Friday, July 19, 2013

AVC Celebrates THE SWAMI WHO BROUGHT YOGA to the WEST

1893 Swami Vivekananda Brings Modern-Day Pilgrims to Annisquam

Saffron robes and languages ranging from French to Bengali make annual appearances at the Annisquam Village Church in Gloucester. Modern-day Hindu pilgrims visit the historic Village Church to pay homage and walk in the steps of Swami Vivekananda, the first Hindu monk in America. Vivekananda spoke from the Church's pulpit in 1893, just before he made history at the first meeting of the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago (an adjunct event to the Columbian Exposition) as representative of Hinduism.  It is said that on this sojourn, the 30-year-old monk brought Yoga to the West.

Eloquent and, at the time, exotic, Vivekananda mesmerized his audiences both here and in Chicago, winning new respect for and interest in the religions of the East. He established the Vedanta Societies in America to spread his message of harmony of religions and the inherent divinity of the soul. Vivekananda remained in Gloucester for several weeks, first as a guest of John Henry Wright, a Greek professor at Harvard who helped make the arrangements for his Parliament of Religions appearance. On a later visit, he stayed at the Annisquam residence of Alpheus Hyatt, whose marine biology station on Lobster Cove was the first iteration of the present-day Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Hyatt was the father of Gloucester's renowned sculptor, Anna Hyatt (later Huntington), who would have been 17 at the time of the Swami's visit.  More than 100 years later, devotees of this visionary Hindu man make annual pilgrimages to the Village Church, to touch the stone doorstep and to meditate in the serene space where their leader spoke.

For the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Vivekananda's birth, the Vedanta Societies of Boston and Providence will join with the Annisquam Village Church in an Interfaith Service July 28 at 4:30 pm.  The service will include brief addresses by Swami Yogatmananda of Providence (Hindu Chaplain at Brown University and UMass Dartmouth), and Swami Tyagananda of Boston (Hindu Chaplain at Harvard University and MIT), and the Rev. Deirdre Greenwood White, Pastor of the Annisquam Village Church. Music from both traditions will include preludes of sitar and tabla.  The children of the Village Church will perform a skit portraying the arrival of Swami Vivekananda in Annisquam. A simple Indian meal will follow the service and will include a partial screening of a new documentary about Vivekananda's sojourn in America.

The public is cordially invited to attend the service. Reservations are required for the supper.  To learn more about this historic event, please visit  www.annisquamvillagechurch.org.

WHAT:  Historic Interfaith Celebration: Vedanta Societies and the Annisquam Village Church
WHERE: Annisquam Village Church, 820 Washington Street, Gloucester 
WHEN:  July 28, 2013 4:30 PM
CONTACT: www.annisquamvillagechurch.org/ or
978.281-0376 or email avchurch820@gmail.com

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