Interfaith Week

3 May

Last week was World Religions and Spiritualities Week (WRSW) at Sinclair Community College in downtown Dayton, a campus of over 24,000 students ranging in age from 9th grade to octogenarians, plus 6,000 or so staff and faculty.  On this campus, I have met folks who identify themselves as Agnostic, Atheist, Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Confucian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Native, Pagan, Secular, Sikh, Wicca, Zoroastrian.  We are fortunate to live and work together on a campus that has a high concern for diversity.  However, recognizing religious and spiritual diversity is a more recent addition to the growing list of ways we are diverse within our unity as the human family.  WRSW is one way we seek to remind everyone on campus, and the “institution” itself, of the many ways people experience (or not) the Sacred, the Holy, the Life Force, the Ultimate Reality we call “God.”

In the Office of Campus Ministries:  A Multi-Faith Center for Spiritual Life, we believe it is important to offer educational opportunities that provide information about a variety of religious and spiritual traditions, that promote dialogue among people of different perspectives and practices, and that lead us to mutual understanding.

Martin Luther King, Jr.  leads us in this endeavor with his vision of the World House in which people  of racial, ethnic and religious diversity must learn to live together.  Diana Eck, Mohandes Gandhi, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Hans Kung encourage us with their wisdom.

Today all of us are challenged to claim for a new age the very principles of religious freedom that shaped our nation.  We must find ways to articulate them anew, whether we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or secular Americans. We must embrace the religious diversity that comes with religious   freedom, and …we must find ways to make the differences that have divided people the world over the very source of our strength here in the U. S. …  Diana Eck, A New Religious America

I hold that it is the duty of every cultured man or woman to read sympathetically the scriptures of the world.  If we are to respect other’s religions as we would have them respect our own, a friendly study of the world’s religions is a sacred duty.”      Mohandes Gandhi, Young India, September 2, 1927

                     No single tradition monopolizes the truth. We must glean the best values of all traditions and work together to remove the tensions between traditions in order to give peace a chance.  Thich Nhat Hanh

There can be no peace between nations until there is peace between religions.  There can be no peace between religions until there is dialogue between religions.      Hans Kung

Perhaps the most joyful event of the week was a dialogue between a Christian and a Jew. Sitting at a little table in front of us, they let us listen in on their conversation, one of so many over the past few years.  They not only invited us to listen, but also to join them in sharing the mystery of being human together and sharing the most marvelous wonderments of our humanity – our experience of the Sacred. The title that The Rev. Dr. Lisa Hess (United Theological Seminary of Dayton) and Rabbi  Shmuel Klatzkin (Chabad of Dayton) gave to their presentation was Welcoming Unexpected Delight:  the Holy One and Inexplicable Partnerships of Difference.  They received a very enthusiastic response… in the most root sense of that word –en theos – in godness.  They modeled for us what it means to be “in God” together with that Great Unity embracing yet not erasing our diversity.  Alleluia!

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The Rev. Dr. Barbara Battin is Interfaith Campus Minister at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, OH where she has been working for nearly 10 years. She is also adjunct faculty at Sinclair, teaching in the Religious Studies area.  She worked in a congregationally based campus ministry in Kent, OH on the edge of Kent State University and as Campus Minister at the College of Wooster in Wooster, OH.  She has been ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for 33 years and has served six congregations (in Ohio, Illinois and Minnesota).  She “restores her soul” by walking about 5 miles a day and feeding the birds, squirrels and lots of ducks who visit her backyard.

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One Response to “Interfaith Week”

  1. mark lloyd richardson May 3, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    This is a beautiful statement of our need to promote mutual understanding among religious traditions. I especially like the title of the presentation, “Welcoming Unexpected Delight.” Thanks.

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