A deep understanding of the foundations or other religions/ denominations and the ability to engage in ecumenical dialogue.
- An understanding of other religions and their foundational documents.
- The ability to engage in respectful ecumenical and interfaith dialogue.
- The ability to celebrate the unique features of local faith communities while encouraging them to be receptive to perspectives from the broader church and world.
- The ability to appreciate, practice, and pass on traditions of faith while interpreting them in light of the context of a diverse and changing world.
The pathway to God is found in many ways. I feel this has been the theme of my walk toward ministry and will be the path I will continue throughout my ministry. God is far beyond that of my imagination or even understanding. From my youth, my belief has been that my path to God is through Jesus’s death and resurrection; a theology that I still stand firmly in. Yet throughout my studies, my work as both Chaplain intern and resident, and my daily life of meeting individuals with beliefs unlike my own, I feel strong in my faith and understanding that this is not the case for everyone. As a youth being raised in the Pentecostal tradition, one point of theology I have embraced is that God is a just and faithful God.
To openly accept this understanding and practice, I feel that my approach to all of God’s children has to center around their understanding of how they reach God, whether it is like my own or not. Again, I go back to the knowledge and belief that one must work out their own faith with their own fear and trembling. I believe myself to be a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. My salvation was bought by the shed blood of the risen Christ, and my baptism was my outward sign of my acceptance into the church and Body of Christ. This is my theology but it is not everyone’s and that is acceptable to God.
Over my time at Point University and Candler School of Theology, I have had the chance to study different views surrounding this journey of faith. Yet it was a class that I took back in Tampa Florida at Hillsborough Community College that opened my narrow Pentecostal eyes to begin this journey toward a broader and deeper understanding. I do not have any of the papers I wrote to share, however, I do have the memories. Over the course of the semester we journeyed down the path of many different faith traditions. The seeds of acceptance and appreciation for other’s faith journeys was sown in this class. Since my childhood, I have had a longing to learn from others anything I could.
In my adult life as a Master Barber this love of knowledge again broadened my horizon. As the youngest individual at the school (I was only 17), I was tutored to act more mature than my actual age. This instruction came with the side note of, “if you want your clients to take you seriously then you must act mature, since more than likely you would be the age of their children.” This was a hard lesson to learn yet I could use it.
Over my years, I found a way to gain knowledge from my clients. I would watch the news, read the newspaper, and listen to other conversations around the salon. For example, if I saw a case on the news and wanted to understand the law more, I would ask several of my clients who happened to be attorneys or even judges. Over time my ability to hold a conversation with other attorneys became more impressive. This skill of asking a simple yet thought provoking question has also helped me in my study of religions and beliefs different than my own. Learning how to have an open and respectful dialog with another is an art and skill, one that I would like to consider I have.
This skill is one of the ways that I was to gain a vast amount of knowledge in my class at Hillsborough Community College. One assignment I received was to take a trip to the newly opened Holocaust Museum. It was at this museum that I could engage in a wonderful dialog about the beliefs of my Jewish brothers and sisters for the first time. At the end of the semester, one thing I know that I learned was simple. We are all on a journey toward God. While the roads and paths may not look the same, the result is.
While I studied at Candler another wonderful way I learned to be open and accepting of others came while on a weekly worship planning team. On this team, we would meet to plan different styles of worship with music selected from various cultures and continents. This would also coordinate with one of my elective classes: Global Perspectives in Christian Worship. In my first reflection paper, I looked at the practices and views of three different documents on worship, the Eucharist, and Baptism (click here to view the paper). I noted in this paper that over all, all three documents were practically the same in nature. I have found this to be the case generally in my encounters with other religious beliefs. In my studies, I have found that a basic sense of commandments of right and wrong are the underlying theme to all walks of faith. We must all follow them to live a pleasing to God. While some faith traditions have 10 commandments, others have more, some may have less. At the end of the day, they all point us in the way to live in community with one another and with God.
This understanding is how I would approach my daily role as a chaplain. My role was to simply be the presence of God/the Divine to the one in need or as we would say, the care seeker. I was not there to debate who has the upper hand on the path to God, but rather to remind them that no matter the path, God’s love was always there. I remember a time when I encountered a woman who was Muslim in faith yet welcomed me with open and accepting arms to be in community with her. She welcomed prayers from me as she explained to me that she believed Jesus to be a wonderful prophet of God and that his teachings were just as true as Mohamad’s. Both men, were simply pointing her to God. While this encounter was one of acceptance and love, other encounters were not so. Yet I still had to maintain the same level of acceptance. Some were easier than others. Yet still, I reminded myself, I am not to be the judge but rather to be the source of compassion, grace, and show the love of God. I have found in my time as a Chaplain that that is the best approach to most situations. I pray to continue to use this skill in my ministry.