Recent renewed discussions in our area as well as our state and nation have brought to the surface once again the issue of separation of church and state, prayer at government meetings, prayer in school, a chapel at our State Capital. Along with that a law passed by other states and ours addressing and the forbidding of the use of “foreign laws” to be imposed in our state. The decision was in essence meant to address the much debated issue of Sharia Law. I found the decision curious at best as if those who espouse the idea that we are a “Christian” nation, based on the laws of the Bible, those same laws are certainly well considered as “foreign” laws, certainly not originating here in the U.S.A.
All of this came close to home for me a few weeks ago when I was contacted to do the invocation at our Wichita City Council Meeting. I wrestled with the idea, as a clergy person in the city I certainly did not want to turn down the opportunity to be present and offer words of hope and grace for our city, our leaders, and all of our citizens. At the same time as Senior Minister here at College Hill with our long tradition of progressive theology and practice I wanted to be sensitive to the openness of faith and true to the witness of who we are in the city. As a board member of the local chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State I also wanted to make sure I offered non-sectarian words of hope for all of our city. I did accept the invitation and shared in that time identification that we are a city fill with a diverse tapestry of religious practice and non-religious practice and asked for the grace and wisdom of the Divine Presence that connects us all.
Research shows over the last two years there have been very few invocations offered at our local city council meetings and our county commissioner meetings by clergy or others of faith traditions different than Christianity and the majority of the prayers have been very sectarian. I believe in a country founded on freedom of religion in government sponsored meetings and events if a prayer of any kind is offered it should be sensitive to the fact that all those who hear are not necessarily of the particular faith tradition of the speaker and the words should be respectful of that fact.
Unfortunately too many of our fellow followers of Jesus believe we somehow have the market cornered on God and all other expressions of faith and practice are inferior and wrong. I could not disagree more! The Spirit moves in and among all of humankind and creation and we participate with that Spirit in the tradition that most deeply feeds our body, heart, soul, and mind; as Matthew Fox relates the saying from Meister Eckhart, “God is a great underground river that no one can dam up an dno one can stop.” There is one great river of the Divine and there are many wells of faith, practice, and tradition which tap into that river.
Ultimately it is about community, respect, grace, and love an as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Such are words to live by and exist in the peace of the Spirit among us. Join us this Sunday as we continue to Celebration Series, “The Loyal Opposition; Ponderings of a Protest-ant Christian,” and “Cornering the Market on God.” It is going to be another Great Day at the Hill!
It is one of the many ways we seek to be faithful to the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the family. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table. Not Your Ordinary Church.
Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.