Ecumenical and interfaith ideas
"The truth is the centre of all religion," Mary Baker Eddy wrote. Here, you'll find ideas that honor that center, the "circle of faith" of which we're all a part. We hope they are helpful as you listen and contribute to the healing dialogue going on between faiths worldwide.
Christian Science in the Christian Community
By The Ecumenical Team
Now more than ever, the interfaith movement is needed to foster inclusion, harmony, and inspiration for our communities. The World Interfaith Harmony Week initiative encourages organizers to ask themselves the question, “How can we socially distance but remain socially connected in these challenging times?”
The World Interfaith Harmony week was first celebrated in 2010. It is a global interfaith movement, which occurs the first week in February every year. There are many joint virtual celebrations going on in cities and countries in 2021, that actually extend from the last week in January all through the month of February. This year especially, it is possible to get a taste of what communities around the world are doing to celebrate interfaith harmony. To get an idea of what programs will be available via online platforms that anyone can join, see the World Interfaith Harmony Week calendar.
The theme this year is: “Abide in my love…you shall bear much fruit” (John 15:1-17).
Some of the offerings are less serious than others. The non-profit organization called Children of Abraham is presenting an evening of interfaith comedy starring a Jew, a Christian, and a Muslim, on Jan. 30, 7:30pm Central time, that’s free of charge. More information on Facebook
Most of the offerings are more serious in nature. For instance, “All Interfaith” in Margate, Florida is hosting three interfaith round-tables. One is called “Intensifying the Light: Loving your Neighbor, No Exceptions”—on Feb. 8, 7:30 pm Eastern time, and it’s also free of charge. The program states: “The world’s great faith traditions teach us that even in the midst of darkness, light is always present. From the star atop the Christmas tree to the candles of Hanukkah, the lights of Diwali and the candles of Kwanzaa, we are called upon to remember that Divine Light is in each of us and in every part of Creation. In this dark time of the year, and in times that feel uncertain, it is even more important for us to intensify the Light within us, so that we can see and honor that which shines in each other, despite our differences.”
If you attend any one of the dozens of available events, we’d love to hear about your experience — join our Facebook group.
By The Ecumenical Team
As the year 2021 begins we continue to recognize the valuable roles that the Bible, the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, and prayer have played in our lives, and in the lives of our families and the world.
Recently, the National Council of Churches began a 40 Days of Prayer Initiative inviting submissions of scriptures and prayers for the world.
Members of the Ecumenical Team recently contributed Scriptures and Prayers which were selected and printed on the NCC website and emailed to a broad list. We thought you would like to read those selected and distributed. We invite you to select a scripture and write your own prayer, and post on this Facebook page.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”
—Psalms 42:11 (NRSV)
Dear God, the Father of all, reveal in us the humility, courage, discernment, and love to bring hope and healing to all in need during this unsettled time. Although at times we feel despair and sadness, we hold onto our hope in you, oh God, and continually praise you for your love and care. Amen.
Dr. Susan Humble, Christian Science Church —Posted December 17, 2020
“I am going to send an angel in front of you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared.”
—Ex 23:20 (NRSV)
Dear Father-Mother God, Open the eyes of our hearts so that we can see the angel you’ve sent who is guarding us and bringing us to the kingdom of heaven you have prepared for us, right here on earth. Open the ears of our nation to hear your direction and guidance and to find rest in your love. Bless our seeing and hearing and multiply it. Thank you for showing us the way when the darkness engulfs us. We are here for you, for your glory, for your kingdom, and not for ourselves. All will be well. All is well. Amen.
Maryl Walters, Christian Science denomination — Posted December 26, 2020
“Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
—Matthew 18:4 (NRSV)
Our mighty and gentle Father-Mother God, reveal in us the childlike spirit that eagerly welcomes lessons of redemption and seeks to share Your gifts with a world in need, daring to defiantly hope in the face of darkness, bravely chasing the shadows away as they recede into Your perpetual light. May we at once kneel before Your omnipresent wisdom and dance in Your bright glory today, witnessing the warmth of Your love as it shines on each of Your precious children, in the name of the all-embracing Christ. Amen.
Laura Lapointe, Christian Science practitioner — Posted December 27, 2020
By The Ecumenical Team
We are so pleased to welcome Laura Lapointe as a member of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Team. Laura has agreed to share her background in this work, and as you will read below, she brings a diversity of gifts to it.
