Two years ago, Wat Promwachirayan (Wat Thai of MN), a Buddhist temple and Southeast Asian Cultural Center, found their new home in St. Louis Park, in the former Lutheran Church of the Reformation along Highway 100, right across from Beth El Synagogue and Benilde-St. Margaret’s School. This year, we invited Wat Thai to be a part of the St. Louis Park Unity Sing, and they opened their doors to us. On May 20, more than 100 community members from Wat Thai, Beth El Synagogue, Westwood Lutheran Church, Benilde-St. Margaret’s, and all around St. Louis Park gathered for Voices Together: The St. Louis Park Unity Sing at Wat Promwachirayan.
Choirs from Westwood and Beth El each shared a piece of music they would typically sing in a worship service, and Andrew Paulson, Director of Music Ministries at Westwood, and Beth El’s Rabbi Davis spoke about how singing is a part of their faith, community, and culture. The two choirs then came together to sing in Hebrew, under the direction of Beth El choir director Bill Torodor.
While singing is not a part of Buddhist worship at Wat Thai, chanting is used as a way to prepare the body and mind for meditation. Monks and volunteers shared a traditional Buddhist chant in the Pali language—for many in attendance, this was a first-time experience.
Our final group to share their singing were the Benilde-St. Margaret’s Red Knotes a cappella group. They sang two arrangements of pop songs, and shared how for many of their members, the Red Knotes has become more than a place to sing, and is a tight-knit community of friends, there to lift each other up.
Throughout these fabulous performances, Friends of the Arts executive director, Jamie Marshall, led the entire group in community singing from the Justice Choir Songbook—songs with messages of hope, love, and unity. And while this event is about bringing neighbors from all kinds of backgrounds and communities together to sing, its true purpose is about creating connection with each other. We shared what is sacred to ourselves, and were invited into what is sacred to others. We brought our voices together, and we shared food, drink, and laughter. Most of all, we connected with our neighbors in the St. Louis Park community.