Each Gurdwara is part of the Panth, but even more than that each Gurdwara acts as embassy of the Panth and represents the Panth. If we wish to strengthen the Panth, then we have to strengthen our Gurdwaras. If the Panth is a bad state then that is a reflection of our Gurdwaras. Therefore, it is vital that Gurdwaras become the hubs of Sikhi Parchaar and emulate the ideals of Gurmat. Dr. Sangat Singh in his book The Sikhs in History describes the early form of the Gurdwara during the the period of Guru Nanak Dev jee as “the nerve centre of Sikhism in action." In this post, I am going to share a positive role model of what a Gurdwara should be doing and hope Gurdwaras can follow in the same way.
Guru Nanak Gurdwara on High Street, Smethwick (Birmingham), is the first Gurdwara in the UK and Europe to be started by the Sikh community in 1961. Over the years the Gurdwara has gone over many changes to the physical building, the management and delivery of Sikhi Parchaar. I have the opportunity to visit Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick at least twice a week when I go to work. The management, the past and present, have always been very supportive to me whenever I have needed anything for my work. I have noticed in the past 9 months or so, since a new management committee has come in place, that this Gurdwara has become the leading Gurdwara in the UK for Sikhi Parchaar.
Since last year, the Gurdwara seems to offer something for all ages, men and women, and for the Panjabi speaking Sangat, as well as English speaking Sangat. Every time I go to the Gurdwara, I see a new poster advertising an event or service being provided which makes me feel happy that a Gurdwara is taking Sikhi so seriously. Usually we think of a Gurdwara management with countless of negative examples of Gurdwara committees uninterested in Sikhi, doing anything for Sikhi Parchaar for the Sangat (let alone the youth), and just bothered about booking Akhand Paaths and cashing money of the Sangat. However, those Gurdwaras doing good work, like Guru Nanak Gurdwara Smethwick, should be highlighted and shared with the Sangat.
Outside the downstairs main Darbaar Sahib of Guru Nanak Gurdwara, there is a screen which highlights all the programmes of the day. It great to see a Gurdwara present itself in a way which is up to date with technology and professional looking. There is also a screen displaying the Hukamnama accompanied with translations.
One thing I have particularly liked at the Gurdwara is that in the foyer area outside the Langar hall they have two large TV screens. One shows the Paatths and events in each Darbaar Sahib, the other TV screen plays continuous interesting news, songs and short documentary clips relating to the Sikhi. They have clips from Channel 4 News relating to the Sikh community being shown, a documentary by a human rights group called ENSAAF, a documentary showing Sri Harimandir Sahib (Amritsar), and various inspirational Sikh music and Keertan videos. Every time I go past this area I see a handful of people, who perhaps otherwise might not be drawn to Sikhi, looking at the TV screen and watching the clips. A very thoughtful way of portraying the Sikh message to the wider Sangat.
Another key thing about this Gurdwara is that they have their own nursery which caters for children from 3 months to 5 years old. For far too long our community has failed to provide our youth at the earliest age a solid foundation of Sikhi through such things as Sikh run nurseries. It is great that children at such a young age are attached to the Gurdwara, exposed to a spiritual and religious environment and are able to absorb values and teachings of Sikhi.
I have taken some random photos of the some of the things that are advertised at the Gurdwara to give a bit of a flavour of what the Gurdwara is offering to the Sangat. Since, I took these photos lots of more events and programmes have been advertised.
Yesterday when I went to the Gurdwara I saw a poster that was advertising that every Sunday, 6pm to 7pm there will be Kathaa in English. A lot of other Gurdwaras have Parchaar in English either in yearly camps, weekly Gurmat classes for a limited Sangat (usually young children) or one off events organised across the year. However, this Gurdwara and Southall Park Avenue Gurdwara are the first Gurdwaras to my knowledge to have weekly English Parchaar for the wider Sangat in the main Darbaar Sahib on a Sunday.
Below are the weekly classes provided by the Gurdwara:
This Gurdwara is definitely a hub for Sikhi and doing a good job in catering for all Sikhi needs and interests. The management committee deserves congratulations in offering all these programmes and fulfilling its duties and obligations to the Panth and Sangat. To my knowledge the current management committee has a lot of youth involved and proves that a good relationship between the elder and younger generation working together for the cause of promoting Sikhi can be successful.
Dhan Hai Guru! Dhan Hai Teree Sikhee!