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Interfaith Round Table, Westfield MA
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My friends, my name is Bob PLAs. And this is a new edition of around the common table. I don't know if you remember, but for the last few years every so often we do what around the common table show on Ws KB that featured the chaplains from Westfield State. And during this time, I thought it was really important that we speak with the chaplains for some guidance during the time of COVID. And I got together for of what actually four of my favorite chaplains from Westfield State. And I would like them all to introduce themselves to you,
Reverend Barbara Hess, we'll start with you, Robert, tell us where you're from. And your affiliation.
Morning. I'm happy to be with you today. I am the minister at UCC, second congregational church, the church that's located right next to the main campus of Westfield State University. And we have several students who either attend our services that's pre pandemic, or sing in the choir. I see. So you're right there on a court. Mr. navitor? What's new them? What's the second complication with church? Ah, and then we have bothered Warren stadard. Father, you have a big role at the university don't cheat. Right? That's what they tell me. My, my role is, I am the director of the Albert's and immediate first interfaith center. And I'm also the Catholic chaplain on campus and, and
I'm just blessed to have a number of chaplains and advisors who help to advance the mission and work at the interface center. But we do encourage interfaith collaboration, cooperation, interfaith outreach, so it's really about getting people to live together and work together and have a common respect for each other and learn from each other's basic traditions.
and navigate navigating through the human condition. And Father, you are being celebrated yourself this year, because you're 50 years in to the priesthood Oh, no, by by not quite by my 40.
But anticipating my kids, I hope I'm around for my 50th You
know, it was a big number, but when you're gonna
have mercy, alright, well, you're gonna be here at 50. But please, don't rush me not though rush 40 years is still an accomplished.
40 years on counting. Now. If you're watching on television, the wonderful man who is down in the lower left hand side of your screen, I think is is an shake, and shake, shake. And I have had a difficult time with my pronunciation, shake, and he is known as Yahweh, our God, Yahweh are big, is that correct? That's it, that is your name. But we and he calls me Bob, and he told me to call him john, just in case I
mirror your mayor, Jake, that got it straightened up.
Shake, Alex, where you're from, and your affiliation. Thank you very much for this, for this opportunity. And lovely to meet all of you here. I am from I belong to the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts, which is on Amistad road, as you all know. And then apart from doing my shaking, I also
teach leadership development, especially to youth. And my aim is to try to help them understand the modern world in a theological context, I think that's a, probably a common challenge for all of us in this business of,
of, you know, connecting God to man, so to speak. And it's in more and more there seems to be, at least with some people a sense of alienation with regard to theology with regard to greed. And at least I see my job as to try to put the two together and help them bridge that gap so that following a fit is meaningful for them in their regular normal life. It's not restricted to a house of worship, but in their normal behavior, normal life fit must make some sense and that's that's my attempt. Wow. I love it and you do a great job. I I love your sense of humor. Our
yada is fine.
Well, it's always difficult. I think we have often talked on the show about how to show respect to the folks who are doing this wonderful service for us. It's a you, you provide a great service. And I think that I always want to show respect, and I, I like the idea of calling you shape. But if I, by chance, call you, Barbara, instead of Reverend or Warren, instead of Father, please understand that it's with love and appreciation for all you. So get, we got a man driving a car. And that man is on the way to somewhere coming from someplace, Reverend Bruce Arbor where i, where i Please keep your eye on the road. Where are you coming from? Absolutely. I'm actually coming from a gray side.
So up an amorous, and
beautiful woman who celebrated a wonderful life and her children and family. One of the blessings we have in the ministry to help families celebrate life. So it was great. I am the pastor of first Methodist Church in Westfield, and I'm there half time, who are buying Court Street. That's the core street reference that Bob gave just a minute ago. And, and also, the other half of my time is spent as a trauma informed specialist doing counseling for folks who have had a hard time with trauma in their life, memories of trauma, and helping them process that. So and of course, I'm the Protestant chaplain, one of the Protestant chaplains and interfaith center and blessed to work with my fellow
chaplains as well. Yes. Do you Are you also you used to perhaps you're still doing the work with the this is the fire department? Yeah, I'm still the Deputy Chief, and assistant chief for the state for the fire champions that I work with Amber.
Nobody? Yeah. So folks out there, you can see that the people that we have right here, are really versed in this wonderful field of faith and community. And so I thought, let us get together and talk about spirit in the time of COVID. And I, why don't we start with Reverend has when you start, we appreciate what you have to say.
I think that Reverend Bruce is showing how some things have changed. We have a lot more graveside services than services in the church services in the funeral home. We're now having to accommodate and adjust and
COVID has actually been a blessing in many, many respects. Because we've been stretched in areas where we wouldn't have gone normally we have had to reach out in different ways. And
we were, I can only speak for myself, I was a little smug, in that we had a very smooth, operating
church. And then COVID came along, and boom, everything changed. And we were I don't want to take it off a lot of time off the bat. But we have been talking for three and a half years of about recording services. But we hadn't gotten around to it. COVID came we started recording services. We had talked for three and a half years and I've been there three and a half years. That's why I use that as a marker. We've been talking for three and a half years about electronic giving, but hadn't gotten around to it. COVID came and boom. But as far as the church being the church, we're still working at the soup kitchen. We're still collecting things for new beginnings, which is for victims
of domestic violence. We're still supporting the common goods food pantry. So the church has not changed the way we do church s aha and do you see it in a sense it's a blessing because you you've had to discover you've had to think outside of the box in a bit
and and it has enhanced your your work.
