Be merciful, and other thoughts on interfaith life

MercifulThis morning today’s Gospel from Luke offered this message to us… a brief lesson from Jesus on how to live.

The horrific massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand continues to dominate the news. Somehow this one may have touched a new nerve. Locally, the Islamic Center of the Capital District hosted an interfaith prayer service on Sunday, and I was blessed to attend this event. That’s a big part of why today’s Gospel truly hit home. This is how we are meant to live with one another, full stop – no exceptions. We are pretty bad at it, aren’t we?

Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom ICCD

My friend Azra Haqqie took this photo, a beautiful reminder of what is possible and a lesson how to live in peace.

Anyway, back to the ICCD interfaith service. It was a deeply moving experience to be present there, at this place where I have been so many times before. If you have never visited the ICCD (for those of you who are local) I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is always a place of welcome and hope, a place full of joy, I love to have a reason to go there. Yesterday however, sadness inched past joy for a bit, but the great welcome and love was the same.

Edited Rabbi Shpeen and Rabbi Cutler ICCD

Rabbi Scott Shpeen of Beth Emeth speaks, with Rabbi Matt Cutler of Gates of Heaven looking on.

There were people of every faith and walk of life. Front and center was Rabbi Matthew Cutler of Congregation Gates of Heaven. As the most public face of the Schenectady Clergy Against Hate group, he was emcee for the service. I’ve known Matt a long time and I treasure his friendship and his presence on our shared lives of faith.

There were clergy and leaders from a wide spectrum, multiple Christian denominations, Sikh, Buddhist, Jewish, and of course Muslims. Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY 20) was there along with Assemblyman Phil Steck (D-Colonie). Each person, clergy and politician, cantor and lay person, got up to offer a prayer and/or a few words. I wish I could recount them all, I tried to take some notes, but I was praying and listening and couldn’t divide my attention.

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Local Sikh Paul Uppal offered some deeply moving remarks and reminded us of the attack on the Sikh temple in Wisconsin and moved forward from there, connecting other attacks on houses of worship, just because people are “different.” People are welcomed into houses of worship only to turn and kill others… this is so wrong at so many levels.

Daniel Burke TweetAlso deeply moving to me was Cantor Jodi Schectman of Temple Beth Emeth in Albany. She sang her prayer and I know I was not the only one reduced to tears.

Most moving of all to me was the welcome of the local community at ICCD, which is always so hugely open hearted. Yesterday it was tinged with such sadness. Isn’t that what friendship is made of? To find ourselves walking together in times of sadness and sorrow as well as those happier times. It is a gift to be held in the physical embrace of such beloved friends, those I know, like Azra Haqqie and Humera Khan, and those I only know by sight from my visits to ICCD. I stand with my Muslim friends as I know they would stand with me.

T-shirts I am a Muslim ICCD

These wonderful women were very patient as many of us snapped their photos. What great shirts!

Be merciful and remember, what you give will be given to you. If you need a reminder about how Christians do not possess the only path, read about Farid Ahmed who lost his wife Husna at the Al-Noor Mosque in Christchurch. That is a model of how to live, a model of today’s Gospel and a reminder that we have more that binds us rather than separates us. Be merciful and see what happens…


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  1. Pingback: What’s Up in the Neighborhood, March 23 2019 – Chuck The Writer

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