The year 2011 was interesting and the week of August 21, particularly so. Pennsylvania was hit by an earthquake and hurricane within four days.
For me, the unusual week began when I stopped at our local community center for a New Age Expo held that Saturday. The Expo was a gathering of special people who feel a deep connection with the greater universe.
No matter your upbringing or beliefs, you are certain to be impressed by the gentle, sensitive human beings who gather at a New Age Expo. They recognize that we dwell on a living planet. We're all part of nature, they say, along with a spiritual world that has us interrelated in wondrous ways. I always enjoy listening to what these folks have to say and I keep an open mind.
Then, following the Expo, our part of the world was rocked from earth and sky, proving we're part of something greater.
Unlike some belief systems that draw boundaries and create divisions, New Age embraces love, peace and unity. New Agers are people who seek harmony.
That's one reason why I was disheartened to learn of unkind treatment given to the charitable organizers of this spiritual event. They told me they had been turned away from a different facility and had to find a new location in order to save their Expo from cancellation. They had intended to hold their event at a church-affliated community center. But late in the game, the church reportedly slammed its doors, essentially saying: "Your event isn't welcome here. There is no room at the inn."
For whatever reason, the innkeepers chose to turn their back. A few New Agers told me it happened due to their beliefs. I found it unsettling to hear that otherwise good people in a house of God would make other spiritual human beings feel unwelcome or worse. How can we teach our children tolerance when adults practice intolerance?
Yes, New Age includes all sorts of beliefs. Some New Agers believe in the healing power of crystals. Others, perhaps, believe in the power of pyramids, similar to our Egyptian ancestors. All of it is fascinating. None of it is intended to be evil.
Truth be told, New Age dates back centuries and is a hodgepodge of beliefs, customs, and traditions to encourage personal health and spiritual enrichment. It isn't a religion, but parts of it might align with traditional religious practices of today. New Age is as diverse as the people who embrace it in search of meaning and peace. But more importantly, New Age people are all about love. In this case, their love wasn't wanted.
Fortunately, the New Agers hurriedly moved to a municipal facility across town. Their expo went off without a hitch and was a big success, drawing strong attendance from our region.
But it was an awakening of sorts to learn how these good, spiritual members of the community were turned away from a community center due to their beliefs. How fitting, I thought, that the earth shook and the skies opened up in the following days. Sounds almost biblical, doesn't it?
I wonder what Jesus would do?
Jesus is said to have been a man of compassion, the essence of love and peace - someone who embraced his fellow man unconditionally. I can't help but think that if Jesus was anywhere in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, on August 20, he was walking among the kind, graceful souls of the New Age Expo. They are his kind of people.