Dear Parishioners and Friends,
Pete and I spent the weekend in Shanghai, which is an exciting and cosmopolitan city full of history and culture. He had to get back to Shenzhen for work, so for most of this week I have been traveling solo. I miss having him with me, but being on my own has forced me to sharpen my wits and interact more with local people.
This has been a real blessing to me. I do not speak Mandarin (other than “hello” and “thank you”), and most of the people I have encountered speak little or no English. Translation apps will only get you so far, so often encounters have to be worked through with some creativity.
I have found the people here to be warm and eager to help a stranger in need. It is not hard to tell who is the stranger, as I stick out like a sore thumb in a crowd as the only tall, bearded Anglo. It is amusing to smile at a toddler who can’t stop staring at me, or to catch an elderly woman snapping a picture of me.
Perhaps it is this “otherness” that brings our “sameness” into sharper focus. While visiting a Confucian temple, I read a plaque written in numerous languages abut their beliefs. It read in part, “Benevolence is a core value of Confucianism that represents the highest moral principles, standards, and ambitions. People are to love one another with sincerity, and to respect the dignity of every human being.” I immediately thought of our own Baptismal Covenant. To be sure, our faiths diverge in a number of ways, but the core values of love and respect seem universal.
In our “us versus them” world, it is easy to lose sight of these common goals of the human spirit. Tribalism is in our DNA, and it can be a very comfortable place. However as Christians, we have not only shared aspirations with other religions, but the example of Jesus Christ himself. He broke the chains of tribalism and called all people into his loving embrace. He calls us still to do the same.
Blessings, Father Rick