Today at Hospice, a Jehovah's Witness proselytized to myself and my fellow spiritual care volunteer about her faith. I'm not sure how often I've been on the receiving end of such a strong impulse to convert me (even my Mormon friend doesn't try that!) But she was so dedicated to her faith, supporting her through the death of her spouse. I couldn't agree with her about her Savior and his Resurrection, but we all agreed on the importance of hope and community, which permeate most faiths. We just give the light that sustains us in the darkness different names. Christ, God, Jehovah, Allah, Buddha, Spirit, Love, Mother Nature, Beloved Community . . . even science and humanity. Afterwards, I spoke with my colleague, who is Jewish (and so was equally unmoved by the conversion attempt), and we continued our discussion of faith, hope, and community and how we functioned in a predominantly Roman Catholic environment. She likes Psalm 23 but rarely recites the Lord's Prayer, since it isn't about honest or true connection for her. I've done the Lord's Prayer and "Amazing Grace" but not the Catholic blessing with the cross on the forehead. For both of us, listening to patients and their families, truly connecting with them, serving our communities is a main tenet of our faiths, above and beyond communion, salvation, and witness. Beyond this deep conversation, we talked kids and Connecticut. I'm going to enjoy working with her.
The conversation reminded me of church, where I'm teaching RE this year--the kiddos' class, even. "Neighboring Faiths" is the curriculum, which introduces kids to other religions--Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Catholicism, Protestantism--through visitors and field trips. I'm really looking forward to it, which is why I volunteered to teach (it'll help with my hospice work, too, even if most patients are RC.) I think it's really important for the kids, too. I learned through going to church with childhood friends--whoever I spent the night with on Saturday, I'd go to church with on Sunday (mostly on the Protestant spectrum, though--Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Southern Baptist, some Catholic, and my Hindu neighbors, though they didn't go to temple much.) The kids groan a bit about going, but they know it's important to me. And maybe, years from now, it will help them in their own discussions of faith and interactions with people of other faiths. Or, they might even change faith communities. Okay, sure, I'd be shocked if they became Catholic--like my cousin did, becoming a monk even--but I think as long as they kept to the spirit of UU principles--the worth of all beings, the importance of community, the responsible search for truth and justice, the respect for different sources of wisdom--well, it'd make for some good conversations.
Besides, having a better understanding of Catholicism will come in handy for our trip to Italy in the spring!