The Human Family: Transforming Spirit

September 01, 2011

How Strangers Are Friends Waiting to Be Met

By Margaret Jayne Jones
New Vision UMC, Millbrae, CA 
 
Today we are all part of the global human family. We have many different appearances and life styles, and we live in communities where our neighbors may be from countries and cultures from all over the world.
  
As New Vision United Methodist Church and Social Action and Interfaith members, we have become active members of the United Religions Initiative (URI) San Francisco Peninsula Cooperation Circle, which meets in our church.  
 
My story is about Bay Area neighbors who formerly were strangers, and who now have become our friends.
 
We invite the public to be a part of the meetings, held on the first Monday night of each month. We greet and introduce each other, then share a minute or so about our own lives and our families. We discuss a few interfaith current events that might concern participants. Then we have a quiet time of 10 or so minutes, including presentation of an interfaith reading or prayer – manifold examples of The Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
 
Participants have included persons who claim Atheist, Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Confucian, Hindu, Jain, Jew, Shinto, Sikh, Spirit, Taoist, Wicca, and Zoroastrian (or Parsee) as their belief or non-belief system.
 
We set aside a special time to hear an outstanding speaker tell us about his or her respective religion or non-religion. The speaker may have a leadership role in the community, and share with us how his or her work responsibilities require ethical decision-making. We seek to understand more about others and ourselves in the community of faith and non-faith, by gaining a little more insight into how others' thoughts and actions differ from our own. We tend to gain more respect for each one, which leads to better inter-religious understanding – and through this process, we also have grown in our own personal faith.
 
We have enjoyed getting acquainted and learning from each other. Through these interfaith encounters we have grown more aware of the rest of the world and its multiple cultures; the meaning of diversity has become real.
 
As a renowned religious scholar, Hans Kung, has stated, "There will be no peace in the world until there is peace among the religions; there will be no peace among the religions until there is listening and dialogue among the religions."
 
As we get to know people of diverse belief systems, and realize the truth of the maxim, "strangers are friends to be met," there is a compassionate transforming spirit in how we consider The Human Family.