Weekly e-newsletter for members and friends of the Dublin Community Church
December 12, 2008
No Shirt, No Shoes, Complete Service
I was not certain what to say because I was taken a bit off guard, but I told the gentleman, “Yes, go right ahead and pray.”
It was after worship a few weeks ago and an Indian Gentleman wanted to see me. He approached me right when I was in line after church greeting the congregation. He had not been in worship and came in from the parking lot and he asked to speak with me. Such things are not that unusual for a pastor. People, all the time, ask to speak with us about various things.
Since I had people exiting the sanctuary waiting to shake my hand, I asked the gentleman to wait for 5 minutes and then I would be glad to speak with him. He thanked me and stepped to the side.
Five minutes later I was done. He approached me again and asked if, before he spoke with me, he could go to our altar and “offer prayers.”
That sounded good to me and I said, “Certainly.”
He then asked if he should remove his shoes and I said, “No, you are fine.”
A minute later I saw him in the front of the sanctuary with his hands folded in prayer, reciting some litany or prayer (and his shoes on).
Here was a Hindu praying to God at our altar standing before the cross. Not an everyday occurrence in Dublin.
Should I have allowed that? He looked like any Christian standing respectfully before God and offering a prayer.
A few years back in India I visited numerous Hindu temples, which are a combination of religious sites, community centers, bazaars and general focal points of the entire town or city. I was allowed to go in and walk through, as long as I was respectful. It was clear that I was not Hindu, but I was always invited to walk through and look.
In many temples, there are the “holy of holy” places to which a non-Hindu is not allowed. I certainly took no offense. And for the most part we were not given a second glance (save for the sellers of trinkets and whatnots outside the temple…in which case, I was a prime customer-target. Chimundy Hill was my awakening to the joys and headaches of being such a target, but that story is for another time.)
I have mentioned before of visiting the Hindu temple in Northern Sri Lanka where I had to remove my sandals and my shirt. I have no idea why I had to remove my shirt, but other men were doing so. Standing in the temple, shoeless and shirtless, I was invited by the temple priest to come forward to receive some sort of temple food…which resembled Chex-mix of all things. Further back in the temple I was also invited to be “blessed” like the dozen Hindus present as the priest sort of “bathed” us in incense smoke over and around our heads.
I know that many of our Christian friends are insistent that only Christians come to the altar or that those of other faiths should convert first before coming before the cross and altar. But, on that Sunday morning, I saw a very simple thing.
I saw a man of another faith tradition showing respect for our sacred place by offering to remove his shoes. And he showed an understanding that many Christians continue to debate… i.e., whether our God is accessible to people of other faiths. The Hindu gentleman certainly thought that our God was worthy of respect and would hear his prayers.
Who am I to question that? Turns out, I am the convert.
Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing