Being Human Came First

Guru Nanak, founder the Sikh faith


McCormick co-hosts commemoration of Guru Nanak’s 550th birthday on Saturday, March 2, 2019.

McCormick Theological Seminary in association with with the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), Sikh Community Midwest and the Consulate General of India in Chicago will host a commemoration and celebration of Guru Nanak’s 550th Birthday on March 2, 2019. This free event is open to the public and will be held from 2:00 pm to 5:45 pm at LSTC located at 1100 East 55th Street and University Avenue in Hyde Park. It will include a presentation by keynote speaker, Dr. Pashaura Singh, Professor and Jasbir Singh Saini Endowed Chair of Sikh and Punjabi Studies at the University of California, Riverside and a panel discussion. A free, multi-course vegetarian meal will be served.

The birthday commemoration of Guru Nanak, the founding spiritual master of the global Sikh tradition, is an annual celebration in the Sikh community. McCormick’s involvement is in part, the product of a long-standing relationship with Professor of Theology, Robert Cathey and the greater Chicago Sikh community. Professor Cathey first encountered Chicago's Sikh community at a prayer vigil they convened in their Gurdwara (sacred house) in Palatine, Illinois shortly after September 11, 2001. Although there are those who associate the emergence of new religious movements with violence and aspirations for political dominance, the Sikh tradition appeared in India 550 years ago as a movement that practiced egalitarian hospitality toward all religions, castes, and races. Guru Nanak is associated with the idea that one must be a human being first, and only then do the distinctions 'Hindu,' 'Muslim,' 'Christian,' 'Buddhist,' or 'Sikh' find their proper place.

McCormick has enjoyed a fruitful partnership with the Sikh Community in greater Chicago since the early 1990s. Dr. Balwant S. Hansra worked closely with former President David Ramage, with 1992 distinguished alumnus Rev. Dirk Ficca (class of 1981), LSTC's former President, the late Dr. William E. Lesher, and other inter-religious partners to bring about the 1993 Centennial Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago and the emergence of an international organization, Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions (CPWR), where a number of McCormick students and alumni/ae have served since the 1990s. As former Executive Directo of Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, Rev. Ficca will serve as one of the panelists for the event. Joining Rev. Ficca are Dr. Peter Vethanayagamony, Associate Professor of Modern Church History at LSTC; Dr. Rahul Deepankar, a local Buddhist community activist; and Ajooni Sethi, Sikh Spiritual Advisor at University of Chicago.

Dr. Cathey states, “I was introduced to Dr. Hansra shortly after September 11, 2001 when the Sikh Gurdwara (sacred house) in Palatine, IL hosted an inter-religious prayer vigil for peace. McCormick's Religious Pluralism course that I team - teach with Janaan Hashim, JD, has taken field trips to the Sikh Gurdwara hosted by Dr. Hansra and other Sikhs on seven different occasions. McCormick and LSTC international students in the Summer Language Institute organized by Rob Worley have also experienced Sikh hospitality, which is egalitarian, vegetarian, and blessed by sacred rituals of food preparation and sharing.”

President David Crawford affirmed, “We are so grateful to Dr. Hansra for his vision, his kindness, and his long-standing relationship with McCormick and the wider interfaith community. We are honored to join with Dr. Hansra, the Sikh community in greater Chicago, the Consul General of India, CPWR, and our friends at LSTC in this public commemoration of the 550th birthday anniversary of Guru Nanak."

For those interested in attending, RSVP with the number in your party by Monday, February 25, 2019 to Jennifer Ould at or 773-947-6307.