A place for people of faith and no-faith to explore shared values, build respect and mutually inspiring relationships, and pursue common action for the common good

Why I do Interfaith: Rae

In Elmhurst College, Faith, What If...? on October 19, 2010 at 9:45 pm

I was 5, maybe 6, and asked my friend Claire, Claire Smith, if she wanted to play communion.

I grew up spending up in a devoutly Christian home- my mom is now a pastor, to give you an idea of how active we were in the Church. So, as a 5 year old- that age when kids play mirrors the jobs they see around them- I asked Claire to play communion. But her answer caught me off guard: Claire asked me “what’s communion?” when I told her it was part of church she surprised me more by saying she didn’t go to church. I was confounded, I don’t think I’d ever had a friend who didn’t know what communion was!

I don’t remember the rest of my interaction with Claire, but I do remember asking my mom why, Claire didn’t want to play communion, why she didn’t know what it was, and why Claire didn’t go to church. My mom answered my questions respectfully, explaining concepts of paganism at a 5 year old level, but then, I remember, my mom said we should invite Claire’s family to dinner some night.

At dinner with the Smiths I was able to ask all my questions about what they believed and Claire was able to ask my family her questions about what we believed- all these questions, and beliefs being shared in a safe space.

Engaging in conversations like the one I had as a 5 year old with Claire and her family…that’s why I care about interfaith cooperation- because when we come together with different stories and different beliefs around the things we hold true- service, justice, care for creation- we can then get past what we’ve been told about people of other faiths, and we can recognize them over dinner as people with stories and valuable beliefs.

Coming to college I began to engage people of traditions different than my own on a regular basis- in conversation, service, class, fellowship, and activism. Through this, I have experienced the many values people live out on the Elmhurst College campus. I am daily inspired by the work that happens here- through the LENS walk, our orientation service project, Habitat for Humanity’s work, our dedication to service-learning and the many many many many service projects our students engage in each year with the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement as well as student organizations like Spiritual Life Council and APO Service Fraternity. We are a campus that exhibits we care- but what if the many groups of people who care- Catholic Students, Muslim Students, Campus Crusade, Secular Students, UCC Students…any student organization or identity group (that may or may not be organized)- came together around a shared value and worked toward the common good?

If this happens, I see relationships being built, questions being asked (“why doesn’t s/he believe what I do?” “what does s/he believe?” why does s/he believe that?” “Why haven’t we been able to come together before?” “what if we continue to work on projects together, even though our belief traditions conflict?”), and real social change occurring.

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