Saturday, January 8, 2011

new friends

This past week I had the opportunity to gather with a group of my fellow students studying other religious traditions. I spent four days in the Texas hill country at a camp with students of Judaism, Islam, Roman Catholicism, and various Protestant traditions.

Each day we heard from resource scholars of each religion, and experienced worship and prayers led by our fellow students. We also met as small mixed groups several times each day to discuss and process together. Of course, my favorite parts were our shared meals spent getting to know one another, and our time to talk and play in the evenings.

I came to the end of the retreat with a sense that this conversation (inter-faith dialogue) makes me a better me, and makes you a better you.

Similar to the way a healthy marriage or friendship makes one want to be a better person, I left inspired to be a stronger follower and leader.

I found that learning of the depth, the struggles, and the commitment of my peers studying to be religious leaders gave me a better understanding of my own faith and tradition.

I felt a connection to new friends who are obviously a little bit crazy (like me), nerds for theology (like me), and highly dedicated (perhaps more than me...). Though we have real differences as individuals who are part of distinct and unique religious traditions, we share a common longing to learn, grow, connect and serve.

I found that I felt challenged, encouraged and inspired by entering friendship with people who are a part of other religions.

In an unhealthy marriage or relationship one person tries to dominate the other, or one is so submissive they try to mold themselves into the other.

A healthy relationship is one of mutuality and respect- there are two unique, whole people.

I came away from this week strengthened in my own beliefs, grounded in my 'why', and inspired to live a Christian life full of kindness, grace, mercy, joy and love.

I came away feeling that this was the first step of a continuing conversation with people of other religious traditions and faiths.

I came away grateful.

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