Posted by: smstrouse | May 23, 2014

What to Do for Pluralism Sunday 2014???

Interfaith-4-people-clipartHow do we top last year? In 2013, instead of Pluralism Sunday, we had Pluralism Summer – twelve weeks of guests from traditions other than our own. This year, the official day for Pluralism Sunday was May 4, but because it was so soon after Easter we decided to wait until Pentecost on June 8. And that’s coming up fast! So what to do?! Not that it’s a matter of having to ‘top’ ourselves. But it was such a positive experience for both congregates and guests, I can’t help wanting to keep the momentum going.

I do know that if I had to do last year over again I’d make some changes. I would be more specific in asking our guests to speak about what they personally love or appreciate about their tradition. Many of them did that anyway, especially when I starting asking that question about halfway through the summer. Although people are interested in hearing about another religion’s history, beliefs, etc., I think they’re much more interested in personal stories.

progressive_soup That’s why I would also build in some time for our own folks to share their stories of what they love or appreciate about being Christian. I find that those from other religious perspectives are interested in hearing about us, too – especially the perspectives of progressive Christians. Not only that, we have to get better at telling our stories if we want to have an impact on how the rest of the world sees Christianity.

So I’m back to my dilemma: what to do, not only for Pluralism/ Pentecost Sunday, but for the entire summer. One suggestion was to have guests from other, more conservative, Christian churches. I have to admit that the idea doesn’t thrill me – not because I don’t think progressives and conservatives shouldn’t be talking and worshipping together, but because I’m not sure that I could be objective or non-attached enough to pull it off. I find it much easier to play with my interfaith friends than with my more traditional sisters and brothers and others within the family.

images Another idea (from my friend Sridevi Ramanathan, our Hindu guest from last summer) is to have interfaith speakers again, but to have each one speak on the theme of ecology – how does your tradition inform the way you think about and care for the Earth? I kind of like that.

As we were talking, though, we also got onto the subject of integrity. When is it proper to use prayers, rituals, etc. from another tradition and when is it cultural or religious appropriation? We both think that this is an important issue as more and more people claim to be interfaith or interspiritual. to-be-one1We’re not saying these are necessarily wrong, but would like to see a deeper understanding of the cultures and religions being appropriated. In fact, we may try to write an article together about this. As this interspirtitual movement grows, it would seem to be a timely topic.

Still, I’ve got to come up with something for Pluralism Sunday. We’ve moved beyond “let’s all be friends” and “hey, isn’t it cool, we’ve all got a version of the Golden Rule!” But there’s obviously much more work to be done – even in our Bay area bubble. What’s the next phase? Where should we go from here?

What do you think? Your comments are always welcome.



  1. I hope that pluralism looks for common values between the “gods” and religions, instead of attempting to look for common ways to practice religion (publically affirm faith and community in this effort).


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