It's an interesting thing when crisis and change you know that that old kind of drum I guess they call it or
what's the word that crisis and change in the Chinese language? Yes, the same symbol
Yes. And I think that that applies here as well. Yeah. I'm Reverend Bruce, do you echo that it's a
fake minister in western? That Yes, absolutely. We've really,
we really are facing a very hot and the hardest period of this COVID has been in the separation experience, both in, you know, family units, friends, a church community, very difficult. And that sense of a lot of isolation. The one, especially the beginning of coaching to talk about things, family or friends, passing is difficult enough to come together. Now we're coming together from breaks, most of my services, great sites, some of their funeral homes. But again, very limited, you can only have so many people that
are hungry. So this challenge is that
people are reaching out more.
And learning how to connect virtually, which has been very,
the the church, we have a saying this was from Barbara had at her church where we talked about, you know, maybe we should update our internet, maybe we should look at other ways for reaching out to connect people and then suddenly expand that to have complex.
And I'll, I'll show, throw an unshakable plug up for wood city fiber company, upgrade. On top of everything else, we were trying to do it. But you know, we're in, we're now in a new generation of church. I mean, we have maybe anywhere from four to 18 people when we do hybrid worship, that are present in the fellowship hall is a much smaller place. But
we have people from all over the nation that worship
star, half our average attendance now between 80 to 100.
So it's very, very different, very different worlds, where people are connected. But now we have a new challenge. Because you know, spirituality is part of the experience. But as john was, he would say it's the fruits of the spirit that make it evident that God's Spirit is present. And those roots are in as Barbara said, we have not closed the doors of the ministry. We've closed the doors to the church, the ministry has remained open has never closed, and but how to help people practice their spirituality, when we're also remote. And that's really been the challenge. The new challenge we have is our brainstorming, sort of forced into this. How do we think differently to church? How do
we empower people who are sitting in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Houston, Texas, San Diego, California, Anchorage, Alaska, all these different places all over the country that are worshiping with us? How do we empower them and encourage them to exercise their spirituality and more than just a Sunday morning worship with a father savage knows he's he's one of the great motivators when it comes to that.
You Thank you, you've accepted the Lord and you're gonna rest. He's got news for you.
Let's say it again, Bob. Well, what's the news that you have about that? This is a new time.
You You are the you're you're bringing all the fish together at the university? And to do that in a different way. How do you how do you connect, especially with young folks during this time? Well, Bob, I come into the interface center every single day. And, and whether people realize it or not, these students, even in this time of COVID, reach out for connection. Now, some, some may come in with their mask on, stand outside my door, and have a conversation. Some will send me an email asking for an insight into this issue or that issue. Some will
send a message via somebody else can you get to find this damage, but what I want to emphasize is that the need for relationship never changes. That then that's the whole essence of life is being in relationship with others. And for people of faith, you're in relationship with God, Allah, Yahweh, you're in relationship with your brother and sister regardless of when your brother and sister exist. It's always about relationships. So for me the challenge during COVID is a challenge of trying to understand the most basic element of life be in relationship.
And if Pokemon has done anything, it has shown us that we are more disconnected than Connect. And that we've been forced by this pandemic, to take a look at the underlying pandemic, which is the, the disconnect that we have in life. As much as technology has advanced, is not just things seem to be easier, we are we are, we are more disconnected than we've ever been. The illusion of being connected, has has created another human crisis, the crises is that we don't need each other, that we can kind of live without each other, that we're solitary beings in this world, and that we kind of control our own world, and nobody else matters for that back. So we have to really work harder
and harder to change the spiritual narrative. Because the narrative that's out there in our world is that we're also independent, you know, we're also autonomous, that we, we can just do what we want to do without regard to our brothers and sisters. And without understanding of who we truly are connected to someone Richard and ourselves in for us, that's the divine. That's, that's got Joe. And so for me, personally, I find the opportunity
and COVID time and, and social unrest bag, to go inside myself to kind of reassemble who I am. Because I have no have no use no value to anybody, if I'm not an integrated human being within myself. So that means my my intellectual life, my spirit, my emotional life, my physical, social life, has to be integrated in a way that the dis ease around me, does not become internalized. And if it becomes internalized, then I become the perpetrator of the disease that's far, far worse than the pandemic itself. And so I think people don't realize that, that the pandemic is asking us to look within ourselves, to see where we have become diseased with it. Because the pandemic was
already there, that the COVID, just manifesting a greater pandemic that's underneath everything. And so we really have to really, really, really, really discern with the help of the Holy Spirit, to take the look within ourselves to see how do I contribute to those to those invisible pandemics of disrespect, of racial distress or racial animosity and hatred? How do I contribute to the violence and the conflict is selfish selfishness, all of these things are just symptoms of this greater disconnect, that exists between God in ourselves and it brings forward into the world, a disease, that it's overwhelming, but we cannot become the disease, we have to find a way to mitigate against
the disease. What for me, the spiritual mitigation is a spiritual remedy, just called love.
