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Weekly e-Gram for members and friends of Dublin Community Church

December 31, 2010

AND WHEN YOU PRAY...

A couple weeks ago, I was at the graduation ceremonies of the University of Dayton. Our youngest daughter received her Masters in Clinical Counseling, and we were there to see her receive her diploma.

It was in the field house, and everything went quite well. The graduation had the right amount of pomp and ceremony and recognition of each graduate. The speakers were brief and to the point. It was a good morning. To begin the ceremony, a Priest offered the opening prayer. I listened and realized he was actually naming Jesus and praying with ease and with conviction. He offered good words over the graduates and the institution, mentioned Jesus a few more times and finished. I was surprised that Jesus was mentioned so many times.

Then I remembered. “Oh, that’s right. This is a Roman Catholic University!” It was a good prayer, delivered appropriately for the institution it is and for the graduates and families who were of diverse faith communities. I am certain that many were Protestant Christians. I think that several were Hindu and Jewish. I know that several were Muslim.

It’s a new day out there folks, for two reasons. One, is that American society is so religiously diverse. It’s not just Catholics, Presbyterians and Jews anymore. Second, people are SO sensitive about NOT being proselytized when a public prayer is offered. The Christian minister, Priest or Rabbi has to be aware of his/her audience. People do not want to be “prayed” into another’s religion.

I remember being asked to offer the prayer at a Preschool Christmas Program. The program was more about Santa than Jesus, but the director really wanted me to offer a blessing. I did so. I prayed to God and gave thanks for “this blessed and holy season.” Afterwards, a woman whom I did not know, thanked me for not trying to convert her husband (who was Jewish). Turns out, she was Christian and later she joined the church and I became friends with her husband.

Last Fall our church held an Iftar with one of our Muslim groups of friends. The Muslims showed us how they call their faithful to prayer and asked us to offer one of our prayers. Pastor Lisa suggested we say the Lord’s Prayer. I would not have thought of doing so, but it worked well. None of the Muslims felt themselves being coerced into the Christian faith. They trusted us and thus they were able to hear what our most sacred Christian prayer sounds like. Frankly, I think a number of the Muslims were somewhat familiar with the prayer anyway.

A few years ago, I was in a Hindu temple in Northern Sri Lanka. There was a Hindu worship leader, about two dozen Hindus and three of us Christians from the States. This was a pretty isolated territory, and we three white people were rather conspicuous. It was easy to tell that we were not Hindu. And yet the leader of the Hindu service offered us a blessing also. It was clear that he did not do so in order to rope us into being Hindu. He did so because his religion offers blessings to all, not just those who practice his faith.

I think that is what the Priest at the Graduation ceremony understood also. We would expect him to exercise his faith in that historic Roman Catholic institution and yet he was respectful of the various faith traditions there that morning.

The key, seems to be; is the person offering the prayer by reaching out to God AND to all those who gather? Or is the person who prays trying to reach out to God and exclude those who do not worship his/her way?

Like I said, it’s not just Catholics, Presbyterians and Jews around here any more. When you pray; Express your faith. Respect your neighbor’s faith. Draw the circle wide.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing

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