I do not attend many religious services over the course of a typical year.
There is one service I love attending more than the others. It’s an Interfaith Thanksgiving service, held on a rotating basis, in one of a group of participating houses of worship from the towns surrounding where I live. Clergy from the many faiths jointly conduct the service.
I’ve felt a special feeling every time I have attended that service, including this past Sunday evening.
There are a few other days of the year I always attend services and I wanted to share an experience I had during one this year.
In the Jewish religion, there are two holidays that are nearly universally observed: Rosh Hashanah (the new year) and Yom Kippur (the day of atonement).
Because so many more people attend religious services during these “high holidays” than at any other time of the year, many synagogues need to make special arrangements to be able to seat everyone. Sometimes, that means renting a different location.
For the past two years, I have attended high holiday services in a church. Some people find it odd to be in a church, with its enormous cross. I feel quite the opposite: I enjoy positive feelings from the intersection of faiths.
This year, on Yom Kippur, which fell on a Saturday, the intersection of faiths was felt in an even deeper way. Our rabbi told us that the chairs we may have noticed when we entered the church that morning, across the hall from the chapel, were set up for a Muslim Saturday school for children.
Jews. Muslims. In a church. That’s quite a convergence. And while it would have been meaningful to me at any time, in this very divisive time, it was an especially poignant reminder that we all want the same things in life: peace, happiness, and serenity, to name a few.
Like Martin Luther King, Jr., I have a dream that one day we will all judge everyone else not by the color of their skin, nor by their race, religion, nationality, or anything else, but the content of their character.
Dr. King spoke those famous words in 1963. Nearly 55 years later, we have seen great progress in many ways. Sadly, though, we are far still very far from his dream, and things have gotten worse in the last few years.
There are many things we can do to help bridge the divides. One of those ways I mentioned already. The same way an interfaith Thanksgiving service enables people of different faiths to see how alike we all are, exposure to people we perceive as different from us makes things better because exposure breeds empathy.
Maybe you have seen it happen: people who are against same-sex marriage have changed their views when one of their children have come out. And acceptance of trans men, women, boys, and girls has grown as more people have been exposed to people who do not conform with traditional gender norms.
The same thing happens when we spend time with people of different religions, races, and nationalities. We learn we have a great deal in common, and we learn to look for and celebrate those commonalities, and to celebrate our differences; differences which make the world a more interesting place to live.
Have you seen your views change in a positive direction after exposure to people you had viewed as different from you in some way? Please join the conversation with your comments…