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Interfaith Ministry

Interfaith Ministry: A Servant for the Heart of the World

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.

Categories
Interfaith Ministry

Knowing the Unknowable: Seeking the Fullness of God

Throughout my life, I have had a continuous journey of faith. I did not begin my faith journey in Christianity. In fact, I was born into a Non-religious family whose only comments of faith or God came from cultural references of what God supposedly told humans never to do, and how Karma was a bitch that would get you back when you were bad. Funny, huh? I’m grateful for this in a way, though, because it allowed me to find my own way to God.

My road was not laid before me, nor was it lying there in an inviting way. I feel that I was thrown on to my path. You see, when I was around the age of 7 or 8, I lost my paternal grandmother–my best friend. This woman was the apple of my eye, the person that saw the most light in me and in whom I saw the most love. She was a comfort in my harsh and sometimes dark world. She was my everything, and one day she was just gone. I had no idea what death truly was until this point in my life. All I knew was that my grandmother was here, and then she was lying in a casket in the front of the room, and I would never actually see her again. This broke me–in fact, it’s something I deal with to this day (especially when I lose people who are close to me). So where did I turn now that I felt I lost my identity? Where can I find answers to these things I have heard about in passing–heaven, ghosts, next lives? Well, pretty much since I was born I was obsessed with witches. I loved them in every movie there was, I played them, I quoted them; they were my life. So, I turned to Wicca. I learned one day that there are people who identify as witches in this world, and I could actually be one! My heart sprung to life knowing this, and I took my first step on my faith journey. In Wicca, I learned about deities, the earth and its cycles, meditation, prayer, and so many other spiritual concepts. As the years went on, I began exploring other religions–Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity. This led me to be the person I am today.

So why do I mention this rather abbreviated spiritual biography? Because these experiences have taught me about who God is and where he can be found. My image of God has changed as me and my faith have developed over time. The same being that I prayed to as a Wiccan, the same being that I felt moving in my spirit as a Muslim, is the same being that I proclaim in Jesus today. God, as I’ve experience him/her, transcends all of these titles that we put on faith traditions–titles that are supposed to be used to give us a way of identifying with other people, not a way of identifying God. God, the creator of this vast, beautiful, diverse universe, is a vast, beautiful and diverse God. He/She takes the shape of you and me, and he/she transcends any shape or characteristic that we can imagine. That’s the beauty of God. Sometimes, I think we think of God as being like water–transparent and taking the form of it’s container. But God doesn’t take the form of our religious containers, we are called to take the shape of the uncontainable God.

You see, God is not binary. We oversimplify things to be black and white so that we can have a sense of control, of undertsanding in this world. But God will never be understood. In fact, in my tradition, Jesus doesn’t tell us who God is in conrete terms or laws. Jesus shows us who God is through stories and metaphors. This God, that can only begin to be understood through abstract stories and poetry is the God that I know deep within my heart. He/She moves in my spirit, and calls me out of my tragic, seemingly organized, angry, and unresistingly sinful self to the radical love of another–another who sees the same God differently; another who calls God by a different name; another who walks the path that this same God has called them to, but is nevertheless different from my own path. In my own faith, this is also the beauty of Jesus, because Jesus, to me, embodied God in a uniquely human way–in the way I am called to follow in example.

We, too, as beings made in the image of God, are called to transcend our humanity–our limitations, our racisms, our cultural biases, our own views of gender and sexuality. We are reflections of this invisible God, and our behaviors in this world should reflect that holy mystery. God isn’t what I make him/her, and my faith is never about what I make him/her. My faith journey, my own personal call and invitation into the heart of God and the other, is about what this beautiful, transcendant, and radically loving God is making me. With each prayer, with each moment spent seeking God in contemplation and other spiritual practices, I am being steeped more and more into this amazing God, with the hope of knowing him/her more and more as I walk through life.

I invite you, as well as my own soul, to start to seek God in his/her fullness–not to limit God, or what God can do. Let us seek the mystery that calls us forward in love, and allow that love so to re-form our hearts and minds that we can begin to live into our divine image ever more.

Amen.