the Baha’i religion is so diversified . . . (and) that we welcome everyone from different faiths . . . ,” she says.
“Mainly this (stems) from our belief that the (source) of all creation is one and that it’s one God that we all believe it. And so at the end of the day you realize that whether you read from the Koran or the Bible or any religious source you are basically talking the same language of love, unity, respect and harmony between religious followers.”
Some other community initiatives that the Baha’i supports at its Charlottetown centre are classes for children and an English Corner program where people can come to practice speaking the language.
“So we have a variety of things that we offer and Soul Food is just one of them,” says Vreeland.
“There are things you need to do to be healthy — obviously like eating well and exercise — and I think praying and reflecting and meditating is one of those things. It’s important to do it as an individual and it’s important to do it as a community.”
AT A GLANCE
Soul Food will be held in Studio 2 at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown on the last Sunday of the month, Feb. 24, from 10-11 a.m.
It features music, audio-visual pieces and readings from various faiths, philosophers, authors, leaders and indigenous cultures from all over the world.
This free community event is open to all and is an initiative of the Baha’is of Charlottetown.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 626-7419.