An excerpt from,”Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time,” by Charles W. Sidoti with Rabbi Akiva Feinstein,- Learn more at: https://sidoticharles.wordpress.com/

As coordinator of spiritual care at the hospital I am sometimes called upon to conduct memorial services and other types of religious services for the hospital staff, patients, and visitors. Unless a service is specifically for a particular faith group, such as a Communion service for Catholics, my goal is to have it be an interfaith experience, where people from any religious tradition will feel welcome and included. Sometimes I work with members of the local community clergy in developing particular services. Most of them are very happy to participate in developing an interfaith service which always turns out beautifully.

There was one time, however, when the interfaith spirit was not present. A local church leader who wanted to conduct a city-sponsored, community prayer service in honor of the annual National Day of Prayer contacted me. She had already been in touch with several church leaders and was calling to invite me to the planning meeting at City Hall. At the meeting, I noticed that there were only Christian clergy represented. I listened to the ideas being presented about planning the service. It sounded like it was going to be a Christian service pure and simple. No one brought up that since this was to be a community event, it was only right to include clergy from the community’s other religious groups (non Christian) in the planning.

I mentioned that I had noticed there were only Christian clergy represented at the meeting, and that as a hospital representative on the committee, I needed to be sure the program would be a true interfaith event in order for me to participate.

The immediate response I received seemed cordial enough. One person spoke up, saying, “Yes, we probably should do that to be politically correct.” Someone else chimed in saying, “Okay, we will invite the rabbi and the imam to be correct, all of us are grounded in the truth. We all know what it’s really all about.” I felt like I was at a “Good Old Boys’ Club” gathering where it was assumed that everyone felt the same way.

I was quiet for a moment as I processed what I heard. Then feeling as if I was going to burst, I said, “I’m sorry but I don’t agree with that. I don’t think that we should invite them (the rabbi and imam) as a token in order to be politically correct but really not value them. I don’t see it that way at all. I feel that the participation of other faith traditions will enrich the program.” There was silence. I’m sure there were others who felt the same way, but no one else spoke up. At any rate no one challenged me.

It is not only Christians who can practice religious bigotry. This underlying attitude toward other people’s beliefs can be found in every religion. Most often it is kept hidden, harming the person who thinks that way more than anyone else. If you believe that your way, your belief, is the only way, and that everyone else is either wrong or misinformed, in addition to the ill will you create, you cut yourself off from the spiritual riches and wisdom that other faith traditions have to offer.

In my daily work as a chaplain, I work with many people, including religious leaders from several different faiths. If I am welcomed to pray with someone who is Jewish, whether it is a Psalm or some specific prayer from his or her tradition, or with a person who practices Islam, I am honored and humbled and consider myself tremendously blessed by the experience.

In my heart there is no barrier between me and another person who is reaching out for God’s healing and peace within the context of his or her own religious tradition. I have found that I do not have to know everything about a particular religion to be welcomed by a person who practices it. I just have to convey that I respect and honor them and their spiritual path. Honoring, respecting, and welcoming other people and their beliefs into my life is the key that has opened many doors for me with those people, and provided a wealth of spiritual growth as well.

Connecting Point: Today, consider how you really feel about religions other than your own. Do you believe that other religious beliefs have anything to offer that can enrich your spiritual journey?

Prayer: Good and gracious God, help me to live in your world free from the divisiveness that religion can create. Instead, help me to realize that other people’s beliefs lead them to you as the beliefs that I hold dear lead me. Grant that I may never tread upon another’s dreams or beliefs. Amen.

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living-at-gods-speed-healing-in-gods-timeThis article is an excerpt from,”Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time,” by Charles W. Sidoti with Rabbi Akiva Feinstein,- $14.95 Learn more at:   https://www.amazon.com/Living-Gods-Speed-Healing-Time/dp/158595831X 

 

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