Monday, February 25, 2008

The Ecumenical Life

Two small but wonderful things happened today that confirmed my sense that I am headed in the right direction by pursuing a calling in ministry in the context of a deep appreciation for other faith experiences.

Background Material: I taught for six years in an Orthodox Jewish school. Orthodox men do not touch women other than the ones to whom they are married. Orthodox Jews do not as a rule set foot in Christian places of worship or participate, even as observers, in Christian services of worship. Orthodox Jews do not ordain women. (That all sounds awfully negative, doesn't it? Let me hasten to add that there is great joy and energy in Orthodox Jewish life and religious observance. At the moment, I'm just supplying the backstory for the rest of the post.)

Today I went by my old school to have lunch with my former department chair; she had less than an hour's break in the middle of the day so I took lunch over and we talked and ate in an empty classroom. And of course I visited with lots of other people and had a great time talking with the students.

First Small But Wonderful Thing:

I knocked gently and opened the door to the office of one of the administrators, the father of one of my former students, whose wife died a few weeks ago after a lengthy battle with cancer. He got up immediately and came around his desk to wrap me in a huge bear hug, telling me how much he had appreciated my notes to him and his son, and the knowledge that my congregation had been praying for his family. We talked for a few moments about Jewish mourning practices, and the challenges faced by a teenaged boy who must go to special prayers three times a day but is precluded from movies and parties, both for a year's duration. I left reminded once again of how much we have to learn from one another, and how much we share despite our differences of belief and approach.

Second Small But Wonderful Thing:

I stopped in to chat with the high school principal for a bit. We have enjoyed talking out our religious lives over the past few years, and he has expressed great interest in my seminary experience and in comparing and contrasting it to his education as a rabbi. As I left, there was some laughter among those of us in the outer office about invitations to my hoped-for ordination some day in the distant future. His secretary said something about them not being able to come, and I heard him say, "She'll find a way." I don't know which was nicer; to think that someone in that role and tradition would be appreciative of my capacity for inventiveness in the name of inclusivity, or to think that it might mean something to him to be invited.

There are parts of my old life that I really really do miss.


more cows than people said...

oh, i've missed stories from the school. thanks for sharing these. glad you had these wonderful moments.

Mrs. M said...

This is really great, gannet. Thanks for sharing.

Carik said...

Your experiences at that school have certainly left an impression on your life and your post clearly shows that the same can be said about your impact on them. This understanding and acceptance of ALL humans is something for which we all must strive.

Carol said...

Oops...I need to check my hand position on the keyboard! That would be me above!

Kathryn J said...

Well - not to mention that your old life didn't involve Greek!

I'm glad you had a chance to visit with your colleagues. Semester break in February is an odd thing.

Lisa :-] said...

It's such a gift to be able to look back at your "old life" and smile... and to be able to step back into that life--if only for an hour--and be welcome. You are blessed.

Diane said...

yes, you have had such an incredible experience. and it has been great to hear about it.