From the Pastor
Many of you probably don’t know this, but almost five years ago I spent 11 months traveling to 11 different countries to share the Christian gospel with people all over the world. This experience aligned perfectly with my childhood faith, since I was raised in an Evangelical church that prioritized evangelism and conversion. Even as a middle and high schooler, when I learned that someone in my class or neighborhood practiced a different religion, I was quick to try and convert them to Christianity. So, when I began my 11-month journey overseas, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the next year would hold. However, this adventure completely disrupted my faith and worldview in the best way possible.
You see, I was under the impression that my team and I were bringing God’s presence to each of the countries we visited. Therefore, I was completely thrown off when I realized that God’s presence was already there. While many of the people we met did not know who Jesus was, or may have used different names for God, they constantly practiced compassion, hospitality, and grace. They cared for their land and only took what they needed, ensuring there was more than enough for others. They valued community over individuality, and in so many ways, they embodied the commandments to love God with all your heart, mind, and spirit, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
For me, this experience of encountering God’s presence in a variety of cultures and religions completely reframed the way I interact with people of other faiths. Whereas I used to live with a sense of religious superiority, trying to convince others of my own beliefs, I am now committed to listening more than I speak, and learning about different faith practices. Therefore, I was very excited when the opportunity arose for our congregation to attend NCCJ’s Interfaith Tour in Greensboro!
On February 19, the CYF group and several members of our congregation toured three different places of worship: Beth David Synagogue, the Baha’i Temple, and the Islamic Center of Greensboro. At the Synagogue, we learned about 11 different Jewish rituals and observances, illustrated by the beautiful stained-glass windows in their worship space. At the Baha’i temple, we learned that this faith was founded in Iran in the 19th century. We also discovered that Baha’is place significance on the lives and teachings of Abraham and Jesus, along with several others. Finally, at the Islamic Center, the group learned about the Muslim faith, sampled some traditional foods, and even witnessed a woman convert to Islam!
As our FCC group traveled from place to place with hundreds of other Greensboro residents, I could sense God’s Spirit of love, peace, and unity dwelling among us. I am abundantly thankful to be rooted in a community that values listening and learning with one another. In an age when it’s far too common to fear or demean others who are different from us, learning about other faith traditions is a beautiful way that we as the church can practice love together.