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Mary M. Wrye
Good morning all. I was raised in a small conservative Southern Baptist Church where my parents and grandparents were members. I was taught/shown by example that positions of “influence” in the church were held by men and that God called and ordained only men. So when I was in college and began going to a Pentecostal church my dad asked “why the Baptist church wasn’t good enough for me”. To his credit – he stood back and gave me the space to explore on my own. That may have been where I began to understand that differing styles of worship doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to chuck everything I know/believe.
I have always been connected to a Baptist church but somewhere along the line I began to realize that what was put before me in my childhood wasn’t the whole story. Maybe it was because it felt like God kept asking me to take a different route and go to seminary. I was a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist at the time (BS in Voc Rehab). And even with all the teachings of God calling/ordaining only men – I couldn’t ignore this calling for me.
I too went to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (graduated in 1988 before the Southern Baptist Convention split). The second church I served as an associate was in Memphis TN where there were only women on staff including the Pastor. For that – we were excommunicated from the SBC. My understanding of God, my willingness to “let” God be bigger than my box, the people I met – began to help me get beyond the “I’m right/you’re wrong” mentality. I have chosen to follow Jesus because I hear/see that he does the same thing. Tax collectors, Sanhedrin, Gentiles, Jewish zealots, and those who believe they know better…
The sensual part of the Hindu ritual actually reminded me of the way we prepared the dead all those years ago when we would lay them out on the dinning room table, bathe them, dress them and then sit up with them all night. It was NOT sexual at all but it was taking care of someone we had come to love and respect.
I love the questions “Can anyone who visits a sacred space remain an observer, or does one become a participant simply by entering in? Does taking part in the ritual of another faith automatically make you a traitor to your own?” I am of the mindset that I cannot go to anything and be a mere observer. Somewhere along the line I am changed. I learn. I compare. I tweak my own thoughts. I am challenged. I ask “how might I do that?”. God is a really big God – and like parents who are multilingual and teach their children to be – I believe God speaks to us in whatever language that helps us grow in our spirituality, our faith, and our connection to God.