Last night I went to Temple Israel, my partner's Reformed Judaism synagogue, to pick her up after Friday evening services. The President of the Temple (i.e. the Sr. Warden for the Episcopalians reading this blog) had sung in the combined choir with his wife. He was so pleased with the service and the things he got out of it.
"I'd never prayed with pagans before," he said. "I've participated in things with the other groups and attended a Quaker college, and I was really pleased to have the Quakers close out the service with silence."
My partner talked about the first Pride Interfaith service we attended back in 1993 and how the pagans had actually opened and closed the service, and how moved she and I both had been to be present in that sacred space.
"And what was interesting," the President continued, "is how you could really see the connections between all the traditions. I look forward to doing it again."
This is the straight, white, married, Jewish male President of the largest synagogue in the city saying this about our Pagan-Buddhist-Unitarian-Jewish-Episcopalian-Evangelical-Spiritualist-Lutheran-Unity-Quaker-MCC Interfaith service for the LGBT Pride Week in Tallahassee. Such a contrast to what I got back from some members of the Episcopal clergy in this city, who either never answered my request for them to participate, or told me that because of the pagans, they felt they could not.
It reminds me of this piece from Matthew's gospel that was in today's daily office:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in
heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends
rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I don't consider pagans, or any of the others, my "enemy". But if we substitute the word, "other" or "different" or even "Unitarian" into the statement for the word "enemy", you get the idea of where Jesus is heading with all of this. If we only want to be around the people "just like us" and if we can only do things that honor God in the presence of people "just like us", then we have failed to understand Christ's command to us to love one another and go beyond ourselves to touch the people who are not "just like us."
I'm glad to have been part of this service. I think we did a very good thing. Thanks be to God.