“My family background includes one grandmother raised in an Italian convent and the other an Irish Protestant, along with one devout Catholic grandfather and the other a Jew who converted after finding Christian Science. It seems only natural that I would be drawn to ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, since that sort of thing could take place around our family dinner tables from an early age. Well, at least there was the potential for it. But more often discussion would focus on food and family news, the things that drew us together. This has been my model for relating to those of other faith traditions. I enjoy getting to know them and allowing them to learn about me through conversations on topics of heart and home when possible, allowing theological dialogue to happen spontaneously and authentically.
What especially drew me into meaningful relationships with Christians of other denominations was my experience with gospel choirs, starting in my early teens and particularly growing during college. It was so moving for me to see how emphatically my friends worshipped and to feel the power of this music of praise. Serving as a Reader in my branch church after college inspired me to study the Bible more closely. At that time I was also enriched by representing my church in our local interfaith clergy organization. These experiences led me to pursue a Master of Divinity.
The healing practice of Christian Science is my focus and first love, and I aspire to share what I am learning about this healing power as widely as possible. I find it to be both a healthy challenge and a delightfully broadening opportunity to engage with other Christians and in interfaith contexts where I can share Christian Science and learn from those of a variety of religious backgrounds, including those who are seekers and not tied to a particular tradition. Currently I'm participating in a neighborhood interfaith group where we have hosted some recent events on Zoom that have fed a need for many in our community during this time when people are seeking spiritual answers to serious questions. I'm also part of an ecumenical dialogue group in Southern California where we study together and have hard conversations about our differences, as well as celebrate our oneness.
Being part of the Ecumenical and Interfaith Team at The Mother Church means a great deal to me because it seems so important for us as Christian Scientists to be at these tables where deep discussions are taking place and where we have much to contribute and much to discover with our neighbors in our common efforts to uplift humanity. I'm heartily strengthened for this work by these words of Mary Baker Eddy: "When the doctrinal barriers between the churches are broken, and the bonds of peace are cemented by spiritual understanding and Love, there will be unity of spirit, and the healing power of Christ will prevail." (Pulpit and Press, Mary Baker Eddy, p 22:16-19).
I'm grateful to join with those of you who are involved in these important conversations in your community and those desiring to be more aware of these endeavors and supporting them in your prayers, so that we can share and grow together. My hope is that our honest heart-to-heart sharing around the figurative table in these blogs will lead us all to more courageously and freely offer the unique gift that Christian Science brings to the world.
At this time of year our thoughts are naturally drawn to the power of a little light to brighten the darkest space. In our efforts--even the most modest--to share the blessings of Christian Science with other corners of the world and welcome the glow of others' light, we are bearing witness to Christ, that shines on every heart with undeniable healing power.”
Guest Contributor: Monica Karal
What happens when your own family is religiously diverse and doesn’t always see eye to eye on matters of faith?
My family circle includes a Jewish mom, a Hindu, a Christian Scientist (me), and some who haven’t spoken much about religious faith. Others are active in the Salvation Army.
This fall, due to public health guidelines, mom’s Temple didn’t hold the usual services for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
Motivated by love for God and family, I prayed to know how to honour mom’s desire to participate in these Holy Days and how to bring the family together in a meaningful way. I felt led to conduct an informal Rosh Hashanah service by teleconference and invite the whole family circle. Although all of us were raised Jewish, we’ve gone in quite different directions. How could I put together a service that would be faithful to mom’s Jewish traditions and would also be meaningful to all the participants?
I was guided by the Two Great Commandments that Christ Jesus quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures: to love God with all your heart (Deuteronomy 6:5), and to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). I used mom’s Reform Jewish prayer book as a resource, and did some background research to enrich my understanding of these Holy Days.
Many passages in her prayer book were from Psalms and the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures). So on the day of our family Rosh Hashanah service, I read those aloud with reverence. We dug deep into the spiritual themes of these Holy Days. After reading from Scripture, I invited the participants to share their reflections on the themes that emerged: justice, righteousness, lovingkindness, peace, light, repentance, and renewal. In the sacred space created by the readings about God’s lovingkindness, mercy, and forgiveness, the participants were able to speak from the heart, sharing thoughts that perhaps had not been expressed before. We talked about making peace with the past, setting fresh goals, and looking forward to regeneration and renewal.
I presented some passages from the Torah that highlight the strong sense of social justice upheld by Jewish law. For example, we discussed the Jubilee Year, a time of renewal which was
Instituted every fifty years and was devoted to restoration of property and to freeing people from debts and servitude.
During this experience, I was able to share a bit about the Christian Science understanding of God as characterized by justice, mercy, wisdom, and lovingkindness. These attributes of God are found in most religions. As our Rosh Hashanah service unfolded, I increasingly felt the impartial and universal Christ light bringing warmth and brightness to our gathering and to the whole idea of multi-faith encounters.
