Originally written for the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch newsletter.
Most Rev. Theodore Feldmann
"No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your God in heaven" (Matthew 5:15-16).
This past August, I joined Bishops Mark and Linda and Linda’s husband, Phil, at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. It was my first time attending the Parliament and it was quite an experience.
I have been to a lot of conventions. The American Guild of Organists or the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (Roman Catholic) may attract a maximum of 3,000. The Parliament drew over 7,000!
There was a good bit of chaos: The technology in use for registration had a meltdown causing long lines; many workshops and presentations were moved at the last minute causing a lot of frustration and missed meetings; some meetings were held in an area where it was very difficult to hear the speakers; the large morning gatherings were often loud: Lots of amplification. For an introvert, it could be overwhelming.
But what was impressive was the remarkable patience and kindness demonstrated by those in attendance when things went wrong. We helped each other find our way. The meditation experiences, such as the labyrinth, were very popular. People were taking care of themselves on a spiritual level.
These religious people were, well, really nice folks. They were there to celebrate their own faith traditions and those of others, learning from each other and seeking common ground in the quest for justice and peace, for all people and for our planet. So often, religion is part of the problem in conflicts around the world. These people were working to be part of the solution
I was particularly touched by a group called the Abrahamic Reunion, which showed several films of their work in bringing the four Abrahamic traditions (Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Druze) of the Holy Land together. I am deeply move when I think of those fine people as we see war erupt once again. I attended a Gnostic mass. I saw a powerful film about 4 young people of various traditions whose homes are being threatened by global warming and who were invited to come to Rome and meet Pope Francis to discuss his hopes for saving our planet. I met a group of Unity ministers, visited with the Roman Catholic Women Priests at their table, chatted with a man selling exquisite singing bowls from Tibet. I saw more Sikhs than I have ever seen in one place. I listened to an organ concert with music chosen to revere the earth. The frustration was in having to choose between so many fascinating presentations
Many folks seem to look forward to seeing the colorful attire and rituals of the various groups. I was told that Christians were in the minority. Other than a few Roman priests, who could tell? Most, I assume, were in “civilian” clothes. We joined in by wearing our purple attire at all events and it was a catalyst for some interesting conversations: The retired Episcopal Bishop of California thought I was one of his confreres and he learned a bit about independent catholicism as a result; several people from India wondered if I was Anglican; I chatted with a Lutheran pastor from Denmark and several rabbis. I had a long conversation with a Pakistani man living in an area where his people had been recently attacked. It gave me a bit of a start to see a very tall Imam (?) who looked disturbingly like Osama bin Laden. But the Parliament invites us not to judge by appearance. We were all there in peace, standing for justice.
I often think that many independent/old catholic clergy seem almost invisible. Are we unsure of ourselves? Do we sometimes feel like imposters? I remember being told that Archbishop Meri Spruitt, in speaking to someone about to be ordained at Loreto Chapel, should wear her collar proudly as she walked through the streets of Santa Fe, to have the claim her role and have the experience. Good for Meri Spruitt!
We need to let our lights shine, especially as we gather with other folks in ecumenical settings. We have lit the lamp of ordination. Letting it shine at these events is good for us. It also can inspire dialogue and invite us to reach out to others