As they have done since 2012, St. Mary’s Church in North Sydney has brought Christianity and Hinduism together in a joyous celebration of good over evil.
The usual 11am Sunday Mass was even more special than usual, sunlight beaming through the church’s high windows onto the normal congregation (plus a few colourfully dressed special guests). Parish priest Andrew Bullen led the service with both enthusiasm and wisdom, entertaining the native Hindi speakers with his rendition of the event’s introductory rites in Hindi, and giving the Christians the word of the Bible (via the Epistle to the Ephesians and the Gospel according to John). His discussion of Diwali, connecting its history and reason for celebration with the messages of the Bible, was a touching speech that truly brought everyone in the crowd together – no matter gender, race or religion.
Another highlight of the mass was the impressive integration of Indian norms. From having everyone put their hands together, face the people sitting around them, and offer a polite ‘namaste’ to one another, to having members of our community such as Mala Mehta and Shri B. Vanlalvawna lighting lamps at the sermon’s beginning, to replacing the traditional processional tune with a lively rendition of ‘dandia raas’, the Indians in the crowd were made to feel respected, involved, and most importantly, included. Particular shout out to the brilliant singing and organ playing, connecting everyone even more through song!
Ultimately, it was a lovely commemoration of a significant time in the Hindu cultural calendar, made all the more special by the meticulous behind-the-scenes work that went into it.
Neville and Gladys Roach were instrumental in starting this simple yet profound ceremony in 2012. They are joined in preparations by Pradeep and Kamini Pandya. The extended Roach and Pandya families have been attending since inception.
With a feeling of appreciation and understanding, this celebration was just as much for the seasoned Hindu as it was the Christian who had never heard of ‘Dee-waa-lee’.
PHOTOS: Mala Mehta, Pradeep Pandya
See pictures from other celebrations/melas across Sydney