Friday Prayers at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati
Like Muslims across the globe, members of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati gather weekly for Friday prayers. The mosque in West Chester draws crowds of up to 1,400 people at its two Friday services, which are led by an imam. Both services last 45 minutes and consist of a sermon, or khutbah (with references to the Quran and a talk about “incorporating faith into your life,” says Shakila T. Ahmad, Islamic Education Council president), and a prayer, or jumma. Following tradition, men sit on the main floor and women usually sit in the balcony above.
Losar Smoke Offering at Gaden Samdrupling Buddhist Monastery
To help celebrate the Tibetan New Year, or Losar, members of Colerain Township’s Gaden Samdrupling (GSL) Buddhist Monastery burned juniper branches to make a smoke offering for peace and prosperity. For two weeks prior, they had filled the monastery’s worship space with food offerings (fruits, nuts, juices) placed before a row of colorful buddhas. The Losar celebration also included a prayer flag ceremony: Cloth banners with prayers written on them were hung across the property, says GSL spokesperson Margo Pierce, so that “as the wind blows, the prayers go out into the world.”
Weekly Sunday Service at Guru Nanak Society
Nearly 200 Sikhs worship each Sunday at West Chester’s Guru Nanak Society, a congregation named for the founder of the religion. Following traditional practice, both men and women cover their heads and remove their shoes after entering the temple building, or Gurdwara. Genders sit on opposite sides during services, but all worshippers sit on the floor, an acknowledgment that everyone is equal in the eyes of God, or Waheguru. During services, congregants pray, sing hymns, and listen to readings from the Guru Granth Sahib (the book of Sikh scripture). Here, a member of the congregation fans the book with a chaur sahib, a yak-hair fan, as a sign of respect. Afterwards volunteers prepare a communal vegetarian lunch in the building’s lower level.
B’Nai Mitzvah at Plum Street Temple
John and Jen Stein celebrated the B’Nai Mitzvah of their twin sons Peter and Michael at Plum Street Temple in January 2015. This coming-of-age ceremony, says Rabbi Karen Thomashow, marks “the first time young men and women are counted as adults in our community.” Designed by architect James Keys Wilson and built in 1866 under the direction of Rabbi Isaac M. Wise, the founder of Reform Judaism, Plum Street is “the oldest extant, still-in-use temple building in Cincinnati,” says Andrea Rapp, Wise Temple Librarian and Archivist.
A 40-Day Blessing at Holy Trinity-St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
It happened to be Sunday (and Valentine’s Day) when Effie and Greg Goetz brought their infant son Wyatt James to Holy Trinity–St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church for his 40 Day Blessing. This ceremony precedes the sacrament of baptism (which occurs later) and marks the first time mother and child return to church after birth; the 40 days signify the first time Jesus was brought to the temple after his birth. Father Bill Cassis recited prayers with the family at the sanctuary’s entrance, then carried Wyatt to the front of the church and behind the altar gates before returning him safely to mom and dad.
Sunday Service at the Hindu Temple of Greater Cincinnati
Set on more than 100 acres in Clermont County, the Hindu Temple of Greater Cincinnati attracts approximately 300 worshippers each Sunday for congregation services. On the temple’s altar sit 16 colorfully attired life-sized likenesses of Hindu deities and a giant glass sculpture displaying the mantra Om, which is chanted in contemplation of ultimate reality. Weekly services include singing and sermons and always end with aarti—a flame-based ritual and offering. Congregants often visit the temple on weekdays, too, praying to specific deities and making offerings, in the form of food or flowers, with the assistance of a priest to commemorate important milestones, such as birthdays, starting a new business, or buying a new home.