Over fifty participants from the western border of Connecticut to the north shore of Boston gathered for an Interfaith Exploration on Zoom on February 21. Confirmation students, along with the pastors and mentors from nine congregations heard from student panelists from Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim faith traditions. The Faith Formation team has developed a series of Confirmation Enrichment programs in response to Covid-19, while in-person gatherings and retreats are on hold.
The program featured a panel of four students: Martin Mugerwa, a Catholic from Uganda, Amber Hai, a Muslim from California, Batya Ellinoy, a Rabinical student at Hebrew College, and Megan Strouse, a member of the UCC who is at BU School of Theology.
The Interfaith Exploration was offered as an opportunity for SNEUCC youth to hear various stories of call.
“God is persistent, even though we sometimes push God away.” said Amber Hai, a Muslim who is studying to be a chaplain at Hartford Seminary. “I was the kid in Sunday school who was always questioning.”
“I knew from the time I was in high school that I wanted to be a rabbi. I had amazing role models, people who were incredibly patient, and kind, and knowledgeable,” commented Batya Ellinoy.
“I remember when I was a teen and my grandfather was sick in the ICU,” recounted Martin Mugerwa. “A chaplain came to pray with us. I was inspired and I told him, ‘I want to be like you.’”
Megan Strouse related, “Growing up I never saw female role models in my church so I never imagined myself as a person going into ministry. Years later when I found the United Church of Christ, I thought ‘This place is amazing! I can be my full self. I want to live here!’ ”
The youth participants were then asked to consider where God is calling them to serve. “Not everyone is on a path to ordination or graduate education in religious studies, but each of is called to use our gifts in service to the common good and to heal brokenness in the world,” said Debby Kirk, SNEUCC Faith Formation Team Leader.
Another goal of the event was to consider some of the similarities in these three Religious traditions. Youth heard readings from the Qu’ran, the Talmud, and the Bible (shared in Arabic, Hebrew, Swahili, and English) that speak of the common commitment to care for the poor and the vulnerable.
The Golden Rule runs across religious practice and Mugerwa related that Catholics are taught to first consider the needs of the poor and vulnerable.
Serve Allah, and do good- to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer (ye meet), and what your right hands possess: For Allah loveth not the arrogant, the proud” (Qur’an 4:36).
“As Jews, we remember that we were once strangers who were alienated and oppressed. We seek to express hospitality to the outcast,” commented Ellinoy.
“Islam has five pillars of faith and one of them is alms-giving. Part of being faithful is giving and extending charity,” said Amber.
Youth were then asked to name the ways that their own congregations are caring for the community and came up with an extensive list: Diaper Drives and collections for local food pantries, Family Promise support for the homeless, Hearts of Hope for mental health, Mother’s Against Violence, and Worcester Area Mission Society (WAMSworks)
Panelists also identified a variety of spiritual practices that help them grow close to God. Martin Mugerwa noted that he uses rosary beads as a way to become calm and to meditate. Megan offered that in the season of Lent she has been journaling, and also using Visio Divina or mediation on an image of God.
“Muslims pray five times a day and this is my recharging moment, when I have conversation with my God, said Amber. “Sometimes I pray scriptures and sometimes I use my own words.”
“Sometimes we can clarify our own beliefs through comparison and contrast, but we don’t always have opportunities for this kind of personal conversation,” said Kirk. “Our hope is that this program fostered respect and sparked further reflection.”
What’s up with Not Talking about Religion? Check out this resource from the Interfaith Youth Core
The Nurturing Faith Confirmation Enrichment Series continues…
- Many Faces of Discipleship at Super Saturday (Full- registration closed)
- UCC Beliefs and the 6 Ws on Sunday April 25
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Debby Kirk is the Faith Formation Team Leader of the Southern New England Conference. She serves on the Faith Formation Team and oversees the Youth and Young Adult Ministries programs of the Conference. She organizes leadership development programs ...