Sharp About Your Prayers

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An Alternative

September 10th, 2010 · 2 Comments · Faith and the City

This Sunday is Homecoming Sunday at the church.

On Homecoming, our Sunday School classes bubble over, the choir returns to full strength, and we reconnect with friends we haven’t seen during the summer (or perhaps for longer than that).  Most importantly, Homecoming is the day when we renew our spiritual connection to the home and the family that God provides for us in this community.  In doing this, we commit ourselves again to God’s work in the world.

This recommitment seems so very important right now.

All around us, we see examples of religion being used as a hammer and a wedge—a force that divides, breeding fear and distrust and hatred.

When last I checked, the news cycle is fixated on acrimonious debate about religious freedom at Ground Zero and a pastor who thinks that the best way to mark the deaths of thousands of New Yorkers nine years ago is by burning another faith’s holy book.

It is a mess out there.

It is a mess that must be engaged by our churches, our synagogues, our mosques.  Now, more than ever, constructive, hopeful religious communities are of crucial importance.  The world needs people of faith who will refuse to embody (to stand for, sing about, pray to, or act on behalf of) a God who is the small, angry deity preached by prophets of hate.  Instead, we must proclaim (we will follow, we will praise) a bigger God—the Author of righteousness, the Giver of grace.

What does this mean?

Well, it means a lot, but for starters, here are a few concrete ways our church going to try and act this out:

  • We are going to celebrate religious communities that are forces for good in this world.  On September 19th after the 11:00 a.m. service we will screen the film, The Street Stops Here, which tells the inspiring story of the St. Anthony Friars, a high school basketball team, and its remarkable coach, Bob Hurley, Sr.
  • We are going to read a book, instead of burning one.  This fall, our whole church is going to read Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead.  To facilitate good discussion, we have assembled a bunch of book groups.  To learn more about this effort, check out the blog,
  • We are going to engage in active dialogue with other faiths.  On October 1, our congregation has been invited to Temple Shaaray Tefila (250 E. 79th Street) to participate in Shabbat worship.  On October 10, the congregation from that synagogue has been invited to come and worship at our church.  Later in the year, we will be hosting a film series and a group of interfaith gatherings focused on issues pertaining to Christians, Jew and Muslims in this city, this country and the world.

That’s our plan.  What’s yours?

Let’s share together how our communities are trying chart an alternative way forward in this fractious and fearful moment…

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • JohnNo Gravatar

    My plan is to learn from my neighbors about how they live. I want to hear about what they see. I want to worship with them. I want to play and talk and eat with them. The more I reach out to my neighbors the less anonymous they become. While I do this, I will no longer be anonymous to my neighbor. We may become friends and perhaps learn from each other that we are not that different from each other.

  • ArianeNo Gravatar

    Love your vision for how we can respond positively to what’s going on around us! Makes me so want to join in reading Gilead with Fifth Ave Pres! Hope to join in again soon. Just wanted to say how your comments sound refreshing, hopeful and really motivating!