Cathedral Heights

Prayer Leader

Bhai Surrinder Singh

Sangat Size

100 members

Divan Length

3 hours

Sample Worshipper Dress

brown slacks, gray and navy sweater, rumal





Congregational Fervor

Although the Sikh divan begins at 11 a.m., few worshippers go directly to the main worship hall (the darbar sahib). Most arrive early for seba—volunteer service—which can range from fixing up the premises to helping cook the afternoon meal in one of the gurdwara’s many kitchens. “It is as important to us as prayer,” says Sikh Cultural Society President Shamsher Singh. “People can give money, but it is not counted as prayer.”HHHHH

Food for the Soul

During a recent service, a ragi jatha (song group) from India performed hymns, accompanying themselves with tabla and harmonium. Later, jatha member Bhai Surrinder Singh stepped forward to read from the Sikh holy book Guru Granth Sahib. The entire service was conducted in Punjabi, but many in attendance were willing to summarize. “The basic idea was that everything happens around you,” said congregant Naydja Bell. “You need to center on spirit and inner bliss, cling to God. Then the chaos around you becomes still.”HHHHH

Food for the Body

The National Gurdwara sets a new and lofty standard for Service Industry snacking. Not a single Entenmann’s pastry is to be found within its walls. Instead, community members cook the afternoon meal entirely from scratch. Vegetarian Punjabi curries, yogurt, salad, rice pudding, and tea are all available in abundance. Leftovers are sent home for families or delivered to local homeless shelters. “I’m not hungry,” said one young woman, struggling to preserve her diet. “Are you sick?” a volunteer inquired, ladle in hand.HHHHH+

Overall Worship Power Rating

Sikhs make no attempt to convert people to their religion and are accepting of people from other faiths and cultures. “We believe that God is in nature, in everybody,” says Shamsher Singh. “Everybody has equal right to participate.”HHHHH

—Aaron Leitko