No matter religion or beliefs, working together remains key

People often ask me if God favors one religion over another. In my response I ask them a question: there are over 100 species of roses in the world; which one is the most favored?

It is a question that cannot be answered because there is no one species of roses that everyone likes. I fall into the ranks of those who do not even like roses. My favorite flower is the iris, the dark blue/purple variety. In the iris world, there are 160 varieties and colors.

In my view, there is no one religion that God prefers over all others. God is the one who breathes life into all creation and into all religious and spiritual beliefs and practices. I am a Christian because I am nourished by and through the theological elements that make up a progressive view of Christianity. My partner and I are raising our three children in the Jewish Reformed tradition.

Just as different flowers can illicit different responses from people, so too with religious thought and practice. Within a religion you can find several “species” or expressions of that faith. In Christianity there are Roman Catholics, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Anglicans/Episcopalians, Mormons, Coptic, Mennonites and Protestants (which include over a hundred different denominations). In Judaism you have Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed and Reconstructionist Jews. In Islam you have Sunni, Shi’a, Sufism, Ahmadiyya, Kharijites, Quranists traditions. In Buddhism there are three main schools of thought: Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. All religious and spiritual groups have diverse opinions and expressions of their religious and political thought within themselves. Therefore there is no one expression of religious or spiritual truth that is solely loved and solely inspired by God.

One of the aspects in my ministry that I love is working with people and leaders from different Christian and other religious/spiritual traditions. The Mercer Island Clergy Association is a wonderful gathering of 12 faith organizations that reside on the Island. We gather every third Wednesday of the month to share a meal and find ways to worship and work together in serving the community.

Every November we have an interfaith service that we put together to celebrate the many ways that God has touched our lives. We invite the community to gather not only to worship but to bring nonperishable food items to help stock up the food bank run by Youth and Family Services. We hold the senior high baccalaureate service every year. We talk through and work together in supporting Tent City.

We hold different opinions and beliefs about religion and politics, but we also hold a strong respect for one another. I am honored to work with and gather with the variety of religious and spiritual leaders on this Island. The Clergy Association was shocked and outraged when our Jewish and Catholic brothers and sisters felt the sting of prejudice, hate and violence against their houses of education and worship. When one of our community members are attacked, we are all attacked.

Ask a clergy or religious leader a question about faith, politics and views on controversial social issues, and you will get a variety of responses. Ask about the importance of working together, and you will get a chorus of alleluias and amens.

Rev. Mark Travis is the president of the Clergy Association and pastor at the Congregational Church on Mercer Island, United Church of Christ.

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