Some Christians walked into a temple, a mosque and a synagogue…

Last week I had the privilege of accompanying four of my church’s Confirmands on the Northern IL Conference Bishop’s Interfaith Youth Bus Tour. We were part of a group of more than 70 teenagers from across the Conference who visited a Hindu temple (which I learned is called a Mandir), a Muslim mosque and a Jewish synagogue. It was a long day to be sure, but it was fun and informative and our young people were engaged throughout.

You can read the full NIC article about the Tour, but here’s a money quote:

Organizers say one of the goals of this interfaith bus trip was to nurture and develop our future young leaders who are living in a more diverse and pluralistic society.

Reflecting on what they enjoyed about their experience our Confirmands said:

I like how the buildings reflected their beliefs: the carvings in the welcoming area were images of welcoming. The carvings in the worship area were images of their deities.

I enjoyed taking my shoes off [required of all who entered the worship space both in the Mandir and in the mosque], it made me feel at home and comfortable.

I didn’t know there were so many names for God. I thought it was just, you know, ‘God’. Or maybe ‘Jehovah’ or something.

Asked if anything made them uncomfortable, they said:

There were some weird things [happening during the Hindu prayer service] that I didn’t understand…that made me feel uncomfortable.

I was disappointed that I got skipped during the ‘flame thing’ at the temple.

And that, my friends, is what we trained professionals like to call a teachable moment!

“So, do you think people ever don’t understand what’s happening in our worship services at WUMC? What might make someone uncomfortable or disappointed during our worship?” I asked.

Maybe during Communion!

Yeah, like if someone was skipped during Communion or didn’t know what to do!

Or if they were skipped when we pass stuff in the pews.

It’s always exciting and a joy when young people think critically and earnestly about their faith and their experience of their faith! I’m proud of them all!

[This post is a revised version of what I write almost-weekly for my congregation‘s eNewsletter. Over there it’s called The View from the Dance Floor.]

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2 thoughts on “Some Christians walked into a temple, a mosque and a synagogue…

  1. Nicole

    The distinctions among and ties between religions are a really fascinating topic. And what a cool thing to do with the Confirmands: to expose them to such different methods of worship at a time in their lives where they are giving serious thought as to what it is they believe, and why they do so.

    And how timely! Both Passover and Easter revolve around the idea of rebirth: slaves reborn into freedom and Jesus resurrected. (Wasn’t the Last Supper a Seder?) Whether using painted eggs for Easter hunts or hard-boiling them for the Seder, both are symbolic of new life and new beginnings. What better time to encourage understanding and appreciation for our friends of other faiths?

  2. Hey Nicole! Thanks for stopping by here and taking the time to comment.
    Yes, Last Supper was Jesus celebrating Passover with his friends. While I’m no Seder expert, I think it is fair to say that both Seder & resurrection are about forgiveness and new life.

    It’s kinda funny/strange/interesting, our kids seemed more attentive listening to the stories of these other faith leaders than they ever do me. (Which probably says more about me than it does the kids, right?)
    The mosque gave away some books on What Muslims Believe and Why (or similar); our kids couldn’t wait to get their hands on those! And not just because they were free – one of the youth in particular was really reading the book on the bus! I was most impressed. (And couldn’t help wonder if they’d be so enthused by a book on Christian faith and practice.)

    It seems almost beyond obvious to say that learning to be a follower of God in the Way of Jesus in 21st Century USAmerica requires knowing how to be a good neighbor to and with people of other faiths. In other words, being a follower of God in the Way of Jesus, requires acknowledging the legitimacy of the ways others follow God; but to do so without giving up our own uniqueness.

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