Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Friends,

Tomorrow (Thursday) at noon, the Bethlehem Interfaith Group is sponsoring an hour of prayer; I will be one of the faith leaders offering a prayer as part of that.

I want to encourage you to join in, either by Zoom or on YouTube, as we offer prayers of intercession for our congregations, our community, our nation, and the world. This will not be limited to issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that will, of course, be a significant theme which will run through many of the prayers.
           
With that in mind, I want to say something about “interfaith prayer.” There are at least two ways of doing this ministry poorly, and at least one way of doing it well. The first way of doing it poorly is not to do it at all as a matter of principle. By that, I mean refusing to participate in anything in which a non-Christian offers prayer.

That, I believe, is a response rooted primarily in fear: “by listening to someone offer a prayer from another tradition, we are in danger of worshipping their god(s) and affirming their theological convictions as our own.”
To believe that is an admission that one’s own faith is too fragile to listen to other expressions of faith without crumbling and “becoming” whatever faith the person praying comes from. If that is the case, then the problem is not with the other person’s faith; it is with our own.

But we can engage other faith traditions without either becoming like them or seeking to make them become like us. We can affirm what we have in common and respect what we hold differently, understanding that difference is not the same thing as conflict or threat.
That, in turn, allows us to worship and work together on common goals even when we are motivated by very different theological reasons for doing so.

The second way of doing interfaith prayer and worship poorly is to participate using a “lowest common denominator” approach, meaning that we only use language and form and content that everyone can agree with. That is a deeply flawed approach as well, because it is the mirror image of the first one: rooted in fear of difference and an admission of our own faith’s fragility in the face of it.
 
In the prayers on Thursday, you will experience interfaith prayer and worship done well, I believe. There will be not simply “religious” prayers, but prayers out of specific faith traditions and denominations because we do not direct our prayers “To Whom It May Concern,” but to and through whom we believe God to be.

There will be elements that embody different beliefs and practices than our own; there will be elements from our own Christian faith that are expressed a bit differently than Presbyterians would typically do; and there will be elements that we all can affirm in general, such as our common commitments to working for a world defined by justice, compassion, community, and peace. And we can do that even when the theological beliefs that motivate those commitments are very different.

So: I hope you will join the Interfaith Hour of Prayer tomorrow at noon, not in spite of your Christian faith, but through it and because of it, because we need to be in constant prayer for ourselves and our world right now!

Grace and Peace,
JC

To access via Zoom:

Meeting ID: 997 3326 9693 / Password: 2GTRWEPRAY
 
Or you can join via phone (audio only): 646-558-8656
Meeting ID: 997 3326 9693 / Password: 892820

To access via YouTube: https://youtu.be/QhsX9dq9QXc

Please consider sharing our Facebook event with your friends: under the photo you'll see a drop-down menu that says "Share" - click and go to "Invite friends". You can choose who to send it to.
IN TODAY'S UPDATE:

  1. Tonight: 'Listening for God'
  2. Join us for Midday Reflections
  3. ICYMI: Driveway Sunday School
  4. Online worship resources for Sunday
  5. Prayer requests
  6. Your 'at home' communion photos
Tonight: 'Listening for God'
Tonight at 7 p.m. is our next Discipleship learning opportunity: Listening to God, facilitated by Jan Bickford. And next Tuesday is Anne Taylor's leading of a FPCB Book Club read, Devotions by Mary Oliver.

Join us for Midday Reflections
Every Tuesday and Thursday at noon.

To join the Zoom meeting:

https://zoom.us/j/335481050 / Meeting ID: 335 481 050

Via phone: call 929-205-6099 and enter the Meeting ID when prompted.

To send prayer requests:   prayer@fpc-bethlehem.org
ICYMI (In Case You Missed It): Driveway Sunday School

Our Sunday School teachers have been experimenting with different ways to bring a meaningful Sunday School experience to our children. Last Sunday they offered both a live Zoom session, coupled with pre-recorded videos of a story, lesson, and music.

They will offer the same format for this coming Sunday: the Zoom portion will be available from 10:15-10:45 a.m. on Sunday, and you can access the video portion beginning on Saturday.

All of our previously-recorded videos are available here. Check them out for your own little ones, and please share with anyone who you think might be interested!
ONLINE WORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES FOR THIS SUNDAY

9:00 a.m. - Contemporary
11:00 a.m. - Traditional*

Both services will be available on Facebook "live streaming"

* Traditional will also be available to listen on phone:
call 929-205-6099 and give this meeting ID: 955 325 387

Do you have a prayer request?
Last Sunday's communion service

Thank you to those who shared photos of their 'at home' communion service - we even heard from worshippers in Bellevue, WA!

And we'd love to receive your images of 'hope' - you can send to info@fpc-bethlehem.org.