Coming from a background rooted in Protestant Pauline Christianity, I challenged myself to be open to both "mainline" and "esoteric" forms of faith. I'll admit that I found the lessons pertaining to drumming. candles and chanting/singing to be a stretch to my way of expressing spirituality. After sitting back , digesting and rereading the lessons I more readily appreciate and accept the messages that were given. This was reinforced in the lesson summary by Reverend Kythera Ann in stating "Interfaith encourages people to discover new ways to worship". I would say that personally I will form this to be read as "As an Interfaith Minister I will discover new ways to worship and will openly accept and honour these ways".
As a result of this Comparative Religions course I have continued to study religion and ethics. Most recently I have been studying the Qur’an learning the Word and traditions of the newest of the Abrahamic faiths. It is comforting to find the words of peace and love in this holy book of Islam. It is also saddening to see how the messages of spiritual growth have been perverted and applied in the name of “religion”. Mainstream Christianity has been guilty of this many times and it is worrisome how the three “major” monotheistic faiths have strayed from the path and messages of the personal spiritual development of faith. Reverend Kythera Ann ably presented an introduction to the philosophy and mysticism of early Christianity and various other faiths. The Secret Teachings of all Ages (Manly P. Hall) and The Golden Bough (Sir James G. Frazer) have been wonderful resources, as suggested by Reverend Kythera Ann. Spirituality through the ages, based both on what we can and can’t see and our attempts to understand and quantify faith. I’m even getting a primer on Pagan beliefs as well. I was very wrong in my preconceived notions of the tenets of Wicca, and have become more comfortable with this earth based faith. I highly recommend the book Wicca and Witchcraft for Dummies.
Reverend Kythera Ann presented some excellent information of the philosophy and history of early Christianity, particularly the Council of Nicaea, the lost Gospels and the Triune nature of God/Son/Spirit. I am fascinated how the ages old philosophy of Socrates of the three principles of all things, God/matter/ideas, has been incorporated into the “modern” Holy Trinity. That ancient sun worship with the three daily solar phases of dawn/growth, midday/maturity, sunset/decay are themes of life, death and resurrection that are prevalent in many faiths and spiritually resonate through the ages. My favourite example of that is St. Patrick using the shamrock as an explanation of the Holy Trinity and how this seamlessly blended into the Druid based beliefs of the native Celtic people of Ireland. The application of this “Holy Three”, and its’ continued sacredness in mythology, rituals, and religion is a field of study that I intend to devote a significant amount of study to while I continue to grow spiritually. From a spiritual standpoint, humankind has over the ages attempted to codify this philosophy into formalized religion rather than allow individual exploration of faith. This is certainly true of the more dogmatic Protestant Pauline version of Christianity on which I was religiously, but not spiritually, raised upon. The focus tended to be form and function rather than faith and spirituality. Although labelling defeats the purpose of individual spirituality, I primarily consider myself to be a follower of the messages of Jesus of Nazareth. I also consider myself to be an eternal spiritual traveler, open to new ideas and paths. Reverend Kythera Ann has truly succeeded in presenting this course in a manner that requires the student to go outside of their spiritual comfort zone.
In conclusion , Comparative Religion strives to find commonalities inherent in the many paths of spirituality. For the differences we are taught to understand, respect and value them. It is up to us as Interfaith Ministers to effectively apply the knowledge gained in this course and to serve all without reservation or bias when we are called upon.
“If you believe in God, see others as God’s children. If you are a non-theist, see all beings as your mother. When you do this, there will be no room for prejudice, intolerance, or exclusivity” (1)
Reverend David B. Nash , AASc , MA