“Even when we feel like we have found theological common ground—like Abraham as the patriarch of Jews, Christians, and Muslims—we quickly discover that even those paradigms have their limits. There are a million Hindus in this country, and over three million Buddhists, and neither of those communities would be called Abrahamic. But they live in America, too, and we have to have a paradigm that includes them.” ~Eboo Patel, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation
With open heart and inquiring mind, I have gathered over the years in various religious halls with leaders from diverse traditions. It is always a privilege to be at the table with my Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Baha’i, Pagan and Humanist/Atheist colleagues. As religious leaders, we bear witness everyday to the destructive power of divided individuals, families, communities, states, nations and countries. In our commitment for unity and our longing for wholeness, we strive to offer wisdom and action that is loving, inclusive and pluralistic.
Whether it is the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination (RCAD), the Winthrop Area Ministers Association (WAMA) or Capital Area Multi-faith Association (CAMA), or Maine Council of Churches (MCC), the conversation is always didactic and dynamic. We arrive with varied worldviews and belief systems to guide our living. Foundational to our relationship building is a conviction that no one person or faith tradition has cornered the market on God or mystery. We arrive with a deep hunger to be connected across our differences and to be part of something greater together. We arrive with a willingness to suspend absolute knowing, engage ultimate questions and confront the pervasive nature of evil. We arrive with an eagerness to speak truth to our own experiences, all the while leaving room for others to do the same. It is our commitment to that inclusive paradigm Patel speaks of that brings us together to lead meaningful and responsive multi-faith ministries in our communities.
As a Minister in the Unitarian Universalist tradition, I turn to Francis David, the founder of the first Unitarian church, for an inclusive theology and unified response. In 1568, as King of Transylvania, David issued the Edict of Religious Toleration proclaiming, “You do not need to think alike to love alike.” In calling for toleration, acceptance and celebration among the theologically divergent and contradictory traditions, David opened the door to collaborative ministries. Some 450 years later, the multi-faith or interfaith movements are transforming the religious landscape across nations. Learning to stand together and pray together and sing together and act together is uniting people of differing faiths in a vision where Love leads us on.
In October 2015, I will attend the World Parliament of Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah. With 10,000 international religious leaders from 50 faith traditions from 80 countries… the Parliament is the oldest, largest, and most inclusive gathering of faith and traditions… working in harmony with each other for the good of humanity.” It is an understatement to say, I will arrive humbled, honored and privileged to walk alongside great aspiring and inspiring leaders.