Two days after our family Rosh Hashanah, I was listening to the online Sunday service of my Christian Science church when I suddenly heard something special outside. I opened the window to see what was happening. An orthodox Jewish man wrapped in a talit (prayer shawl) was blowing a shofar outside. The shofar is a ram’s horn that was used in ancient Israel to announce important public and religious events, and it continues to be sounded today on High Holy Days. I felt moved with respect for the heartfelt traditions of my Jewish forebears and their commitment to monotheism, which I now understand better since I’ve been studying the Hebrew Scriptures more deeply.
I’ve been praying lately about reconciliation between Jews and Christians, and I’m grateful to be witnessing interesting developments right where I live. I recently moved to an area which I soon discovered to have many Chassidic Jewish residents. I’ve gained renewed appreciation for their way of life: their strong sense of community, their commitment to Tzedakah (righteousness and charitable works), their cherishing of children, and the quiet sense of peace that permeates the neighbourhood when they take their weekly sabbath day of rest. Since their synagogues have generally been closed during the pandemic, some worshippers stand outside on their home balconies to sing prayers together, a lovely way of meeting the religious requirement of a minyan (minimum of ten worshippers) to hold community worship. When a few neighbors complained about the singing, many non-Jewish neighbors posted supportive messages on social media such as, “We love to hear you pray!”
Recently, I listened to a sabbath service offered online by my mom’s Temple, and I was touched when the rabbi said, “The best way to love God is to take good care of God’s creation.” Honouring spiritual diversity and togetherness close to home can be an important way of caring for God’s creation.
If you are interested in interfaith activities in your town, and don’t know where to start, this will be a good learning opportunity. Blessings,The Mother Church’s Ecumenical and Interfaith Team
How does The First Church of Christ, Scientist participate in ecumenical affairs?
Ecumenical Affairs works under the auspices of the Committee on Publication, and is engaged in ‘correcting in a Christian manner’ the misconceptions of Christian Science, particularly within the Christian community. Ecumenical team activities include writing pieces that appear on christianscience.com and articles for The Christian Science Journal and Christian Science Sentinel, and participating in ecumenical conferences, meetings, and organizations such as the National Council of Churches.
What is ecumenism?
Ecumenism is a worldwide movement among Christians to promote unity between Christian churches or denominations (or ‘communions’) in response to Jesus’ prayer that we be one (John 17:21). It recognizes the body of Christ in its entirety, learning to understand the ways, values, and communications styles of our fellow Christians. Ecumenical dialogue is vibrant and respectful, welcoming the gifts of others, while maintaining the integrity and purpose of each Christian faith tradition.
Why should Christian Scientists participate?
The ongoing dialogue with Christian leaders, clergy, and religion educators allows everyone to grasp better the idea exactly why Christian Science is Christian.All churches and denominations are concerned with maintaining the purity of their ideas and practice of religion, and the ecumenical dialogue respects that integrity in others. It is with a spirit of humility that Christians value one another's faith and service to the common cause of Christianity. As we learn from others, we often find ourselves learning to appreciate and articulate better our own denominational roots. We have the opportunity to cultivate bonds of love and dispel misunderstandings. Ecumenism is one of many ways to practice active Christianity.One of the most compelling reasons Christian Scientists have become ecumenically involved is that other Christians have been asking for us to participate in the greater dialogue and especially to explain and share our unique gifts more widely.
Talking to other Christians about Christian Science
One of the greatest stumbling blocks to successful ecumenical engagement can be the language we use. Every church or denomination has its own jargon, which can be baffling or unwittingly offensive to others. Without understanding the language, culture, and history of others, we often find ourselves trying to share our most precious ideas only to discover they mean something entirely different to our listeners. With love for others, we make the effort to learn their Christian ‘language’ in order to communicate the greatest depth of thought. Just as we maintain our own culture and identity when we learn a foreign language, we also maintain the identity of Christian Science while we learn the Christian practices and theology of others.
Prayer and insights about ecumenical engagement
Getting our assumptions right in interfaith work by Brian Talcott
Opening closed doors by Maryl Walters
Invitation to worship by Kristin Jamerson
What Christian Scientists Believe (Video) by Madelon Maupin, Brian Talcott, Eric Nelson
Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon (who first invited the Christian Science Church to engage in the ecumenical movement, 2008)
Video: Mary Baker Eddy — A Heart in Protest
Responding to common questions
Michael Kinnamon talks about the meaning of ecumenical dialogue (YouTube video)
Discussion with Michael Kinnamon about Christian Science in ecumenical dialogue (in The Christian Science Journal)