Scheduling can be a challenge, but five faith communities are making a home together in the building of First Christian Church, Baltimore, Md. And this partnership is more than ecumenical – it is interfaith.
“While there may be irreconcilable difference on the level of religious creed, the universality of meditation across religious traditions is a path forward for deep reconciliation across religious lines,” Rabbi Andrew Stern said. “What has divided us can dissolve. Our shared humanity can be realized.”
First Christian hosted an interfaith meditation event in April organized by Stern that included Buddhists, Christians, Muslim and Jewish participants. But this interfaith group was not the congregation’s first foray into interfaith cooperation.
Since the late 1980s, Beit Tikvah, a Jewish synagogue, has been meeting in First Christian’s building. The Jewish community shares worship occasionally with the Christian groups on special occasions such as the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
But the collaborations don’t stop there. In addition, Rev. Carol Cook of First Christian reports that at 9 a.m. on a Sunday, St. Andrew’s Christian Community worships, followed at 11 a.m. by First Christian, then Mt. Olivet (also Disciples) at 12:30 p.m. and The Gathering at 5 p.m.
“We are able to welcome and value each other,” said Cook. “I encourage our clergy to meet and plan joint worship services or special events. I also try to attend the other worship services at various times throughout the year in order to maintain a presence with the other congregations and to get to know some of their members.”
The Christian congregations join together for special services like Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and Christmas Eve. Mt. Olivet brings the vibrancy of the African American tradition. The Gathering’s gift is mission and their pastor brings her Baptist background to the mix.
While First Christian has primary responsibility for the building, St. Andrew’s, a nondenominational group with Scottish Presbyterian roots, has talented gardeners who have made the flower beds beautiful.
Cook continues, “One of the real joys that I’ve experienced is the sharing of times with the other people — we just recently had a Spring Cleaning Day planned by the Interfaith Building Committee — folks from each congregation came and worked on special cleaning, trimming, repair needs, etc. We will join with four other congregations in our community area for a Memorial Day Picnic here at the FCC building on May 27 (this is our 3rd picnic year)! All of us advertise and share in each others’ service projects and/or special trips or fellowship events. I am working — all of the clergy are working — to create an interfaith environment of respect and appreciation for one another. I am indeed blessed to be a part of this living, breathing example of the church as the Body of Christ (including Jesus’ Jewish beginnings!).
The Ecumenical News featured the congregation in an article recently about the meditation gathering.