Sunday, February 25, 2007

Wedding Blessing

I recently had the privilege of giving a wedding blessing for a unique couple. Jeremy and Kristina were married more than two years ago in London, but since she has Ukranian citizenship, she only just last month received her visa to come and live in the US. They met through an internet dating site and began chatting on-line with each other, then they started talking on the phone every day. In 2004, Jeremy went to London to meet Kristina for the first time face to face, and he proposed to her. They were married in a civil ceremony because Kristina's priest wouldn't officiate the ceremony. So when she arrived here and Jeremy's parents wanted to throw a reception for them, they wanted a clergy person to come and bless their marriage, and I was invited to give the blessing by a member of Woodside who is a close friend of the family.

The story of Jeremy and Kristina's meeting, on-line courtship, trials with immigration and the church are all pretty interesting and pretty uncommon, at least in my experience. But there's one more thing about this couple that's different from other weddings I have been a part of. Kristina and Jeremy both have cerbal palsy. Although they have the same disAbility, it affects them each differently. Kristina uses a wheelchair to get around, but Jeremy, with the help of crutches or a walker, can walk pretty well. Jeremy is severely visually impaired, but Kristina can see.

Any good marriage is based on the willingness of each partner to support the other through difficulty, to complement each other's weaknesses, and enhance each other's gifts and strengths. And in this way Jeremy and Kristina are just like every other couple whose marriages I have joyfully blessed, and their well-suitedness for each other is an inspiration. Congratulations, Jeremy and Kristina. May God bless your life together!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Interfaith Dialogue

Our Confirmation class is participating in an interfaith program called "Children of Abraham" with other middle school students who are Jewish and Muslim. From what I can see, thus far it's been a great experience for our confirmands--a chance for them to learn about other faiths while also growing into their own. In addition to the program for the youth, the organizers have also developed a parallel program for the parents and other adults, which I went to for the first time on Saturday evening. I learned a lot--a lot of facts that I didn't know, especially about Islam, but I learned the most, I think, just from the interactions.

There were five of us Christians (all Methodists), two liberal Jews and two Muslim women. That's pretty much how the students break down, too--about half the group is Methodist, and the other half is about equally divided between Muslims and Jews. I was thinking about this lopsidedness on the part of the Christians and I think it's because for us interfaith dialogue isn't all that risky. We are the majority religion in this country, numerically, but in other ways, too, and for us, we don't have much to lose.

But what I noticed, particularly with the Muslim women, they seemed to be taking a big risk. Since September 11th, Muslims in this country (and in most of the world, really) have been put under a microscope. Sometimes the motivation to look more closely has been positive, like in this program, because we want to learn more about this religion and join together with moderate Muslims to combat fundamentalism of all kinds.

But other sorts of scrutiny are less benign. Especially since September 11th, many people have begun to look at Muslims with suspicion, fear, even hatred. And sometimes in these interfaith dialogues moderate Muslims are expected to speak for the whole faith, to respond to, even take responsibility for fundamentalists and terrorism.

It seemed to me that there was some fear about this kind of scrutiny on the part of our Muslim participants. They seemed reticent to talk, to share, to fully participate. During one exercise when we were asked to imagine and draw images of interfaith peace, they didn't do it. I am not entirely sure why, but from the explanation that one of the women gave, it seemed to me that she had a hard time even imagining what interfaith peace might look like. And that made me feel very sad.

Overall, I think that interfaith dialogues are a positive thing. When they are done right, they are hard work, but that's good. We need to work hard at this--the future of our world depends on it.

One of the exercises that the youth did together last Saturday was plant flower seeds. They wrote prayers for peace on the sides of the flower pots and then traded them with each other. They are supposed to tend to these seeds, to nurture them so they will grow. I pray that these will not be the only seed that are planted in them, and that out of this experience will grow peace.

Gift of Peace
Originally uploaded by YardSale.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

In case you had lost faith in humanity

Sure, there are lots of reasons to be cynical about your fellow (hu)man. Crime, war, random acts of name it. We get jaded and begin to think that it's a rare day when people do things that are nice, or selfless, or honest. Well, here's a little thing that helped restore my faith in humanity, just a little bit yesterday.

I was meeting a friend/church member at the Savory in Takoma Park for coffee yesterday morning and I parked at the Takoma Metro Station. I was in a rush (running late as usual) and I jumped out of my car, dashed over to the meter and dropped in my quarter. But when I did it made a strange sound, and I looked down to see that the part that catches and contains the coins (what in the heck do you call that thing? the bank?), well, it was broken. The front of the meter had broken off (or been broken off--who knows) and someone had just set it inside the meter. But the best part was that there was probably ten dollars in quarters in there, and no one had taken them!

When I saw that it was broken, I thought for a split second hey, I could take my quarter back! Just think about all the money I have put into broken meters and lost...It was like those old cartoons with the angel sitting on one shoulder and the devil sitting on the other, offering competing advice. But I was so impressed that so many other people had gone ahead and put their quarters into this broken meter, and that no one had taken this money. I mean it was just sitting there, begging to be carted off to washers, dryers and vending machines. So, I just paid my quarter, and went off to my coffee date. It's a little thing, I know, but the whole experience made me feel a little better about the human community afterall.