Last spring, I had a chance to listen to Eboo Patel, the founder of Chicago’s Interfaith Youth Core, speak to a small group of Unitarian Universalist ministers and religious educators. He called on us to help people in our communities develop an appreciative knowledge of other religious traditions. He believes this helps us better live in this pluralistic world.
This year, we will be developing this appreciative knowledge of other traditions. Most of our children and youth will be exploring other religious traditions in their religious education classes this year. The adults will be exploring other world religions in worship and adult religious education.
Each month of the program year, we will have a “religion of the month.” They are, Hinduism (September), Buddhism (October), Confucianism (November), Christianity (December), Judaism (January), Taoism (February), Islam (March), Yoruba Religions (April), and Unitarian Universalism (May). This calendar is close to, but not exactly aligned with, the schedules for the religious education classes.
In worship, at least twice a month, we will be exploring virtues, teachings, stories and practices from these traditions, not to have a Hindu or Buddhist worship experience, but to develop this appreciative knowledge.
If you want to develop your appreciative understanding in a more academic way, I invite you to join me for a world religions class on the third Tuesday of the month. Sessions will meet at 1:30 and 7 and last for 90 minutes. In these classes, we’ll discuss doctrine, practices, history, ritual, and worldview of these faiths. In the first class, on September 19, we’ll attempt to answer the question ‘what makes a religion?’ and explore Hinduism.
As we learn together this year, I have an encouragement and a request. First, I encourage you to read a comparative religions book this year, to develop your appreciative understanding beyond what we cover in worship and classes. My favorite comparative religions text is God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Rule the World by Stephen Prothero, but there are many great ones—including those currently on display in the church library.
My request is that, if you are experienced in a particular tradition, I would love to have a conversation with you. If practicing one of these traditions is part of your life’s journey, I would love to talk to you about it, to compare my reading and experience to your lived experience, and to help me figure out what might be most important to share with the congregation as a whole. Your insight and experience will enrich our learning as a community.
See you in church,