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

January 14, 2011

BECAUSE IT’S THERE

One or the key things we have been trying to emphasize with our Confirmation Class is: Christianity is but one of the major religions. We want our students to realize that we worship God and the Son of God, Jesus… and that we revere other religions that work for the good of humankind.

If we are to emphasize that Christianity is one among many, we also have to emphasize why I or we adhere to the Christian faith. Declaring Christianity “the best” and then ignoring all other faiths is not the way to strengthen ones own faith. Showing respect for other faiths and exercising your beliefs in the world seems the best way. We spend time discussing what it is about our Christian faith that holds us tightly and makes a difference in our lives.

But along the way, we must survey the rest of the world. As I approach the age of 60, I have the sneaking suspicion that the world is made up of more than just the beliefs and perspectives of one white, middle-aged, mid-western American man. We are in a time where, whether it is politics, religion or sports, there is a suspicion that acknowledging another’s religion, political leanings or sports team is a betrayal of our own core beliefs. Many seem to believe that another’s point of view, which differs from ours is inherently wrong and is to be shouted down.

We spent some time the other night in Confirmation discussing whether acknowledging the dignity and grace of another religion is a betrayal of Christianity. The class answered with a resounding “No!”

I was delighted.

And so, it is with such notions of exploring other cultures and religions, that I begin a Sabbatical for 8 weeks.

You can follow along with my blog. In all the discussions about this trip, I don’t think there is one place I have mentioned that I haven’t had several folks say, “Hey, I’ve been there”…and then received a few good pointers about that city or region. I like that. My route is rather simple: start in Istanbul and work my way back west along the northern Mediterranean. Along the way, I hope to see where civilizations have begun and been buried and risen again. I will see the great monuments to other religions and cultures. Perhaps I’ll discover some insights for myself.

I have a book on my shelves, which gives the history of the mission school in Zambia where I taught in the 1970’s. The school was begun in the early 1900’s and the book shows an oxcart bringing missionaries through southern Africa to the site of the school. It amazes me that I am a descendant of those ox-cart driving settlers through my teaching of the Zambian students at the old mission school. It seems strange that this Mid-western boy from Ohio was part of a long succession of the Methodists of the London Missionary Society, which worked its way from England to South Africa to (then) Northern Rhodesia. It intrigues me the way cultures ebb and flow.

It is that sort of interaction that I seek along the upper Mediterranean. Turkey, Athens, Rome, Florence, Spain, Paris. Stops along the way include cathedrals and mosques and bazaars. The familiar and the not-so familiar.

My traveling companion is daughter Makaila who just finished Graduate School and has done some traveling of her own in Japan and Russia. I’ve got a small computer and if there is an internet connection, I’ll blog about it and you can follow us along the trail. The Sunday School kids can see photos each week of some particular site we have visited; the Confirmation Class will have assignments which they will have to Google and then discuss the following Monday in Confirmation Class with Beth Sullivan or Pastor Lisa.

One of the Confirmands said, “So every five years the church lets you go travel around the world?!” I said, “Every five years the church gives me a Sabbatical to renew myself, I get to travel around the world if I choose to pay for it out of my pocket.” But frankly, I want to share my time as I travel and will do so via the blog and other writings. I have a general idea of where to go but no set tourist itinerary. I would like to think that perhaps I will wander a bit. We’ll fly, take trains, ferries and buses and make up the specific itinerary as we go.

We begin in Istanbul on January 20 and you’ll begin by visiting  www.revbobsjourney.blogspot.com

You’ll just have to check in with it every day and see what I have posted. I will continue to do a weekly e-gram, which will appear in your mailbox but you’ll have to make an effort to see my blog.

I wonder what we’ll all discover along the way.

Peace, Rev. Bob Tussing

To follow Bob's journey via his blog, check in daily at:   www.revbobsjourney.blogspot.com

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