Early Saturday morning I was sitting in a meeting with leaders of the church that I pastor. We discussed the painful acts of terrorism in Paris and our conversation concluded that we needed to offer a way for people in our community to gather for prayer. Not just a way for "our" people to gather, but for the entire community, which meant the invitation needed to include people of all faiths.
Just as I was preparing to go to bed late this same night I received an email asking the question, "Why would we do this?" "Why would we offer a multi-faith invitation?" For me the question is not "why?" but "why not?"
With all of the many divisions in our world, why wouldn't people of different faiths want to demonstrate that there is a way for us to come together and pray for peace?
In his book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Church, David Kinnaman says that young adults' are struggling with "the exclusive nature of Christianity". When I read that my heart aches and I have to ask why wouldn't we want to show our young people that the ways of Jesus never exclude anyone?
In his pivotal sermon Jesus invited his followers to be peacemakers, welcomed people of all backgrounds to an open table, and he worked to heal the sufferings of people regardless of faith. Knowing these are the ways of Jesus why wouldn't we want to practice the same peaceful, welcoming and healing ways?
Shortly after my conversation with the Leadership Team, I called my friend Rizwan - who serves on the board of the ADAMS Center (the second largest Muslim congregation in America and located in Northern Virginia) - and asked him what he thought about us coming together to pray. His response was, "Absolutely, let's do it." Why wouldn't we want to stand with and join in prayer with those representing the peace of true Islam?
My neighborhood is a kaleidoscope of faces, colors, dress and religious symbols. So I ask myself, why wouldn't we want to get together with these beautiful people to break bread and have fellowship?
When I read prayers for peace written from Islamic, Buddhist, Baha'i, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jewish, Native American, Native African, Janist, Shinto, Sufi and Zoroastrian traditions, I see a common thread of God's love and justice for all people. Reflecting on these prayers I ask, why wouldn't we want to make our individual faith practices stronger by coming together to experience these heart felt prayers for world peace and unity with God?
While writing this piece I was reminded of one of our United Methodist Church documents titled: "Called to Be Neighbors and Witnesses: Guidelines for Interreligious Relationships" these words, "Today, our Lord's call to neighborliness (Luke 10:27) includes the "strangers" of other faith traditions who live in our towns and cities. It is not just that historical events have forced us together. Christianity itself impels us to love our neighbors and to seek to live in contact and mutually beneficial relationships, in community, with them." Why wouldn't we come together as the neighborhood to pray for peace?
Perhaps there are some reasons why we shouldn't come together. Reasons like being told we are no longer Christian, ridicule, backlash from friends, and so forth. Yet when I consider those reasons they are all based in fear. So the question now is do we give into our fears or do we hold onto our faith? Our fears tell us why we shouldn't do something together, while our faith makes it clear why we should.
So that's why this Sunday afternoon, November 15, 2015 we along with the Loudoun Interfaith Bridges and the ADAMS Center are opting for faith over fear and opening our doors to all people, for this is the prayerful path to peace.