In recent events, I’ve found a lot of resistance and even some blatant hatred for my vocation as an Interfaith Minister. I have Christians who believe, as an Anglican Priest, it is my sworn duty to condemn people of all other faiths; I have people of other faith traditions attacking me for using Christian imagery; I have conservatives against me for being too liberal, and liberals against me for being too conservative. It seems that no matter where I turn there is resistance and push-back. In response, I’ve decided to write this article outlining what an Interfaith Minister is and what that vocation looks like in the world.
Firstly, an Interfaith Minister is an ordained minister who preaches and teaches truths that are found within all organized religions and faith traditions–things like love, peace, compassion, forgiveness: things that are important to the spiritual health of every person, and things that need to be addressed in order to make this world a better place tomorrow than it was today. Interfaith Ministers may be a part of any tradition. Some are Muslim, many are Christians, and others are Buddhist. An interfaith Minister may be part of any faith tradition, or none, and still proclaim the truths that unite us all as humans and spiritual beings. This is where my own religious identity comes in.
I am an Anglican Christian. I was ordained as a priest, cling to the liturgy, and provide spiritual counsel to Christians. I am also a monastic: I pray my prayer offices daily, spend time in silence and contemplation, fast on certain days, and devote a large part of my life to the service of others through my vows of stability, conversion of life, and obedience. These are the things that make up who I am in this world. These fundamental parts of my identity inspire and challenge my heart, and lead me deeper into my own faith journey. This does not, however, mean that my faith is the only way of being in this world. The practices that I follow in my own life are practices that can be found in other faith traditions as well–Muslims pray multiple times a day, Buddhists chant, Taoists spend time in silence and contemplation, and Sikhs devote a larger part of their life to the service of others through their religious vows.
My vocation as a Christian priest is intricately linked to my vocation as an Interfaith Minister. I have my own faith, and that faith forms and re-forms me to become ever closer to my best self each day; my faith presents truth to me in images and language that resonates with my heart and helps to make me a more competent minister for those of other faiths, or none. To be an Interfaith Minister is not to see the world through only one lens, but to be a servant for the heart of the world. My people are of a variety of backgrounds and opinions, and I am called to enter their places of holiness to be with them. I marry couples that come from different traditions; I celebrate coming-of-age ceremonies for young Wiccans and Jews; I conduct funerals for men and women who were deeply spiritual and non-religious.
To understand Interfaith Ministry, one has to learn to see beyond their own focus and bias to see a much broader horizon. One has to see beyond themselves and their own opinions and beliefs to see a deeper humanity that is longing for unity and communion with each other. Interfaith Ministry is about having a heart big enough for all people, and challenging myself to stretch that heart, and keep that space open. It’s not easy, but no vocation ever truly is.
So no, I am not going to claim that Christianity is the sole truth in this world when it shares so much truth with other traditions. No, I will not stop speaking in my faith language to convey truth to others. No, I am not liberal or conservative. I am an Interfaith Minister, and I will always challenge myself to transcend boundaries and labels because they do nothing but set up a situation for discrimination and hatred. I will continue to serve the world in peace, love, and unity; I will continue to live my life according to the Gospel message, and to allow my life to show truth to others rather than religious doctrines. My vocation is one of unity and spiritual growth for ALL people. All are welcome, but all are not ready.