Blessing Way: Taos is a center for world spiritual diversity

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Happy New Year!

It is said that somewhere in this northern region, a most ancient ritual fire continues to burn in a sacred, yet hidden location — as a ceaseless ardent prayer sign between the people of the area and the one known as the creator, the Most High, since time immemorial.

That prayer fire and its purpose can be said to be part of a faithway that goes back many thousands of years in this region and in fact in the Western Hemisphere of the world as part of the religion of the original peoples here and predating the coming of the European peoples from the Eastern Hemisphere in the 15th century A.D.

The Spanish Europeans arrived here in the 15th and 16th centuries, bringing the faith of Christian Catholicism. And after very turbulent and contentious initial relations, the two religions accommodated a parallel coexistence and many of the original peoples also became adherents of Catholicism, while the Christians gained an appreciation and respect for the native religion here.

Now, about 500 years later, we are looking back over the course of many mighty events in the political affairs and upheavals of nations that have transpired, including the transitions from Spanish royal sovereignty to Mexican independence from Spain in the 19th century to the American U.S. annexation of this region in 1847 — and the transition of the New Mexico and Taos territory to American statehood in 1912 — and hence more sweeping changes for the region, including social, economic and religious change.

While the ancient indigenous pueblos and peoples kept the old ways, the Spanish-speaking peoples here had experienced the huge political changes more directly, now being subsumed into the American system and requirements and demands — a new type of economy — the need to adapt in other ways, including the English language and more.

Spiritual changes also became inevitable. The new state of New Mexico was viewed as an opportunity for other denominations, including the powerful board of home missions that included Baptists, Presbyterian, Evangelical Lutheran, Methodist Episcopal, Reformed Church of America, United Presbyterian and others. This board of home missions was joined with the interdenominational council of women for home missions.

The board’s goal was to missionize the new territory and state of New Mexico. While that grand goal was not quite achieved, the women’s missionary movement did achieve in establishing a network of schools and boarding homes for students, many still operating today in Northern New Mexico.

While predominantly Catholic, the Taos region hosts the world’s religious diversity, including Roman Catholic, Ancient Eastern Orthodox church, Southern Baptist Convention, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Presbyterian USA, Assemblies of God, Pentecostal, Church of Christ, Episcopalian, Four Square Gospel, Seventh Day Adventist, Quakers, United Methodist, Baha’i, Lutheran, Calvary Fellowship, First Indian Baptist Church, Spanish Baptist Church and the church at Llano Quemado.

Other institutions and groups include the Taos Jewish Center, B’nai Shalom Havurah, Chabad of Taos, Tibetan Buddhist, Vietnamese Zen Buddhist, Vipassana Buddhist, Zen Buddhist, Hindu Hanuman Temple, Islam Taos Mosque, Native American Gadohi Usquanigodi Spiritual Center, Christian Science Center of Taos, Unitarian Congregation of Taos, Unity of Taos and surely many more.

And the ancient silent prayer fire always rises from the sacred place in our special land, and it is mysteriously ever new and reborn like a new year as a blessing for the world.

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