Sunday Services

Based on attendance on Sunday, it seems the Sikh Center’s services are both community-oriented and individualistic.  The Center offers services from 10 AM to 4 PM, which include a variety of Punjabi readings and prayers held in the sanctuary. Although congregants come and go throughout this time period, the prayers themselves are said in responsive form during the Sukhma Sahib prayer.  Throughout the Sukhma Sahib, different female members take turns leading the chant as both male and female members respond in rhyme.  The chant leaders sit in the front left corner of the sanctuary behind four microphones, facing the direction of the altar.  In parallel to the chanting, various men take turns waving a short golden stick with long white feathers attached to the end over the covered Granth Sahib, or holy book, placed in the center of the altar.

In accordance with Sikh tradition of gender equality, the male priest dressed in all white leads the next part of the ritual as the chant leaders and stick wavers return to their respective sides (women on the right and men on the left) of the sanctuary.  The priest faces the congregation and begins reading at the altar.  Then, he moves to the front left corner of the sanctuary.  He reads in an animated tone as an additional man waves the feathered stick over the Granth Sahib.  The entire experience is both solemn, as members listen silently, and animated through the chants and readings.

Female congregants at the services are dressed in an array of colorful, traditional Indian clothing consisting of loose pants, a knee-length tunic, as well as a light scarf (or, more rarely, a turban) that covers their hair.  Mainly middle-aged and elderly members wear the traditional garb, although some younger congregants wear it too.  Men also cover their hair in either turbans or bandannas.  They wear either traditional white garb fashioned a lot like that of the women, suit pants and a button-down shirt, or jeans and a t-shirt.  With such a variety of dress styles and age range, this community seems to really hold true to the acceptance and welcoming of all humankind.

During services, members bring raw materials for langar, or free food, in plastic bags as they enter the sanctuary and leave them in front of the altar.  Each individual member then bows before the altar and kisses the carpeted floor before circling around the altar and sitting on his/her respective side of the sanctuary.  The bags are then taken by separate individuals downstairs where the food is cooked.  All members who take part in the langar process are volunteers who donate this time outside of their paid jobs.  During our visit, we were continuously offered food, as is anyone who comes to the Center.  Food is served as a buffet in the basement while the Sunday services are held on the main floor.  Congregants come and go, sitting on the designated strips of carpet on the tile floor, eating a meal either before or after entering the sanctuary.  As food is being eaten, the cooks are either peeling potatoes from a large bag, kneading an immense amount of dough, or partaking in any other part of the cooking process required to serve massive parties.  These services are available to both the needy and privileged public on any given day, a remarkable offering for an immigrant community, or really any community at all.

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