Interfaith Conundrum

One would think that the purpose of an interfaith organization would be to bring area churches, groups, synagogues and mosques together, especially in the small mountain community where I live. I have been an active member of the Idyllwild Interfaith Leadership Alliance for several years now. We have a potential membership list of 17 or so religious groups in our area. The active members include the Episcopal Church, our Center for Spiritual Living, a Buddhist group, the local Jewish group, and two unaffiliated organizations.

Noticeably absent are the “mainline” Protestant churches. The Assembly of God and Christian Science groups have expressed interest. How are we going to attract more interest and involvement from other churches, other than continuing to invite them?

A community potluck was proposed, with World Food Day as an anchor. The local food bank would benefit from the collection of nonperishable goods. Finding a venue to hold the size of crowd that we hope to attract had us thinking. What about the Community Church in town, which has a wonderful downstairs area with kitchen and lots of room? I’ll ask, I told the group, since I knew the pastor through another community organization.

Well, I never even got to speak with him. A spokesperson who arranges the rentals of the space got back to me after several weeks, saying that they would not be able to accommodate our potluck. I asked if it was a scheduling problem or the nature of our organization, and was told that the church was a conservative congregation, and, “as such find it outside our beliefs to nurture any other than Judeo-Christian organizations.”

So I guess we are not Christian enough, and indeed, non-Christian groups such as the Buddhists are welcome here. It’s interesting to note that quite a few community groups are allowed to use the facility, but I imagine there is no discussion of religion.

I was initially “taken back,” to say the least. I read through Jesus’ words in the New Testament, looking for passages about rejecting those who do not think just like us. Nope, I didn’t find any. I did find references to loving one’s enemy, which seems to be harder than loving those who are just like us.

My actual response to the spokesperson was a reference to all being children of the One God, and remaining open-hearted. And the potluck? We’re having it outside at the Episcopal Church, and ALL are invited to attend. 

I delight in honoring my friends of all spiritual paths, as I desire only the highest and the best for each and every one.

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