A year of loss, followed by a year-long journey that changed everything. Author Pamay Bassey shares her heart in the spiritual memoir, My 52 Weeks of Worship: Lessons from a Global, Spiritual, Interfaith Journey.
In April 2009, my maternal grandmother died unexpectedly in Nigeria. In August of the same year, my father died of cancer-related complications after a long illness. In addition, as the year ended, the most significant romantic relationship of my life crumbled. After this year full of loss, I wondered how I would heal from all my pain.
Heavy questions filled my mind. What should I do after waking up one morning and realizing that my life was not at all what I expected it would be? Would I shut myself off behind a wall of grief? Or keep my heart open? Where would I find the strength to continue my life… and what would that life look like?
I went on a spiritual journey to find answers that I believed only God would have. My journey would allow me to seek God’s face, honor my father and my grandmother, and search for healing for my broken heart.
I made a commitment to visit a different place of worship every week, whether that place of worship reflected my religious tradition or not. In one year, I visited 61 churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other sacred spaces located across the U.S., Mexico, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, and South Africa.
Week after week, I learned about courage and humility, witnessed the pure power of silence and meditation, soaked in the kindness of strangers, contemplated the wisdom of approaching every interaction with good intentions and a pure heart, and gave thanks for the blessings of community, family, and faith.
Those who have experienced the loss of a love or the death of a loved one know how it can make you rethink everything that you have believed in the past. At the end of my year of loss, I was shaken to my foundation. I really knew that I needed to do something revolutionary to reboot my spirituality. I took inspiration from several scriptures, including Jeremiah 29:13, which says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
For me, seeking God with all my heart meant I was going to look for him everywhere and in the eyes of every person I met, not just at my home church or only in familiar places. Everywhere. So, I visited sacred spaces all over the world where people were actively gathering to connect with God. In each of these places, I found healing, connection, and remembrance.
After having strangers so openly welcome me into their sacred spaces and experiencing how much it transformed me, I realized that others might benefit from reading what I learned. Even if a reader wasn’t interested in or ready to visit other services, I wanted them to be able to vicariously visit them with me. So, I started to write. The result was the book, My 52 Weeks of Worship: Lessons from a Global, Spiritual, Interfaith Journey.
In it, I share my stories. Week by week, I take you with me to different sacred spaces, tell you what they were like, who I met, how I felt, and what I learned from them. I share stories from my life, how I came to be the person who would embark on such a journey, and how I was able to learn so much more about who I am and what I am made of as the year progressed.
In this book, I share my heart, and I believe it will touch yours. I have experienced the loneliness that fills the gap between “knowing” that God is there, yet not being able to “feel” Him. My journey helped me to feel God in my heart again. I want you to feel God, too.