Love ourselves, love God, and love our brothers and sisters, that That, to me is the most critical piece.
Well, I wonder if, in the in your
experience, during COVID, many people blame
others blame, maybe even God or say,
I've had it, I, I this is it, I am not going back to the mosque not going to the synagogue, not not
having Sunday Mass, etc, etc, etc. I wonder how you communicate to those folks who are now because of COVID feel disconnected from God in a time when they really need to be connected to God, Allah to
Do you think shape I think is a beautiful question, Bob, thank you very much.
I think I as I was listening to Reverend Barbara, and to follow Warren, and to father Bruce,
I can only say that, you know, I resonate with whatever I've been here. I think in that sense, there's so much of commonality between us in terms of the challenges we face. I want to begin with a with what code the first thought that came into my mind when this code started. And there is a there is a versus an iron for iron, where Allah says for a NASA moon, which means in Arabic, that's the Arabic In English it means Where are you going?
Now I as I said, it's a it's a you know, it's a rhetorical question. God Of course knows
Wait, what he's asking you do you know, where do you know where you're going? And I remember, for a lot of us, I'm sure all of us are included in that. If somebody asked us this question and said, I, in my own role as a leadership consultant, you know, you ask somebody, what's your what's your game plan? What's your plan for the new year, your strategic plan? You know, I know I'm going to take a little bit time off, and I really need to sit with myself, I need you need to reflect, I really need to do too. Now. COVID did that. Right? So I said to people that, you know, Allah asked you long enough, where are you going? Where are you going? You said, No, what I'm saying I don't have a time,
right. So I'm going to tell you, and then he brought it all to a hard. Stop right now. Now, tell me where you're going. Now, the whole this is what happened to a lot of us, which is that we were forced to reflect on our own life, because we got stuck in the home locked down, you can't leave the place, you got to find the page to do that. And so on and so on.
I echo very much the
what father, Warren and the other said, with regard to isolation, that that's a very big thing. As far as we were concerned. I'm sure the same thing for all of you. But for us in this COVID also came around and the whole month. Now, apart from many other things is a time of congregation. Even people who don't normally go to the mosque to pray. They go for the night prayer, you know that we even have a joke we tell the guy we see some people resolve that's good. Prayer is is there for us. It is five times a day and never saw you anytime now you're here. So this is more like a socializing club or what? But you know, it's good. That that's all said in good yo bar, and it's nice to see people.
Now all of that was done. Right there. Then came the festival. Now we had a wonderful time in the end that in the time of the festival, which was very nice. In Biggie, we had the congregational prayer
in our cars, so the guards were all over the huge Biggie grounds. And, you know, the the Imam was in the front, on huge large speakers. And so it was Ramadan. Chick added that this was actually the the second prep, this is the second in which he will answer that prayer at the end of Ramadan. We didn't even have that well. So in many ways, I'm trying to keep the shot. In many ways. It was a shock after shock after shock, because first of all, we have five congregational prayers, and these are congregational prayers in Islam that congregational prayer is usually emphasized. It has it has 27 times the reward of praying at home. So it is something like that. And constantly we are saying to
people go to the masjid go to the mosque, go to the go to the don't just pray at home. And suddenly out of the blue we are seeing the opposite don't go to the mosque door. All my life I go to the mosque. Now I am the one saying don't go to the mosque. I mean, this was this was I mean, for me, I mean, apart from others, I think I'm also looking at for people like me and and and the others year, there's a huge amount of,
of, you know, aligning and a huge amount of dealing with our own internal issues with all of this. I mean, we are part of the thing. I mean, it's not as easy as sitting outside and watching what's happened. Rather, I am one of them. So for me to say that I should not go to the mosque was a major, major, major thing for me to deal with. Right. Now, mercifully, and I'm very thankful. In our theology itself, we have grounds and basis for all of these things. So two major ones one was not to go to the mosque. Number two was self quarantined. If you are not feeling well just stay at home Don't go anywhere. And the third one was, as I'm sure all of you know, our prayer, we stand shoulder
to shoulder. Now we are saying six feet apart. Now the shoulder to shoulder thing also was something which was very usually emphasized do not have a gap between you and your brother. It was also a brotherhood thing. Like a lot of people, you know, some people are for various reasons, racial reasons, economic reasons, whatnot. They don't want to stand shoulder to shoulder with somebody who they look down upon. And we say no, no, no, in the eyes of Allah, you are exactly the same. Because Allah looks at the heart, it doesn't look at the color of your skin, it doesn't look at, look at how many hours you know what kind of watch you're wearing. So shoulder to shoulder. Now you're saying
stand six feet over. So a lot of people came with the question is, what is my Salah? Is my prayer even valid? You know, I mean, is it even acceptable? And what is the theological position on that? But of course, I mean, I don't want to go into all the details here, because, you know, there's not appropriate here. You don't even have the time, but I'm saying that we have the grounds. For example, one of the ports of teachings of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. He said that in a time of an epidemic, and they were talking about the bubonic plague at that time, not not COVID but effectively applier. He said in the time of an epidemic, he said two things, one is in a demo
epidemic. He said if you are in a place which has a
affected by the epidemic don't leave the place, don't go to some other place. And he said, if you are not in such a place, then don't go to a place which has an epidemic, number one. Number two, he said that in the time of an epidemic, stay at home, do not go to the mosque, do not congregate, do not leave your house. And if you remain in your home, isolated because of the epidemic, but believing that life and death is in the hands of Allah, so you're not doing that, because you're frightened of death. You're not frightened of breath, you know that life and death comes only from God, but you are following this for in order not to become a spreader in order to, to not to become
a problem for others. Then he said, after the epidemic is over, even if you remain alive and well, you will be counted among the martyrs. So you will get the reward of as if you were martyred, even though you are perfectly happy. So I mean, these kinds of things were very useful for us. I don't have to go and say this is my opinion, because my opinion has no hell no theological value in Islam, there is no not even a clergy to begin with. But we said what this is what the prophet himself said, this was hugely beneficial for us to link these these things together.
