We Are Not Separate

by Rev. Bonita Bock

What the interfaith events like this service allow us to do is to open a window to rooms that are packed with meaning. I am not going to find myself in the same room with everyone, but if I can grasp the importance of  this experience for another person who is also on a faith journey such as I am on, then we are on the journey together.

I attended the interfaith Thanksgiving Service late last November, 2013 at Temple Emmanuel in Denver, Colorado which was also the first day of Hanukkah. Afterwards, I wrote to a Muslim friend who had participated in the service, “It was very interesting and enjoyable to celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah on this day together in this manner. (I have a new and deeper appreciation of the focus of the 8 days not being gift giving, much like Christmas is more than Santa!) The miracle for me to celebrate on this particular Thanksgiving was your being there and the Quran being chanted in this influential Jewish Temple. That really gave me something for which to be thankful on this Day of Thanks. I pray we can be a witness to others around the world under God’s watchful eye.”

There have been many years of interfaith Thanksgiving services in Denver. I’ve always appreciated the service, attending over the years. But my motivation for attending has changed. It has become so much more than a nice gesture. Now, it is laden with meaning, and it embodies a sense of urgency.

As our global community finds itself in close proximity to those from other ‘tribes’, we have more recently, for my generation at least, experienced the tension of not knowing, not trusting, not understanding one another, our practices, and our ways of making meaning out of this journey we are on.

What the interfaith events like this service allow us to do is to open a window to rooms that are packed with meaning. I am not going to find myself in the same room with everyone, but if I can grasp the importance of  this experience for another person who is also on a faith journey such as I am on, then we are on the journey together. We are not separate. The window is open and I see much more clearly. I hear the sounds and breathe the smells. I feel the importance in these times. I am less afraid.

The prophet Isaiah writes, “Thus says the Lord who created you: Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43: 18-19

God knows we are in a wilderness, and our Creator God makes new ways through the dessert. I want to actively respond. There are so many people who would try to thwart people of many faiths understanding and working with one another. But there are just as many who would join us, if they knew that it was possible. That it is happening. John Phillip Newell and those who have joined the Heartbeat Journey are making it happen. In the name of our Creator, let us work together to create this new thing.

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The Rev. Bonita Bock is a faculty member of the Religion Dept of Wartburg College and Co-Director of Wartburg West in Denver, Colorado. Bonita teaches “Immigrant Communities and Their Religious Traditions” which has led her to become acquainted with the multi-faith community in Denver. She served on the Board of the Abrahamic Initiative, is a member of the University of Denver’s Religious Advisory Council, and an advisor to the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation. Bonita and her husband, the Rev. Nelson Bock have two married children living in Colorado.