Why do you come to church? I read recently of a man who had this to say about it: “Salvation is not the driving reason I go to church. I go because I keep hoping we can talk about how Christianity is part of the bigger picture, how the Christian way leads beyond Christianity to something greater than itself.” (Christian Century, June 11, 2014, p. 33) This guy “wants to know how his faith equips him to live in a world of many faiths, without giving up the particular wisdom that his religion brings to the table”. (Ibid.)
A group of Christians from a variety of Protestant congregations hosted a prayer event in Pomona last July. There is a sort of campaign going on in our city to “Pray for Pomona.” The event was held at the Fairplex, a public facility owned by Los Angeles County. The group that sponsored the event is decidedly Christian, Protestant and mostly evangelical. There are many other religious groups in Pomona who also pray.
There are four Buddhist communities, two Muslim communities, one Jewish community, a Unity church, three Roman Catholic communities and who knows how many other variations on the theme “religious community” call Pomona home. Can we pray even together among these communities or is there not enough common ground?
St. Augustine wrote that when you are in the middle of the sea in a storm, pray to heaven and row to shore. We live in lots of storms: violence, apathy, corruption. It can feel like we have no power to influence any change so the only thing left to do is appeal to God: pray. Augustine says praying is one thing we can do and there is still another we must do.
Rowing to shore today means establishing and developing relationships with people outside the groups like us, even when it is uncomfortable, even when it forces us to rethink our own beliefs and values. It is much safer to surround ourselves with people who think like us, believe like us, but then we’d just be treading water.
If you are like the man who wants to know how his faith equips him to live in a world of many faiths, without giving up the wisdom of your own faith, our congregation is rowing with people of other faith traditions and even secular traditions. It’s called organizing and our group in the Inland Empire is called Inland Communities Organizing Network – ICON. We are learning to row together and listening to the way each of us prays. Next time the boat comes around, you might want to get in for a while and row with us.