Dear Colleagues and Friends,
I seek your indulgence as I reflect on the 50th anniversary of my ordination this Saturday. It was preceded by my organizing a Center for Theological Education in the Urban Setting that in turn helped organize the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s first initiative in the North. A picture of his speaking on the steps outside the locked doors of a deplorable intercity school remains in my office.
My theological studies included reading the sacred texts of major world religions, studying Hebrew scripture with rabbis and taking classes at Jesuit, Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist and United Church of Christ seminaries. My ordination service was interracial and included clergy from Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Protestant faith traditions. They participated in the rite of ordination by the “laying on of hands” as did a laywoman from an inner-city human service program because I wanted to celebrate the Holy Spirit moving through laity as well as clergy.
It was avant-gard at that time and unfortunately remains the same today. It seems natural to think our particular beliefs, approach to worship and claim to divine favor are more authentic than others. Some claim to being elected by God or being God’s chosen people at the exclusion of others. Under these circumstances there is no reason to associate with people of other faiths except to convert them to our superior faith tradition.
As the Interfaith Community Liaison, I have the privilege of worshipping in Eastern and Western faith traditions and becoming friends with a broad spectrum of people who are immeasurably enriching my life. What I and others are experiencing is that the more we cross lines of difference, the more we realize we are the same. Our histories and approaches to the divine are different, but as we worship and work together in service of others, we discover the divine in terms that overcome our differences.
I think this is why interfaith alliances among faith leaders are growing in Montgomery County, Interfaith Dialogues on Cultural Bias are being planned for a third year, some 60 interfaith communities are assimilating refugees, Muslims are inviting others to celebrate the breaking of their daily fasts at lifter dinners, faith leaders are inviting colleagues from other faiths to pray, teach and preach in their houses of worship.
The greatest benefit is discovering, that regardless of the name we attribute to the creator and sustain of life, we are sisters and brothers of one human family. The more we are together, the more we experience the unifying power of love dissolving our sense of superiority and leaving us humble and deeply grateful.
50 years ago I could not have imagined being an Interfaith Community Liaison in a place like Montgomery County. My brother, Martin Luther King, Jr., had convinced me of the universal power of love, but its context was largely ecumenical. Today it is profoundly interfaith. I cannot envision the next 50 years, but I’m optimistic thanks to my Zoroastrian, Buddhist, Hindu, Unitarian Universalist, Bahai’l, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Christians sisters and brothers.
Rev. Mansfield “Kasey” Kaseman