Monday, January 9, 2012

What I get from other faith messages

When I am in DC, I am often attracted to the Sunday folk mass at The National Cathedral (10AM) rather than a Quaker service in the region. Given that I work for William Penn House as well as many Quaker schools and am actively involved in Friends General Conference and Baltimore Yearly Meeting, often in capacities of advocating for and on behalf of Quakers and Quakerism, I am sometimes conflicted with this. I feel I "should be" attending Friends Meetings, but I also feel believe that it is important that we be true to our leading, and mine often take me in this direction.
This does not mean I veer away from Quaker beliefs. In fact, I find that often, when I engage with and interact with people of other faiths or cuts of religious cloth, my Quaker faith deepens, but it is not so much faith in Quaker process.
So yesterday, as I alternately stood and sat at the folk mass, I was more acutely aware of all of this. To start, the readings and discussion (the folk mass has readings like most masses, but instead of a sermon, there is a congregational discussion) was about baptism not just as a commitment but as a re-commitment to one's faith. The question from the minister was "to what are we re-committing ourselves?" While some of the responses leaned towards a Trinitarian belief that God saves those who believe, I reflected that, for me, it is a re-commitment to my belief that there truly is that of God in all things and people, period, and this means I joyfully seek it without judging those who I may think don't see it or don't see things as I do.
At the same time, it is services like this that I have an opportunity to reflect on my own beliefs, and to not simply follow the flock. At this service, for example, following the discussion, there was the renewal of baptismal vows with a congregational response. Where we were asked to reaffirm our renunciation of evil, renew our commitment to Jesus Christ and our belief in Him as the only Son of God, his conception, etc., I was silent. These do not reflect my beliefs, nor do they reflect my deep personal commitments of how to be in the world. In fact, on some levels, they are counter to my beliefs (for example, that Jesus is the only Son of God). I'm not saying He's not, but it is simply something I am not deeply convinced of nor feel compelled to struggle with. My baptismal vow, if you will, is that I believe there is that of God in all and my renewal of that is a deeper commitment to joyfully seek and express this belief.
(As an aside: another perk of going to services like this was the image from the minister that the same waters of River Jordan in which Jesus was baptized are the same waters that flow in our world today, as we live on this earth in a closed system for all time. This was great fodder for contextualizing why the water/environmental/community work of our guest speaker at the potluck that evening is so important. I find that the perspective of other faith messages really has helped me to articulate why so much of the work we do matters.)