Dear friends,

Recently I was invited to join a women’s interfaith book club.  Each month we read a book from authors who are either Jewish, Muslim, or Christian.  The focus of this group is to draw us away from our comfortable or familiar readings into words and understandings from another’s belief and point of view.  We began by reading Huston Smith’s The World Religions to help us see how these three faith traditions come from the same biblical narrative and ground us in our worship of God.  As I read authors of other faith traditions, I have found humor, grief, conundrums, and resolve in the books; emotions we can all identify with and build conversations around.  

I have found this group to be helpful in my own personal growth as I read and dialog with the others about my views of the monthly book choice.  Our goal is not to explore deep theological interpretations, but instead to have open discussion about what we may have learned and how we felt reading the books as women of varying ages and experiences in this world we share. These are delightful and rich conversations that draw us closer together as we reveal ourselves to one another.  I look forward to years of growing together with these newfound friends.

Over the past years we have heard and read a lot about “others”. Many of the comments speak about people’s race, the countries they live in, their faith expressions, or political beliefs they may hold.  Some of these statements are contentious and insulting in nature, meant to divide rather than draw people together for the common good. It may seem like there are more people who speak in offensive ways, but the truth of the matter is statements like these have always been part of the human conversations, however now there are more media outlets broadcasting them.  Our passage this week from the Gospel of John is an example of how humanity has always judged and voiced critical opinions when we hear Nathaniel exclaim “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”.  Yes, Nathaniel, good can come from Nazareth and indeed all countries in our world as we will discover this Sunday, when we explore this passage in light of Human Relations Day.     

This year I will be reading a variety of books that explore race, cultures, and different faith traditions. I invite you to join me in this mission. These books will be selected to help us build bridges in our community and beyond. Currently I am reading Beyond Tolerance, How People Across America Are Building Bridges Between Faiths, by Gustav Niebuhr, the great-nephew of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. Going forward I will post the book title at the beginning of the month and then set up a Zoom gathering on the last Wednesday of each month so we can share our thoughts.  The first conversation will be Wednesday, February 24 at 6:30 PM.  I don’t intend this to be a women’s book club, but instead one that offers something for everyone as we deepen our mission work in the world, the work of sharing the love of Jesus to all people.

Sharing in God’s love,
Jeri