This summer, my church is doing something very different. As an outgrowth of Pluralism Sunday back in May (see http://progressivechristianity.org/tcpc-weekly-liturgy/pluralism-sunday-2013) and the intended writing of my book – we’re having a Pluralism Summer. That is, we’ve invited a guest from a variety of religious traditions to participate in our worship service each week.
Make no mistake about it: we haven’t watered down our identity as a Christian church in the Lutheran tradition. That is who and what we are. But we’re also very interfaith-friendly. And we believe that it’s our duty and our joy to make friends with all of God’s people – even if they don’t believe, worship or practice the same way we do.
So, we’ve invited each guest to send us a reading from their tradition to share with us, as well as a prayer, meditation or chant. We also begin each service with a “Welcome” greeting appropriate for the day. For example, Shalom (Jewish), Namo Amida Butsu (I take refuge in Buddha’s boundless Wisdom and Compassion) and Merry Meet (Wiccan). In the service, each guest is also asked to tell us a little about who they are and about their religious tradition. The congregation then has the opportunity to ask questions either during announcement time or after the service.
We’re now in our fourth week. All but three of the slots for the summer are filled, and I’m hopeful to have them lined up very soon. I’m so grateful for friends and colleagues who are giving us their time in this summer season. By the times we’re finished, we’ll have made new friends with members of Muslim, Jewish, Baha’i, Wiccan, Sufi, Hindu, Brahma Kumari, Buddhist, Swedenborgian, Religious Science and Sikh communities.
Is this kind of thing possible only in the Bay Area Bubble? I don’t think so. I’d bet most of our churches have at least one or two from the above list in their neighborhood. I remember a Lutheran church back in Buffalo, NY that developed an ongoing friendship with a neighboring mosque. And our Western NY interfaith women’s group included Christians of all kinds, as well as Jews, Muslims, Wiccans, Baha’i, Sufi and Hindus.
How is your church reaching out and interacting in the interfaith community? I’d love to hear your stories.