Last Sunday, I was inspired and made thoughtful by the worship service at St. Michael’s Episcopal Cathedral. I am a Unitarian Universalist minister, retired after 25 years of serving as minister to the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. I am also a deeply-committed member of that congregation. At the same time, my faith understands that there are many paths to the holy, and that we are enriched by the wisdom of other faith traditions. I am grateful to have time in retirement to join folks in other houses of worship.
There are many things I like a lot about St. Michael’s: fabulous music, welcoming people, communion, a warm and lovely old building, excellent preaching. Last Sunday, the Rev. Canon Emily Van Hise gave a sermon aimed at her Christian congregation, but also with a message for all of us who wish to see people of different religious and spiritual outlooks live in peace and understand each other.
With the Christian scripture’s Road To Emmaeus story as text, the sermon celebrated that Jesus, in the face of surprising cluelessness on the part of disciples, chose to walk with these men, to break bread with them, until they finally understood.
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Then Rev. Van Hise said this, words that resonated in my heart, about how religious and spiritual people may learn to be with each other in respect and understanding:
Likewise, our faith is not about any one moment. When someone new comes to the church we don’t give them a book of beliefs and ask them to come back if they agree with us. We invite them to come live with us for a while. To worship…, to sing praises through hymns, to listen to scripture and to share meals. To ask questions. To wonder.
What if all of us adopted this approach? What if all of us who belong to a religious or spiritual congregation simply “walk with” those who enter our doors or inquire of us? What if none of us offer a document of beliefs right off the bat, but offer instead our listening, our thoughtful replies to questions, our companionship in the journey? What if the picture of our beliefs and values comes from relationship with the inquiring hearts who come to us?
We can also go beyond a generous-hearted welcome into our own communities. To help us on our journey of warmth and embracing and openness, we can also attend services in unfamiliar houses of worship, feeling how it is to be a visitor, a questioner. We can attend events sponsored by Healing Our Future, a lively interfaith group in our Valley. We can commit to sharing the path with unfamiliar folks and their values and beliefs.
All of us, however secure in our faith, continue to ask questions, to wonder. Mystery — whatever it is that brings each of us to reverence and our best selves — is beyond human knowing. So it makes sense that we offer our respect and invitation to those with different points of view, not our dogma and certainty. Clearly, this world can be a more peaceful place, if each of us drops the dogma, adopts genuine openness.
I am grateful to the clergy, lay leaders and congregation of the Episcopal Cathedral, for their welcome, their worship, and for their thoughtful messages. Thank you, St. Michael’s.
Rev. Elizabeth Greene is Minister Emerita of the Boise Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.