The Cathedral Church of St. Mark in Salt Lake City, Utah, is hosting this year’s national Episcopal conference, and they asked me to share some of the work from The 99 Names Project in their undercroft for the conference. The also asked me to write something about the Project for this year’s conference:
99 Most Beautiful Names of God
In the Bible well over 100 names are used referring to God – like “Mighty”, “Counselor”, “Prince of Peace”, and many others. This is a uniting thread throughout most religions, the desire to draw closer to God through appreciating the many facets of Divinity. Respectfully learning the Names by which other faiths understand God can also help us to learn more about our neighbors and friends, and helps us gain greater perspective on the many things we share.
The 99 Names Project is one Christian’s attempt to learn about our Muslim neighbors through an honest and respectful examination of faith, using the tradition of Asma al-Husna or the 99 Most Beautiful Names of God. Islam and Christianity are different, but as with any two groups there are also many points of similarity and convergence – building on those points through an exploration of these Beautiful Names of God, we find common ground as well as areas of separation deserving of respect. Interestingly, this process also finds our hearts expanding to encompass our neighbors and a deeper appreciation of our own faith grows.
I am a Christian glass artist and minister, and I continue to learn about the faith of my Muslim brothers and sisters – expressing the beauty I find through glass sculpture. At times I wonder if my friends see my sincerity in exploration. Thankfully, the head of Islamic Studies at Duke University said about the Project, “In a sense what he has produced is Islamic art, while remaining a Christian. It is another reminder that there is a common Origin from which all beauty originates, and that origin is none other than God”.
God is the Creator of us all – what better way to celebrate this common Divine bond than work to discover the beauty He shares with our brothers and sisters? We all have the choice to either focus on that which separates or celebrate those things which bring us together. And if that celebration makes us better friends with our neighbors wherever they are in the world, so much the better.
–Andrew Kosorok, 2015