By the time you receive this edition of The Traveler, Lent will almost be upon us. Lent begins, of course, on Ash Wednesday, which takes place this year on March 1. As an appropriate way of starting this holy season, our church will once again offer an Ash Wednesday ser- vice at 7:00 PM that evening, led by the Rev. Vickie Wood Parrish. I encourage you to make every effort to attend.
As far as other special Lenten offerings happening here at FUMC, one of the wonderful traditions that has taken hold at our church are the weekly Lenten Soup and Study gatherings. As we continue this tradition, this year we will be studying World Religions utilizing a wonder- ful resource put together by the Rev. Adam Hamilton of Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, called Christianity and World Religions: Wrestling with Questions People Ask, starting on March 8 at 6:00 PM, and continuing for the next five weeks, ending on April 12. As we enjoy wonderful and warming bowls of soup, we will watch a 15 minute video presenta- tion in which Rev. Hamilton will share some of the basic beliefs of some of the world’s major religious traditions, and how those beliefs compare to our beliefs as Christians. Following the video, I will lead a conversation about the content presented in the video. For those wishing to delve a little deeper, copies of the book on which the video presentations are based will be available for purchase on March 8. The cost of the book will be $8.00. The book is also avail- able on amazon.com in Kindle format for those who prefer that option. While you can profita- bly participate in these sessions without reading the book, I can assure you that doing so will make these sessions even more enlightening and meaningful.
Why study the faiths of other people? There are two reasons. First, the world is be- coming increasingly smaller and more interrelated, making it more important than ever for us to have a better understanding of the faiths that shape the habits, customs, beliefs, and values of billions of people all over the world. And of course, it is increasingly true that those who practice these other faiths are not just living in countries far away from us, but are, in fact, our neighbors, co-workers, and in some cases, family members. Harmony and understanding, if not survival, have become dependent upon our willingness to learn about each other.
Second, learning about the faith of others helps us learn more about our own faith.
We often hear people saying that all religions are basically the same, but that is simply not the case. While there are certainly common threads that appear in many of the world’s major religious traditions, there are also stark differences between the various religions of the world that cannot entirely be reconciled. Learning about these differences causes us to look at our own faith in new and enriching ways. Speaking for myself, I would have to say that my study of the other major faith traditions has made me a stronger Christian, while at the same time enabling me to more meaningfully and respectfully participate in dialogue with people of other faiths.
For these reasons, as well as for the opportunity to share time and fellowship with folks from my church family, I am eager to encourage as many of you as possible to participate as often as possible in these Soup and Study gatherings, and look forward to sharing these times with many of you.
In Evergreen love, Pastor Tom