The Revd Dr Michael Jagessar, moderator of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church, and the denomination’s secretary for intercultural ministry, reflects on the gift of time God gives us during the autumn months
From Sunday November 18 to Tuesday November 27 we’ll be marking an extended Interfaith Week. It is hoped that such a focus will not only raise awareness and highlight some significant collaborative work across all faiths in local communities across the UK; but that it will strengthen already good inter-faith relationships and underscore the role of faiths in working with all towards a just, participatory and flourishing society for all. The United Reformed Church, along withecumenical organisations (including ACTS, CTE and CYTUN) has been actively involved in interfaith engagement at various levels of our church life.
A closer look at the Interfaith Calendar (2012) reveals a large number of feasts and festivals including Sukkot, Navarati, World Communion Sunday, Ramadan, Deepavali/Diwali, Hanukah, Guru Nanak birthday, Advent and Christmas – and this suggests to me that, from October to December, God has gifted our religious traditions with a gift of time. This gift is not to be wasted. While we have distinctive beliefs and practices, we are all blessed with an opportunity to experience the “holy”, and bring healing and reconciliation in, and for, the world.
How do we describe an encounter of befriending another in which differences that normally alienate are transcended? Or where one person commits to seriously engage with another person’s deeply held beliefs or sacred text as seriously as she takes her own? And what about when a community is working through a crisis or heartbreak and all residents of whatever ethnic or faith backgrounds come together to overcome the challenge? Can such encounters be less than holy?
“God,” wrote the Japanese Christian theologian Kosuke Koyama, “does not speak only one language”. Interfaith Week invites us to be mindful of this, as we “launch out into the deep”, to participate in a journey of crossing and re-crossing spiritual boundaries, and to get to places we are initially uncomfortable with and often cannot fully figure out. Yet, through commitment to our own faith tradition and openness to the movement of God’s Spirit we strive to live out God’s offer of fullness of life for all in Christ. The blessings and sustaining presence of our extravagant God is more than enough for such “walking the talk” of our faith.