There are times where my heart bursts with pride because of the faith community that I get to serve. For the past month and a half we have taken a look at different religions of the world. Each week we laid the foundations for the beliefs for each religion and then sought out some of the similarities between Christianity and the others. Additionally, we attempted to see where we can be reminded of the depth and wonder of the Christian faith by seeing how other faith traditions may call us to refocus on some aspect of Christianity. We also spoke honestly about the differences.
The goal of this series was that we could sit down for a cup of coffee with someone of a different faith and no one have to give up our beliefs or convictions, but we could both be more deeply committed to our faith because of the conversation.
The series, it gave me a platform to make connections with many people who I wouldn’t have connected with otherwise. I met many hindu, buddhist, jewish, atheist, muslim and even some christian folk who shared their story with me.
There was a lot of trust placed in the church and prayer for the Spirit’s guidance during this series. The leadership, worshiping congregation and FaithPoint community at large took a big risk with these conversations. As a community of faith committed to making our belief and practice a real everyday part of our lives these conversations needed to happen.
This past weekend we partnered with a local mosque and have a panel of young people come and talk (over coffee) about the core beliefs and practices of Islam as well as some of the differences. This was our chance to show that the kinds of conversations that we had been encouraging throughout the series are really possible. We had 5 young people come and be part of the conversation. Some were in high school, others in college and one is a teacher at the middle school that we worship.
To be honest I was nervous. For weeks I struggled with how much of the conversation should be outlined ahead of time and how much should be organic. I knew this was a conversation we were called to facilitate, but the “what ifs” kept creeping in. I had only met 1 of the students ahead of time. But if we are going to model this kind of conversation the more “real” it could be the better…right?
So, I sent out our order of worship to the group ahead of time along with contact info and about 5 questions to guide the conversation. That was all the pre-conversation scripting that happened. I was determined that there would be no surprise for these young people and FaithPoint’s leaders and those serving last weekend were a huge part of making them feel comfortable. Emails were sent to their parents and FaithPoint’s leadership affirmed how these young people were brave coming into “our” space to share. “So let’s make sure they know they are our special guests,” one of my leaders said.
The time came for the conversation and it was easy and natural. The coffee was also great. I had a blast!!! I learned so much, made great connections and couldn’t believe how quickly the time went. The best part was that we were able to say we needed to do it again rather than outright ending the conversation.
BUT THEN…. worship ended and the FaithPoint community descended on our guests. I stood back and watched as the group was surrounded by a whole church full of people saying thank you, giving hugs, and in tears that we could come together and find common ground. I watched as a proud parent at the playground when their kids interact with others. My heart was overflowing. We were late getting cleaned up because of the rich connections that were happening.
I know this interaction couldn’t happen everywhere, but FaithPoint is one of those places called to be a forum for this kind of conversation and I couldn’t be more pleased, proud and blown away that I get to be their pastor.
Thank you , Thank you, thank you for being the church you have been called to be as we all grow in God’s grace together rather than the church that is comfortable resting on “the way it has always been.”