It almost seems like they're so there's something about human nature that that there's something fearful that the you said the bubonic plague. And I remember early on and COVID, sitting at home and saying to myself, Oh, my God, I'm 75 years old that can't leave the house.
My spouse is going to kill me. How the heck am I going to get through this? And my anxiety and my fear level? were rising with every television newscast I saw, I wonder as as
people of faith? How do you address that? Anyone want to take that in and conversation amongst yourselves? I think the shape kind of gave us a preliminary review of the response to COVID, for those who live in the faith traditions, is to be grounded in your your scriptures, that there's there's a foundational piece to your life, that that comes with your communion with your Sacred Scripture, that if the sacred text is the life giving force of Allah, or of God or Yahweh, then you need to be connected to that like giving force. And so so people of faith cannot live faith, cannot even exercise the essence of that thing, if they're not currently rooted and grounded in Scripture.
But the fundamental essence of that scripture comes back to what I said earlier, that Allah, God, Yahweh, whatever name to give God, the real name is love. And so when the Shaykh describes these elements of his tradition, from the from the Quranic text, and essentially says that when you practice a, b, and c, you're fulfilling the law of loving God and loving your neighbor. Because the motivation for staying at home and not going to a place of pandemic or virus or disease, is that not just out of fear, it's out of real concern and love for my brother and sister. So every act has to be a response to to the question, Where are you in relationship to God? And where are you in
relationship to your neighbor, maybe that's part of the question of where you're going, you should not be moving away from that you should be moving closer and closer to God, and closer and closer to your neighbor. Regardless of what the norms are. In the society at the time, those norms do not supersede your most fundamental obligation, which is to move always closer and closer into intimate communion with with with God, and with your neighbor. You have to be creative, obviously, what's your intention has to be always moving closer and closer and closer to God into one another. See, this is this is the great challenge of COVID because it tells you everything that's antithetical to
your faith, but at the same time, and challenge you to practice your faith.
Hmm, I'm struggling. We were talking I was thinking,
the idea of life It starts with people and then those last hours you really with alone with your God, and it almost seems that this is that it sort of reflects what happens with someone. You're saying I you need. You need fate. You need a spiritual side to you right at this moment, because you're basically I see you're being isolated in a way and you have to find that
reference. Well, I have a I agree with
Lately, and I have a conquer Kent parishioner who said that she was an introvert and she liked being alone until COVID came, and she was told she had to be alone. And that's where I spoke with her and said, with God, you're never alone. And part of it is mirroring the person and what they're saying.
And not having a platitude just, oh, here's an easy answer, but guiding the person and letting them know that it's okay. It's gonna be okay.
This, this a real, I'm just, I'm just feeling
this need for us to understand that.
That the foundation of our faith is not the place where we go to worship.
The foundation of our faith begins with the faith that's within our hearts. And so that's when, you know, they were, there was a big uproar around, you know, how can how can we interfere with people's right to practice their faith by making them close the churches? Well, that's only a piece of our faith, or place of worship, there's only only a small part of it. It's, it's how we practice that faith, and, and perhaps this COVID son anything, it has awakened some souls to understand how ill prepared they are to practice that faith. You know, and that is why the Sabbath said, then there's more need for us to spend time in Scripture and, and open the book. You know, it's, it's, it's a
nice decorative on the coffee table. But if you open it, it's it you know, whether it's your your Bible, or your Quran, or whatever scripture you you embrace, open it, dust it off, open it, begin to read it, again, to understand it begins to pray, you know, spend some time that this gift has been given to us. And you know, spending that time in it, you don't have to be completely isolated by constantly reminded, you know, the phone still works.
Call and pray with a friend
does the phone lines are not down, you know, there, if you if you don't like Facebook, then don't go on Facebook, find something else, you know, I love the community where they all got together on their porches. And they had a community gathering. And they shouted to one another, you know, we can be community, we don't have to be standing side by side, shoulder to shoulder and be community God, or Allah or
we're all being blast while being blast. And there's no reason for us to stop celebrating us.
We're practicing within the blessings
that Yahweh or Allah God has blessed us with because that's, you know, there's, and yeah, there's there's there some introverts that have enjoyed that isolation.
But you know, the humaneness the human creature, is a communal creature. We're really you know, that isolation is a nice Rep. But we're Pac creatures, we need each other, you know, and every, every scripture you read, it's really clear. Because if we didn't need each other, we wouldn't need to love each other.
