A terrific Friday Five from Terri today! She writes as follows:
This week the church I serve is a host site for the University of Michigan, Dearborn, Worldviews Seminar. It's a week long summer education course open to anyone, with continuing ed hours to be earned. It's a survey of the world religions with a morning lecture at the university, led by Lucinda Mosher. Then the group drives over to the church for lunch, a short lecture, and then they board a bus for a tour of local religious buildings. They tour Buddhist temples, an Antiochean Orthodox church, a synagogue, a mosque, and many other area houses of worship.This year is the tenth anniversary of the seminar.
In addition to the Worldviews Seminar the congregation I serve is planning to participate in Episcopal Faith Shared and Faith Shared. I am working to have members of local Jewish and Muslim congregations present and participating in our Sunday morning service.
So, in honor of a week of interfaith study and celebration:
1. Have you ever had an experience of a religion other than your own? And, if so, what was it like for you to experience something different? If you haven't, what religion might you like to study, experience, and learn more about?
I spent six years teaching in an Orthodox Jewish day school, which was like entering another culture each morning. Since I taught literature and world history to intensely curious students who seldom encountered anyone outside their own community of faith, we had some wonderful conversations about belief, practice, and culture. Typical ninth grade questions: Why are Christians polytheistic? Why does Mel Gibson hate us? Do you really believe that Jesus rose from the dead? And what's with those pumpkins on Halloween? The whole experience was challenging, often disconcerting, and led to wonderful friendships with students and teachers. As usual in such situations, I learned far more than I taught. Probably the most important thing I learned is how much respect is generated when people adhere faithfully to their own beliefs while maintaining a stance of openness and generosity to others of different traditions
2. Have you ever studied, traveled, or explored other cultures? What and where, and when?
Most of my travel has been either in the United States or Europe, so I can't say that I've been far afield, culture-wise. However, when our son Josh spent his 11th grade year in France, we got a tiny taste of French life and culture through the time we spent with his family there. I have maintained a warm relationship with his French mother and brother for the past almost-ten years, despite our infrequent communications and the tragedy we have all shared. Gregarious Son leaves for a law student program in Novgorod and St. Petersburg day after tomorrow, so we're about to learn something about Russian culture ~ I hope!
3. Any stories you wish to share about a person (author, teacher, etc), or a friend or colleague, from another culture or religion, who has impacted you in some capacity?
The rabbi who was the principal of the aforementioned school had a big impact on me. His own pre-college education had taken place entirely in the black hat yeshiva world; his high school friends considered him in danger of worldly influence when he decided to attend Yeshiva University in New York City -- a bastion of Orthodox Judaism from most points of view, but in theirs, a hazardous place in which people study law and medicine and secular literature as well as Torah. He explained once that his parents, while deeply religious, were also brilliant, alert, and attentive to the world around them. The mix of worlds produced a quietly compassionate and effective man, one who could talk with authority on almost any subject, was genuinely curious about everything, and was universally respected by those he encountered across a wide spectrum, from teenagers in trouble to adults who had far-ranging educations and life experiences of their own. He and I had a number of fascinating conversations over the years.
I started this entry early this mornng but ran out of time before I had to leave for a meeting. One of the pastors from my field ed church of year before last recently invited me to join the board of a nonprofit that promotes interfaith dialogue. That organization is one of a number co-operating on an interfaith commemoration on 9/11, which is how I found myself hosting a meeting of the publicity committee this morning at my home Presby church, a committee whose membership is Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish and Christian!