Church studies compassion this Lenten season

Wikimedia PhotoSOUTHINGTON – The explanation of compassion is simple – it’s kindness and the desire to help others.

But Samson Raphael Hirsch, a 19th century rabbi, defined it in a much more potent way, “Compassion is the feeling of empathy which the pain of one being of itself awakens in another; and the higher and more human the beings are, the more keenly attuned are they to re-echo the note of suffering which, like a voice from heaven, penetrates the heart, bringing to all creatures a proof of their kinship in the universal God.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama put it even more plainly, “My religion is simple. My religion is kindness.”

According to Rev. Linda Fernandes-Bailey, associate minister of First Congregational Church of Southington, compassion is the common thread among all religions. That’s why this Lenten season the church will spend the next five weeks exploring compassion from an interfaith perspective.

The idea, she said, comes from Karen Armstrong’s new book, 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life.

The book is unusual for Armstrong, who doesn’t often offer guidance on spiritual practice. In this text though, she offers advice on how we can use teachings from the world religions to live a more compassionate life.

Fernandes-Bailey said it’s an important issue to study during Lent.

“Lent is a time for reflection on how we can live out our faith in our lives,” she said.

By having speakers explain compassion from their own spiritual lens and by giving pointers on how we can live a more compassionate life, Fernandes-Bailey says she hopes the community will become stronger.

The series begins on March 16 and will continue each Wednesday until April 13 at the church, 37 Main Street in Southington. Fernandes-Bailey said each week the event will begin with a potluck dinner at 6:30 p.m., and the presenters will speak at 7:30 p.m.

Rabbi Michael Kohn, of Temple B'nai Abraham in Meriden, will be the first speaker. After 27 years of working as a scientist and a law clerk, Kohn felt a strong call to serve in the Jewish community. After serving on several Jewish federations, he entered the Academy for Jewish Religion in August 2003 and received his s’mikha, or ordination, in May 2009.

On March 23 Susan Busby will speak on compassion from the Buddhist perspective. She is co-director of Nalandabodhi Connecticut a Tibetan Buddhist meditation and study center in Bloomfield. In her professional life she isan attorney mediator, helping individuals and families through the emotional divorce process by educating and empowering them to make decisions for themselves and their families without resorting to third party decision-makers in the courts, she said.

Rabia Chaudry, president of the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut, will be the third speaker on March 30. She currently serves as principal of the Chaudry Immigration Law firm, a director on the Board of the Madina Academy (CT's first Islamic school), on the board of the ACLU-CT, is a member of the Racial Justice Advisory Committee of Hartford's YWCA, a Fellow of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute, and an advisor on the Center for American Progress's Faith and Immigration National Roundtable.  She is also a blogger for Creedible.

A representative from Connecticut’s Bahai community will speak on April 6 and Fernandes-Bailey said she or Rev. Ron Brown, senior minister at First Congregational, will speak on the Christian perspective of compassion on April 13.

For information call the church at (860) 628-6958.



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