As you begin, finally, Father sent me something.
add something before we get too far away from that,
in within our Bible, in the New Testament, for every single time, the word for church because the Bible was not written originally in English, but the word that was used for church, not once in the entire New Testament, doesn't matter refer to ability.
It talks about the community of believers, it talks about the works, not once does that words refer to a building? So I just wanted to add that before we, yeah, God, can I can I say one
word, one word
that I said,
You know, I really want to see it, say, or something with regard to what father Bruce said, which is the issue of community and standing shoulder to shoulder and I want to confirm what is generalize and say that even if you are standing shoulder to shoulder, it doesn't necessarily mean that you feel a sense of community. And that is something which is very important, because if that's what's in the heart, do you really feel a sense of brotherhood, so whether you are sitting on you know, your individual porch and shouting each other or you're shoulder to shoulder issue is what's in the heart. I think that's very impressive, very beautiful way of putting it and thank you very much for
The other thing which Reverend Barbara said, which I want to, again resonates with me, is another verse is in the Koran, where Allah subhanaw taala said, well back when I enter my condo, he is with you wherever you are. And Reverend Barbara said, The parishioner who spoke to her, and she said to her, you are never alone. And that is so beautiful, because the benefit of hat feeling that sense that God is with me,
does two wonderful things, but one of the best things it does, it gives a lot of comfort and confidence. So if if, if Allah is with me, then he is watching, and he can do something about whatever is troubling me. So if I but that depends on my sense of feeling that and that's where another version of that, where the meaning of that is that I must rather it says that the believer is one, who when the name of God, when the name of Allah comes before in meaning, if you see is the science of God and creation, or he hears the word of God, he reads the four and he, whatever it is, in whichever way he said, when the name of Allah come before him, something happens to his heart,
there is a effect on his heart. Right? The his heart feels the oil and majesty and love and glory and magnificence of God. So there is a issue of being connected with God, wherever with Allah, wherever we are, in whichever situation we are in, to feel that sense of being connected. So we are not alone, in the sense of we are supported. And we are in the hands of somebody who is not just more powerful, but who can actually do something. So I think that's a sense of community and a sense of communion.
The one thing which of course, a lot of people in COVID Thanks, of course, more than anything else, thanks to watching these. It's like watching World Cup or something, you know, the COVID COVID figures. And I tell people, that's the first thing you should stop doing. I mean, just stop watching this figure. So in this state, it's gone up so much that state gone up so much this country, that country, so many people that I mean, so I said to them, what's news and he said news that you're going to die we did we know that already, which one of us was walking around thinking that we are never going to die. So his anger they assured me but you know, the point, the point is that the
issue is not that we are going we will all die, the issue is how do we live in a way that that life is worth something? And that death is really regretted by those elite behind? And it's something that when I go before God, I can say well, you know, I did my best and I tried to do something I did my best. And please forgive me for whatever I did not do. I think that is the focus this COVID helped us to really understand this, because it certainly brought to the, to the to the front, this issue of of the of the of the reality of death, the rate of our mortality, mortality suddenly became real to us. It always was real. But somewhere it was in the back of the head, we didn't really care
about that. But with this, this is what happened. Now, of course, there's a downside of that for a lot of people that becomes a source of a lot of stress, and there's a lot of COVID phobia and whatnot. Whereas if you need to get out of that, and that's where this connection with spirituality going back to the Scriptures being rooted in the Scriptures, as father Bruce says, you know, don't read the book of God as a decorative piece, you know, dust it off, read it, understand it, see what this is, this is this is you, this is God talking to you. Right? We believe that the Quran is the actual word of God revealed to to the Prophet Mohammed Salim. So therefore this is God talking to
you. So you, you know understand what he's saying. And and in cases like this language, like the app, which I mentioned, fine, where are you going? It's a question to answer the question, then tell me where you're going. So for that, we need to think and respond.
I am so glad we only get one word.
Let me say a word. Thank you.
I love you so much. I love his joy. Oh my God.
He I mean, one thing that the COVID did that do to to the shape was it didn't take the joy out of it.
Because that's like giving when you see joy in someone's spirit, someone's life. I think that's, that's what people are hungry for more joy, more joy, the joy of living, the joy, the end COVID has has robbed many, many people not just have the essentials of life like you know, a job and maybe health but he the more the more spiritual gifts. You know the loved ones.
Why you kindness, goodness? This, this is what we have to focus on where where does the opportunity arise during this kind of pandemic, for me to exploit the deepest spiritual gifts that are eternal, they never, never, never disappeared. They are there always because God is always present or God is always with us. These spiritual gifts are always there. We've been enriched by it in, in a part of it. And even in our brokenness, in our pain and suffering, we can still access these gifts and share them with others. I mean, those are the most beautiful, against we cannot at a time, but I think the, the connection to the Scripture is a connection to the heart of Allah, the heart of that.
Because Because we've if we understand, you know, God's womb, W OMB are God's heart. This is a life giving warm a life giving heart and soul to dwell in the scriptures is to dwell in the heart of God. And so in order for us to have the heart of that, that's why we need to read our scriptures, so that the scriptures transform and feed our hearts where God dwells. And so we become the actual growing place of God, as Barbara said, and Bruce, and even the shape say, we can bring the whole world into our hearts and grow in communion with the whole world. And it's really stressless It's a, it's not like you have to do anything secure, sit yourself down, in and become the dwelling place of God and
Godspeed, and bring the whole world to this place. To me, that's the chapter. That's, that's
one of the things that I've been working on with my congregation odd is that there's a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness is contingent on circumstances, oh, whether you know, whatever is happening, you're happy, or joy is a deep satisfaction. That is not dependent on external circumstances. So when we talk about the Sermon on the Mount of Blessed are those who it's not actually blessing or happy, it's joy. It's that deep, abiding joy,
our circumstances that are circumstances of this year have been difficult. But that doesn't mean we can't have joy.
From that moment of joy, when you find that moment of joy, you know it,
don't you? Yeah, yeah.
What I You're right, Bob, I think I think it's the other way around. Joy find us. It's not that we find the joy because joy is always been there.
Definitely never, it's never like, it's not like I it's nothing I do, I don't provoke the joy. The joy is there. And the joint is, is is waiting for, for this encounter. And so the encounter is what I mean, if someone has been alone, all his or her life, then all of a sudden, I break already have this spiritual gift in me. I don't create it. I just simply bring it with me recognizing that I carry within me, this divine gift of joy. And when I show up with the face of sheep, you know, Mears, I think people are gonna get excited because it's not my face. It's what's behind my face that they experienced this deep, profound joy, that I agree. And so people have to realize that
we're, we're the regulatory agents of all that got it. You know, we we are the living, vibrant, dynamic, regulatory instruments that God uses to bring forward all that God is. And if I'm open to that, I experienced not only immediate joy, but experienced God's homemaking who Lv m, aka God is making me hold again in this month. That's my this this this this love of God loving neighbor is so critical, right? This is what I think the shank said in the beginning that he was
in leadership development or, or he calls himself a leadership consultant.
I think I'm going to change my title on my business cards, not to buy the savvy but you know, leadership, I'm going to be a leadership consultant, or someone who's who's going to lead by example, what the shepherd of the Scriptures is trying to teach the shepherd, God Himself, God, Jesus spirit, whatever. We understand that that divine
Being to be. That is what I'm called to be. As a leader in the community, this is a challenge, not just to the people in our synagogues, mosques or churches, but a chant challenge to the type of leader we need to be in this type of fandom. And it's, it's a brutal challenge. So you're saying that joy, it's an act of doing it? I mean, the what I hear you saying is that you're giving something which there's no action about in your relationship to your Yeah, oh, can you hear me? Yeah, it's a naturalization. I'm actualizing. What I've been created to be. That's, that's the essence of God is the essence of who I am. There's no, there's no difference between who God is and
who I'm supposed to be. That's the difference is that we separate ourselves from this understanding this theological understanding is that all of God is in all of us. So whatever God has, we have to that's why we say in our condition, we are created in the image and likeness of God. We don't supplant God. But we certainly are the image and likeness, we might understand the image part. But we are so dumb like that.
Because Because that's too hard to be like that. Loving unconditionally. This this this forgiving without conditions or preconditions, this mercy, this compassion, these, we have difficulty being like that, in those waves. Hmm. If I could have a letter, I mean, not a word.
Absolutely, absolutely love the differentiation between happiness and joy that Reverend Barbara mentioned, and it's, it's kind of symbolic, we are sitting here today on Cyber Monday. And we just came out of Black Friday. And White apart from the historical references to those days, but I must say that a lot of people are very happy buying a lot of stuff. But do they have joy, of course, now, there's a difference. And thank you very much, Barbara, for for for putting your finger on that. Now, to me, joy comes doesn't come out of acquiring it comes out of giving. The more you give, the more joyful you become, you don't lose because what you are giving is comes back to you multi fold.
And the example I always give is that of a farmer, I said, whatever is in your hand, remains in your hand. So whatever is your in your hand is the harvest, what you plant is the seed, and the seed brings forth the harvest, which your hands will not be able to hold. And that's the reason why if you keep your fist shut, holding what you have, that's all you will have. But if you open that and let it drip, let it go and in it and you plant it, then what comes up is far more than that. And that's why as as it's I mean, john Mike worldwide support, which I'm sure all of us have heard, nothing will come down from the heavens until something comes out of your hands. So whatever you
give, that determines the decisions that come down for us as people.
Brilliant, that is so brilliant. That's a short letter to
what your show today has proven it is that we all have different backgrounds, but we all have more in common than we don't have in common. And I describe it as long as you're on the agricultural symbols. I describe it as we all have wealth. My well happens to be Christianity and Jesus and the Bible. But my will is going down to the same source that the shake. swell is going down to the Shaykh has the Qur'an and you know Muhammad, but we're still drawing. I have Jesus
I know how Moses
Yeah, that's the benefit of being the last you get all of the
many Yeah, I'm gonna make the whole the whole chapters.
Yeah, you get all the upgrades. When you bear the latest model, you get all the upgrades.
That we don't
we don't negate people of other faiths. No, we share and we urge one another. And as I said, we have more in common than we don't. And I can't wait for this to be broadcast. I excited to be a part of it. And I thank you for that. Why can't everybody in the world be like us? That's right. Yeah. Really? I mean, I'd be
everybody's like us to be no, Bravo, right? That's right. I know who I'm gonna call, and I'm gonna, I've got four people right there, when I'm feeling down or whatever. And, absolutely, that that idea of really well, seeing
God Allah, in another person, or I was scanning the image of, it's sort of like this, the spirit comes in, and it goes out and it comes back and it it's that circle, you know, the circle of, of life, or its surrounding that the image of the circle for me, I think that's, that's very helpful for me to see myself as part of part of God and giving in and keeping that flow, keeping that joy flowing. Even.
Yeah, Robert, you just described is your baptism.
Hmm, that's that's what baptism is all about. See you 75 years old, yes. And never understood your baptism and identity. That's right. So you said we needed to have this conversation around a common table, to understand the theology of baptism.
Bob, this was an intervention.
Proof, it's never too late.
We say that you receive that spirit, you become an adopted son and daughter of God, you belong to the, to the community of God, the Father, Son and Spirit, you're brought into communion with the divine, you forever remain in the God's will, and never show you leave it. But living in that God zone, he is the life giving love and mercy and compassion of God that transformed so the whole world constantly moving in and through, you know, the, through your heart, okay. And, and for me, as a as a Catholic, freezy, you know, spiritual leader, the church's failure has been to help the church understand, it's the the baptismal identity that every Christian acquires. Because if we're in the
image of God, Jesus, in part about the spirit, then our world should look a hell of a lot better than it does to us. And so there's a disconnect between our baptismal identity and who we are pretending to be today. That's on every level, leadership wise, you know, the lady that I don't care who you are, we we separate ourselves from this, this, this new reality that we have, there's new birth, and God, there's new birth and crisis.
All right. So when the when the the Muslim makes makes the ascent of faith, when they proclaim the creed, they're saying the same thing we we have committed ourselves to living in the likeness of
their Prophet peace be upon him, teaches us through those things. What that what that life is, could be Hmm, yeah.
Thank you, the idea of community and joy and giving all are so intertwined. It's it's like here, and yeah, Reverend Bruce, I, I wanted to get to talk to you in that car there. Are you parked driving Stein Park, I have parked No, no, I parked. Okay. Okay. So yeah, you're parked, but you're parked in a? Are you are you always?
as father says, in that center of joy, especially for you, as somebody who has to go out like this morning when you went to, I don't know, that center. How do you realize that center when you're you're
acting as as a faith minister, and or even as a person, how do you maintain that sense? A lot of words, you know, that that center that joy? You know, Joy is more than just
I find it hard to find words to completely describe joy, we limit joy in the way that we try to express it in not in our language. But, you know, it's that sense of inner peace, that sense of groundedness, that sense of assurance. Those are all elements of God. And so even when I'm facing, you know, I'm doing a service by the grace side, my heart is is concerned for those who are in the morning, because morning is, you know, we miss that loved one, but that the other part of my heart is in celebration, it's enjoy, because I know that that loved one is embracing the eternity of God speaks.
And so and that we are, you know, it's amazing to me that we come around the grave, and then I have families that have feuded all the way up until the grave side, and then continue their feuding when they leave. And I think they didn't get it. They didn't get it, they have that one moment to stand in the presence of God, and they experienced that total peace and community, and that fullness, and that what God is putting in our hearts, that inner joy that just gives the satisfaction that gets us groundedness, that gets old, and they walk away from it.
You know, and we and we do that, or we look at, you know, some sadness, if we could wake up to our art inner connection that God created in all of creation, we wouldn't have racism, we wouldn't have wars, we wouldn't have division amongst those who are God's children, because we could finally come together and experience the completeness of God's joy.
You know, but so long as we want to look at each other, as you know, I'm somehow bigger than or I'm somehow greater than, we're always going to be divided.
Because we aren't, we're the sum of we're then we're not a divided element. We're the sum of God's creation. We're, we're, we're together and God's creation. That is that. I mean, that's what gives me hope. In times when I just, you know, there's, I'm, I'm sitting in the church, and I'm trying to make the technology work for Sunday morning service. And, you know, Facebook's given me a hard time because they're not letting me collect the way I should have. my computer's giving me a hard time because it wants to act up this morning, and nothing will work the microphones talking back to me, and everything's going crazy. And I'm ready to say, why am I doing this? And then suddenly, I take a
And I realized, wait a minute, this is why I'm doing it.
Because God's right here. And I'm part of that.
God's presence is here, and I'm part of it. And what a joke.
Even so, so the to use the metaphor of the funeral, or the deaths of someone, as the COVID has a lot of death. I mean, like there's this eat, this eats, its father says, and Zed. The, if we come to that, if we see, what do we do when we we celebrate have to celebrate each other in moments? When?
When life seems hopeless, when when, when there's anxiety and fear, and almost seems that once we begin to celebrate each other in those moments, or recognize our humanity, our common humanity or commonality in those moments, that's maybe an answer for us. I don't know Am I am I grateful you're on the right track? The point you will come back to the same point in a moment, but the COVID is saying and then the shake this earlier, what what the COVID is really telling us is that life matters. And where are we you? I going with this gift of life?
