Posted by: smstrouse | December 3, 2011

Honoring World AIDS Day in an Interfaith Way

It was a wonderful night, although we were brought together by a horrific disease. This past week, I participated in an interfaith World AIDS Day service. It was held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church here in San Francisco, where it has been held for the past several years. But this time was different. This year’s service was also co-sponsored by the Interfaith Center at the Presidio and the San Francisco Interfaith Council.

It began with Indian music by Vivek Anand, then a liturgical dance called ‘The Mourning,’  followed by a Muslim prayer  offered by woman from the Islamic Networks Group. A rabbi prayed the Kadish, the Jewish prayer for the dead. A Presbyterian minister invited us to name aloud or silently those who have died. Then Buddhists  from the Zen Center led us into silent meditation, followed by music by Vivek.

That in itself would have been enough. But then we heard from three ‘witnesses.’ One, a   twenty-something young woman who had been infected in the womb by her mother, who subsequently died from AIDS. Another, a man diagnosed 20 + years ago and given almost no hope of survival. Their stories were powerful testimonies to human strength and dignity and to faith and hope. The third ‘witness’ was a documentary film maker who has worked with orphaned children in sub-Saharan Africa. She painted both a bleak picture of the lives of these children, as well as stories of those who have endured and achieved success in their lives.

After each ‘witness’ there was a responder who had been asked to either come prepared with a prayer or a poem or to respond spontaneously to the story of their ‘witness.’  Each response was a witness in itself. Those of us in the congregation were transfixed by the courage, integrity and strength of all these individuals.

A blessing was then given by an Episcopal priest who prefaced his prayer with a bit of his own history of living with AIDS for many years. And we ended by singing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ often called the Black National Anthem, but appropriate in this setting as well:
Sing a song full of the faith
that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope
that the present has brought us

We had moved from Memorial through Stillness to Hope. It was a privilege to be on that journey.



  1. Awesome post! I will keep an on eye on your blog.


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