Erie’s Sikh Temple welcomes multicultural visitors


Members of One Table and other guests attended worship and a meal at the local gurdwara.

Erie’s Sikh Temple on Sunday welcomed a multicultural group for worship and food on the day a martyred guru was remembered.

“We are like you and we love you and so all of you are welcome here,” Santosh Kang, a trustee of the temple, said during the interfaith service.

The Sikh Temple hosted One Table, an organization that member Gary Larson, a retired Presbyterian pastor, said brings people of different cultures and religions together simply to know each other. He said the group includes people of different religions — and even no religion — who represent various cultures in the community and want to know and respect each other. More than a dozen One Table and other guests attended the Sunday afternoon worship that was followed by a meal prepared by temple members.

The Sikh gurdwara, or house of worship, opened at 1144 W. Eighth St. in 2016, giving local Sikhs a place to gather for services and meals. Besides the Sikh Temple, members of One Table have visited Erie-area sites including a Muslim mosque, a Jewish temple and Christian churches.

“It’s a way to not just talk about unity and brotherhood but say we are brave enough to be with people that on the outside may be different from us, but on the inside are just like us,” Larson said.

Kang said the temple wanted to hold the interfaith event so that others would know more about Sikhs.

During Sunday’s service, she shared information about members of her religion, who she said believe in one God and doing the right thing.

Four boys and a girl went up to the podium and talked about Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Sikh guru, who build the holy Golden Temple, the central worship place for Sikhs, which is in Amritsar, India.

Dean Baldwin, a Lutheran, said he didn’t understand the parts of the service that were in Punjabi but did appreciate what the children shared in English.

Gretchen Kelley said the children participating in the service and running around playing during the meal afterward were just like the children at a Presbyterian church. She said everyone at the temple was very welcoming.

The visitors, like their hosts, removed their shoes just inside the gurdwara’s front door, which faces West Seventh Street despite the temple’s Eighth Street address. Those who didn’t have a turban or scarf of their own to cover their heads were provided orange bonnet-like ones from the temple.

Jay Kang, Santosh Kang’s son, said the removal of shoes and the covering of heads is done as a mark of respect for the Sikh holy book that rests at the front of the prayer hall in which the service was held. The temple’s priest, Naresh Singh, sat behind it.

During the service, a few people sat on a bench while the rest were on the sheet-covered floor. Near the end of worship, they held out their cupped hands as a member passed out parsad, a sweet that Jay Kang said marks the end of the ceremony.

Afterward, they gathered in a room outside the hall to eat. Some of the visitors joined temple members on the floor while others sat at a table provided for people who can’t as easily eat on the ground, Jay Kang said.

As they ate in fellowship and discussed learning about one another, Santosh Kang said, “There are many tables and they have made it one.”

Dana Massing can be reached at 870-1729 or by email. Follow her on Twitter at


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