“But Do You Actually Worship Together?”

Oak Tree II

On Sunday, our interfaith community met in the shade of an ancient oak tree. We spread blankets under the leafy canopy—new parents with babies, engaged couples, empty nesters. We stood, and chanted the Shema, and the Lord’s Prayer, and sang an Irish blessing. Those struggling with illness or sadness got up to place pebbles in a bowl, to share their burden with the community. Our minister reflected on the story of Jacob and Esau. Then, we sang the Hamotzi over our potluck feast. I crossed the lawn to greet our rabbi, a chaplain at Georgetown, who was decked out in a jaunty T-shirt reading “Georgetown” in Hebrew.

Our community encompasses Catholics, Protestants, Quakers, Buddhists, Jews of every stripe, agnostics and atheists. We come together in spite of our diverse and divergent theologies. But for many interfaith families, we are the only spiritual home, the only place they feel comfortable. I don’t call what we do together worship, because for me, theology is not the point. Rather, the community itself, and the primal experience of singing together and sharing our joys and concerns, creates the neurological response that humans label spirituality. It has little to do with belief, and much to do with making art together and providing support for each other in times of trouble.

In our community, we call this a Gathering rather than a worship service. Each Gathering begins with this responsive reading written by Oscar Rosenbloom, a founding member of the Interfaith Community of Palo Alto:

Reader: We gather here as an Interfaith Community

To share and celebrate the gift of life together

All: Some of us gather as the Children of Israel

Some of us gather in the name of Jesus of Nazareth

Some of us gather influenced by each

Reader: However we come, and whoever we are

May we be moved, In our time together

To experience that sense of Divine presence in each of us

Evoked by our worship together

All: And to know in the wisdom of our hearts

That deeper unity in which all are one.

Ten years into our journey with this interfaith community, my chidren have memorized the Shema, the Hamotzi, the Lord’s Prayer. They also recite by heart that interfaith responsive reading. They can articulate their sense of connection to this community, and the songs and readings stir their souls. Our community is an immense tree with branches growing in all directions, representing Jewish, Christian and other beliefs. No matter how much it irks some religious institutions, we insist on standing together to create a motley but massive trunk for this tree, a strong support for our children to climb and explore.

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: interfaith community

Tags: , , , , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

4 Comments on ““But Do You Actually Worship Together?””

  1. Mary Beth C Says:

    This is beautiful Sue, and a perfect description of a great gathering. Am so excited to see new entries on your blog – it makes my day.

  2. Danny W Says:

    Mazel Tov Sue on your blog and on this heartfelt description of Sunday. Thanks to you, and another friend who started her own Blog just recently (ironically hers is about Iran), I am taking a dive into the blogosphere, which until now I have generally shunned. So you have already opened at least one person’s eyes to something new.


  3. Hello! I just found your site (linked from Charlotte Gordon’s blog). I go to an “open and welcoming” UCC church (that means that we welcome anyone no matter what their faith or sexual preference — about as radical as we can get for now, you know?). I think I’ll share this blog with the Sunday School teachers because having an interfaith Sunday School would be great for all ages!

  4. rev julia Says:

    Wow Sue! Thank you so much for that tree like description of our community.
    Our tree is growing and branching out. The IFFP Philly group just went gleaning together on Sunday. This is what we do, glean, sing, connect and encourage one another on whatever paths we choose.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: