My 52 Weeks of Worship

In 12 months the author attended religious services at 61 different places around the world, including Wiccan temples and synagogues. It helped her heal from loss and renewed her faith.

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I see thousands of worshippers in colorful African attire, praying loudly and fervently in Yoruba and in English. All accompany their prayers with energetic hand gestures and head motions. The frenetic group energy electrifies the massive tent, as "heaven-shaking prayers" and "Holy Ghost fireworks" are shared over loudspeakers. There is a sea of white plastic chairs as far as the eye can see, but no one is sitting down. Everyone is on their feet, praising and worshipping at the Mountain of Fire and Miracles church in the Surelere community in Lagos, Nigeria. The entire service lasts many hours, but it doesn't take long to realize this is serious business. These are believers.

It's 5:30 a.m. Monks in flowing, orange, floor-length robes hold prayer beads in their hands and wear them around their necks. Some prepare for their day by performing their morning tasks. Many more are meditating -- sitting and walking around the Hare Krishna temple in San Diego. A continuous, low buzz fills the temple as the monks speak and chant ancient and powerful mantras. The founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Swami Prabhupada, sits on a decorated altar in the corner of the temple. He meditates with a laser focus, eyes open, not moving a muscle for hours.

It's a breathtakingly beautiful edifice -- a white, nine-sided temple surrounded by gardens and fountains with a long flight of stairs from the street to the entry. The temple's intricate architectural styling is striking. Inside the enormous sanctuary, a quiet serenity exists, so calming you can feel the spiritual truths of the Bahá'í faith: the oneness of God, the oneness of humanity and the oneness of religion. The feeling of peace and unity and divinity within the temple is palpable.

In each of these situations, I was there. Humbled and honored to be visiting each place of worship, I conducted my "52 Weeks of Worship," a global spiritual journey of healing, connection and remembrance. This journey was my way of finding my path through the pain of a very personally challenging 2009.

In February 2009 I traveled to Atlanta to surprise my mother for her birthday. When I arrived there, I discovered that my father's cancer had advanced. He was admitted into the hospital that weekend and remained there, for the most part, throughout the year.

While my father was fighting for his life, we received word in Apri 2009 from our family in West Africa that my maternal grandmother -- the only grandparent I had ever known -- died unexpectedly because of a fall from her bed and subsequent cranial bleed. In June 2009, I traveled to Nigeria, my parents' birth country, to stand beside my mother while she buried her mother -- knowing that my father, her husband, would likely soon follow.

He did. In August 2009, my father died from complications related to prostate cancer. My father was my hero. He was a physician and a philosopher, a philanthropist and a proud family man. He was my father, and now he was gone.

In addition, as if there was not enough going on, by the end of 2009, it was clear that the four-year relationship that this unmarried 30-something woman-with-no-children-yet had enjoyed was over. My then-boyfriend decided that late 2009 was the best time for him to leave our union. I thought he might be "the One." It was devastating to discover he was not.

Father -- gone. Grandmother -- gone. Boyfriend -- gone.

It was a holy triumvirate of personal pain. I was tired, bereft, disappointed and emotionally drained. I felt like God had forgotten me.

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