A storm cloud has swept over us and is raining down fear and intolerance. On Dec. 15, an American Muslim organization, MPAC, will hold its 12th annual convention at All Saints Church. This has caused some to vilify our community and has brought out the Islamophobes.
At All Saints, we believe that to be religious in the 21st century is to be interreligious. And to be a member of this church is to be a member of the peacemaking community. MPAC is one of our integral partners in interfaith peacemaking.
It is in the DNA of All Saints Church to stand up for justice and provide a voice for the marginalized in society.
The theme of this year's MPAC convention is "Our Future in the Making." Salam al-Marayati, executive director of MPAC, said, "at this moment, as we convene at All Saints Church, the future is now, where we all can take hope and encouragement from this opportunity, where we come together to glimpse what is possible and can visualize what a future of peace could look like."
It is time to end the toxic narrative that too many of our religions have promulgated that says that in order to become a part of my religion you have to hate somebody else in another religion. We can change that dynamic. We can make the decision to stop sleepwalking, to wake up to reality, to embrace the inter-connectedness that binds us all, no matter what religion or race.
Blessings of Compassion
Let me give you an example. This past Wednesday was the culmination of a long conversation we have had with a couple that has attended All Saints Church for a while now. The couple is of different religions, one Christian and one Jewish, and they have two children. Our conversations, which included a rabbi, were about the fact that the children have begun to put down spiritual roots here, and it was time to take note of this, to mark and honor this transition.
However, in this community of prayerful discernment we didn't want to baptize the kids, and make the experience feel exclusive in any way. We wanted it to be inclusive.
We carried out the baptismal font that we use here and placed it under the oak tree. We blessed the water, making it holy by recalling all the important transitional moments in Jewish history and Christian history in which water had been redemptive.
During the Sabbath meal, observant Jews have a ritual called blessing the children in which each person present at the table blesses the children. The rabbi suggested we incorporate this into our special ceremony that day. So the children walked among us on the lawn by the oak tree and we each whispered a blessing while we touched each child.
Taking evergreen branches and dipping them into the holy water, we then sprinkled them on top of the children. To recognize that the children themselves are ministers, too, we gave them a little bowl of the holy water and their own evergreen branch. They, in turn, went around and dropped holy water on the top of each one of us.
At the end, everyone expressed their appreciation for what had just taken place, sharing wonderful blessings of compassion. One of the grandfathers, crippled with ALS, talked about how the service had helped him. It was a genuinely moving experience.
Expand Your Heart
I realized at the conclusion of the service that my heart had swollen. My chest had expanded. My soul had grown twice as large just so that it could have the capacity to hold all of that God-compassion and love in it. And it took me a full day for my lungs and my heart and my soul and my chest to come back down -- and it didn't come back down as shrunken as it had been before. It stayed expanded a little bit.
That's being awake. That's when you make room in your life for the Holy Spirit to cross over all the stupid, toxic, unsustainable, destructive barriers that divide the human family.
The world is a moral universe, where every human being is interconnected. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. The way the universe actually works, its inner system of humming and buzzing and moving forward, is through compassion and grace and love. Whenever we awaken to that reality, we are embracing a courageous spirituality. That's what we want to achieve here at All Saints by being a radically inclusive community. That's the direction in which the Divine Spirit is leading the entire human family. It's a soul-expanding way to live. What an exhilarating adventure!