About Seeking Unity, Building Community

  • What do you get when you mix together a man and a woman passionately committed to the ecumenical movement with another man deeply involved in inter-religious relations? You get this blog! And what do you get when you bring together staff of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from different ethnic backgrounds and experiences to talk about Christian Unity and relations with neighbors of other religious traditions? You get this blog! Join us here!

    Carlos Malave, Associate for Ecumenical Relations
    Robina Winbush, Director for Ecumenical and Agency Relations

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Gordon Zerkel

Jay, Carlos, Robina, et al;
Happy New Year and thanks for kicking off this blog! We in Chicago Presbytery's Ecumenical & Interreligious Work Group (EIRWG) are anxious to build ties with our neighbors outside of Presbyterian Christianity. We began first with dialogues with the Jewish community, expanded it to the Muslim community, and are now actively encouraging and facilitating dialogue between individual neighborhood congregations/communities. Looking forward to a productive, learning and sgaring relationship through and with GACER!
Gordon Zerkel

Gordon Zerkel

Ooops! That's "sharing"!!!

Jay Rock

I always enjoy coming to Chicago Presbytery, because I KNOW that I am going to learn something new about interfaith and ecumenical possibilities!

Rev. Will McGarvey

I remember my first morning in Amman, Jordan hearing the call to prayer at dawn. I not only realized I was in a land and culture foreign to my own, but as the city started to respond in prayer I could tell that the whole culture was based on a daily spirituality. After a meaningful trip throughout Israel and Palestine, I returned home with a new sense of religious and cultural understanding.

To share this with my congregation, we made our Lenten fast a practice of getting to know our neighbor's faith and practices in deeper ways. We quickly found so many different people willing to share about their tradition that we spilled over into Eastertide and ended our weekly Interfaith Series of studies at Pentecost. During that time, we were honored to watch the Rabbi converse with the Muslim leader in Arabic, and return the next week for the presentation on Islam. We heard a fascinating presentation on Zoroastrianism. The husband of one of our Elders presented on Hinduism and the Bhagavad Gita.

What was an interesting education series became poignant when the nearby Islamic Center was burned by arsonists. Because we had a relationship with the local Muslim community, we were able to reach out in their time of need. We went to their temporary space to pray with them. We hosted an Iftar in our church to pray with them during Ramadan. We heard their stories, and they heard ours. And both communities became more fully human. On the day after Yom Kippur, at the end of the Jewish high Holy Days, 7 regional Rabbis were with the Interfaith community at large as we gathered to march from city hall past their Masjid (house of prayer) and to the local High School for an educational event and prayer service for the whole community.

The relationships born in those months continues to inform a meaningful monthly meeting of Interfaith faith leaders who continue to meet to pray and support one another. When the Islamic Center was rebuilt and remodeled it was not only their celebration, but a celebration for us all.

Nicholas Jesson

Thank you for beginning a new blog on ecumenical and interfaith concerns. I feel a need to respond to the question from my experience in ecumenical ministry. You frame the question "who is my neighbour?" from your perspective as Presbyterians. However, I think that you are thus forced into an us/neighbour dichotomy in which other Christians are defined as other. This is false. This presumes that there is a fundamental difference between Presbyterians and other Christians. Certainly there are differences, however that which unites us is more fundamental than that which divides us. Your question should not be about Presbyterians and their neighbours, it should be about Christians and their neighbours (and even then you should only ask this question with careful acknowledgment of all that we share in common with all humanity).

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