What what what is it that's in this moment, that that illuminates this incredible gift of life that we sharing in common? Who says that if we understood that this life comes from God, and we're all connected together, then there should never be any division, there should never be any conflict. But even if there is conflict, division, rank or strike, we already have the remedy built inside of because God cannot be a divided God. God cannot be a partial God. God is the God of all people loves all people unconditionally. God doesn't have any partiality towards this group or that group or this religious tradition, etc, etc. We just
Have to understand this is where the theology has to be so simple, so understandable that we don't get caught up in all these, these these words, but get caught up in this ecstasy of living in God. And what we call living in God is enthusiasts enthusiasts. That's what the word means to be anger. So we, we already are in God. So we even in the darkest of moments, the joy transcends the dark. It transcends the sadness, because there's, there's more wholeness of life, just being with God. If we get stuck in the darkness and stuck in the disease, then we'll just be the disease will just become more dark. All right. So I feel that in this COVID time, I've gone back to the beginning of what I
say, this is a time for us to go inside ourselves. It's a time to reclaim our original goodness, our original innocence, that that wholeness that we had, from the moment we entered into this world. And until we do that, we will there will only be more disease, more division, more conflict, you know, more disconnectedness between ourselves. And and it's going to end up in in this mutual ID halation, rather than this mutual shared joy, that if that's the word we're going to use, or this shared moment of God's love. Alright, so in our scriptures, the gospel of john, Jesus will tell the disciples, you know, love one another, make my joy complete, he says, make my joy complete. Even
Jesus recognized that there is still a deficiency of joy, because his own people have not yet learned how to love one another completely. And
so he tells them, he commands them, make my joy, this is your responsibility.
For those who have the common lectionary and Sunday, we have the reading from the prophet Isaiah, the prayer and the Prophet, where, where the prayer is prayed in a way where the people are blaming God for their condition.
God, it's your fault, that we that our land in the temple got destroyed. It's your fault that we're in exile, it's your fault that we have sinned. It's your I mean, they actually were blaming God for their condition, rather than reclaiming the covenant fidelity that they were called to, to have in relationship to God and their neighbor. And finally, the prayer comes down to Oh, you know, Oh, you are our father. You are our posture. We are the work of your hands. That's all the prayer in most times I say, it is Fred, there's two things he prays in this way of, of it. We're the victims of what God has done to us. No, oh, god, it was lovely. All they gotta do is feed you when you're
hungry, give you and give you what you need it when you pray, honestly. And frankly, from your hearts, he took care of you. And now you want to blame God. I think a lot of what's going on in our days today was walk away from God he didn't he didn't he didn't he didn't do this. He didn't do that. Or why would Why do we need faith? The stock market looks good today. You know, whatever, whatever. Oh, my God, you know, that we don't need God. Yes, great.
It'd be more services than God.
Other I know, it's a weak way to end our you know, we're coming down to the end of the show. And I just wanted to say that this kind of discussion this is common across the common table. idea. It's gotta be we've got to do it more often. We've got to do with with each other, we've got to do it up here with you guys on the on the radio and on the television, because I learned and I think others will learn if we sit across the common table with our hearts open, like you guys do. Like, like, like we're doing today. Things are going to be better. I even in a time of COVID I want to ask each one of you just as we're ending, to just say a bit of a prayer, a short prayer, if you could.
We've got about two minutes left, and I wanted to give you time to just say wrap things up with a prayer or the words of of joy that you have in your heart. So why don't we start with Reverend Barbara, thank you so much.
Gracious God have any names. Thank you for this opportunity to be together today to learn from one another to speak, to listen, to be together and to remind us that our wells all go down to the same source.
I just want to recite two or three verses I had from the Koran and and quickly translate that
all the way Lang shaitan Raji Yeah, to one up soul moto mine motorman, erasure de la Viki are the
de facto fully fee, the word fully region at the translation of that is all your soul, which is content, meaningful of joy content. come towards your Lord towards your well. well pleased with him and he is pleased with you, and into the community of those he loves. Enter into paradise in two gentlemen,
in the form of severe joy, we pray that that joy would be experienced, so complete in every soul during this time of COVID. This time of being physically apart, may we be spiritual, unite, and feel the wholeness and oneness in that spirit with your
father, savage, other woman, God is living in a day, we ask you to open our eyes to see your face and our brothers and sisters. open our hearts to love them unconditionally. Open our ears to hear your command, to be peacemakers, to be humble servants of the poor. And above all, give this that desire to be joyful presence at a time of sadness in desolation. But maybe rejoice always that you are with us, loving us and guiding us into the way of peace.
And then, mmm, man, listen, I think you I have been enriched and in by this wonderful program. today. I send you all of the best, my four friends.
We'd like to thank Peter coals for producing our show today. And we look forward to Can Can we make a vow? I don't know what if it's a formal? Let's let's say let's get together more often. Yeah. What about you guys? No, no, no, that's wonderful. As long as
you follow on and you're
worried about Barbara and Bruce
I love it.
You and I should go into business together.
happiest seasons for you. Maybe be healthy. May you be safe. May you wear your masks in peace, love and joy and may you lose us the message of these four wonderful people have faith in your life today. Thanks, everybody. See you next time and across a common table. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. Thanks. You're welcome.