I am honored we are hosting this event, and to be welcoming siblings from many faiths to gather. The Episcopal Church has a history of cordial relationships with leaders of other faith traditions, and of working together on common ministry: the homeless dinner program at my church in New York City was birthed out of a coordinated dinner and lunch schedule by local churches and synagogues.
In my own faith journey, I have found worshiping–or observing worship-of other traditions to be helpful in developing and clarifying my own faith in Jesus.
I don’t know exactly what will transpire at the service on Monday, but my experience tells me that interfaith gatherings work best when people of each tradition (and the draft I have seen includes Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim, Baha’i and Christian leaders) don’t simply focus on a single thing that is universal but speak honestly and confidently in their own tradition. There certainly are universal concepts in religion, such as peace and compassion. But I find my own faith more intriguing when I hear why and how a universal concept is supported in a different way, through a different lens, than by trying to say that they are all the same.
Or when two religions have wildly different approaches to something. The best example I can think of this is the conversation between Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama in the Book of Joy when the Dalai Lama talks about the need to remove emotion and feelings; and the Arch speaks up that in our traditional feelings, including love and compassion, and even sometimes righteous anger, are important for our faith and relationship with God and neighbor.
We are struggling in our culture right now with how to be religiously plural and respectful. Anti-semitism is becoming more mainstream; the “nones” (those who say they subscribe to no religious faith) increase year by year partly because of how religions and religious people are perceived. We do not have to agree with people to treat them respectfully or to honor their safety and traditions. That does not mean we copy their traditions or absorb them into our own faith.
But we can gather, and listen to the songs and prayers of our various seasons. If you are in town, please join us at the Cathedral on Monday at 6:30 pm