When the Bibiya and Babeh go, who will run our Gurdwaras?

Lockdown was the wakeup call we weren’t prepared for. It is now more than ever that we realise how important it is for the next generation to learn how a Gurdwara operates. 

When the lockdown was introduced in the UK, the elderly went into isolation. They didn’t fully understand why as most were scare mongered rather than being compassionately educated on Covid-19 and why these measurements had been put in place. In some cases, some elders were so scared that they wouldn’t leave their house for exercise.

What happened next?

With limited numbers of Sevadaars, Gyani Ji’s took on all of the Seva for our Guru, Guru Granth Sahib Ji; 

  • Waking up at Amrit Vela (early morning before sunrise) to bring Guru Granth Sahib Ji down to their throne (Parkash)
  • Reading Nitnem daily
  • Making Parshad
  • Carrying out Akhand Paats
  • And more

The problem:

With so much focus on our Guru, a lot of the other Seva around the Gurdwara started to feel the effects due to reduced number of Sevadaar. This raised the question, what do we do now? There was so much to do but with very little Sevadaars…

  • Who would make Langer? Guru Nanak Sahib started this movement of serving free meals to everyone, regardless of their caste , gender or wealth. But the regular Sevadaars had gone into isolation. Luckily with bigger Gurdwaras, some younger Sevadaars were able to step up. However smaller Gurdwaras struggled. This raised concerns; how would we be able to sustain this in the future if the younger generation had no interest or if they didn’t know enough to contribute to the operation of the Gurdwara?
  • Who would clean the Gurdwara to ensure it was safe? Everything had to be cleaned to a high standard to ensure it was safe. Usually there were Sevadaars who would do this early in the morning and late in the evening. However due to lockdown- this meant the few Sevadaars that were able to help were under pressure to ensure all Seva was being done.
  • How would Gurdwaras provide food for the elderly and vulnerable? Volunteers were needed to distribute Langer and deliver it those that were in need of food. Bigger Gurdwaras were able to find volunteers to deliver Langer on a rotational shift pattern however, smaller Gurdwaras struggled.

These are just examples of some of the Seva that was needed during the pandemic and wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the younger generation that stepped up.

This was a wakeup call

  • How do you make Langer on a mass scale? 
  • Are there specific ingredients that are or are not used to make Langer?
  • How is Seva for Guru Granth Sahib Ji done?

These are just some of the questions that have been raised by the younger generation. It is only by investing in the youth will they be able to step up to play an active role in our Gurdwaras today.

The solution:

What can individuals do?

The key is to build a relationship with our Gurdwara to start learning different procedures and Seva. This can only happen by bridging the gap between the younger and elder generation which means we as individuals must take the first step:

  • Email your Gurdwara and express your interest in wanting to take part in Seva (please be mindful that sometimes they may be slow to reply, give them a gentle nudge if they don’t reply within a week)
  • Let your friends and family know you want to take part in Seva
    Encourage them to join you (when doing Seva with friends & family- it’s much easier to learn)

Once you have a few of you together, meet with your Gurdwara and get stuck in (We have all tried to do seva when an uncle or aunty come and have a go at us for doing something wrong or not the way they want it. Let’s work together to find a solution around this. We must take this step in bridging the gap).

What can Gurdwaras do?

As a Gurdwara, we need to make a conscious effort to connect with the youth. They are the future and we must nurture this, otherwise the harsh reality is- there won’t be many left to take up the Seva in our Gurdwaras. 

Steps the Gurdwara needs to do:

  • Invite the youth in to take part in Seva
  • Develop a ‘course’ which is run by a handful of senior Sevadaars that are able to take groups of people around the Gurdwara and discuss the different types of Seva that goes on (exercise inclusiveness- this is so important).
  • Run these courses on a monthly bases and continue calling out young Sikhs to come forward to help with the running of your Gurdwara. Set specific tasks- give direction.
  • The most important: Treat the younger generation with compassion and love. Explain the procedures in a delicate way. It is no secret that the communication barrier between the young and old is distorted and needs working on. This is the opportunity to bridge both generations.

Our Gurdwaras are in need of our support as young Sikhs. They may struggle in reaching out to us or even be reluctant, but take this step towards your Guru and make that effort of reaching out to them and showing them that you want to learn. 

Guru Nanak Dev Ji started the idea of a free kitchen which would provide food to all, 7 days a week, 24 hours. With the grace of our Guru, we have been able to continue this ever since. As times change, this concept our Guru started must not be left behind- it is our responsibility as Sikhs, to carry this on.

We would love to hear from you or Gurdwaras that are already running these kind of courses or are interested in doing so. If you are running similar courses and would be happy to share your resources, information or experience- this would enable us to create a toolkit that we could share with other Gurdwaras, in order for them to develop a programme that could be implemented and tailored to their Gurudwaras.

If you have any feedback or any questions- please don’t hesitate in reaching out to us at [email protected]