a welcoming garden bench
When interfaith really works in the religious corners of a community, you are rewarded with doing more than the monthly meeting and candlelight vigils when something goes terribly wrong in the world. You establish relationships with people on other spiritual paths and you bond over the things that people bond over.
And if you are very lucky, you make friends. Real friends. That has been one of the gifts of the years of interfaith I’ve done–I have actual friends amongst the laity and clergy of many of the religions in my town. This was highlighted in some perfectly delightful ways only last weekend.
My dear friends–one of whom is an Episcopal priest–had decided to move out of the rectory beside the church and to buy a house of their own. They got moved in and unpacked in the new place that nests below old oaks, north of the city. The dogs got used to the new place with a big yard, the yard art was placed and a flat area for the new fire pit area was flattened out.
Time, then, for a house blessing!
We were the first arrivals and breathed deeply of the soup and chili that would be supper later. We greeted the silly dogs and hugged our friends, exclaiming on the beauty of the new house and the way it was arranged.
(There was a terrible moment when I was shown the artificial fire in the tv room and had to tease them about their tackiness. This in a house that is Southern Living beautiful and exquisite in every other way. I assume it is her way of not offending the gods with the general perfection of their home.)
The other guests arrived–our friend the Reform rabbi and her daughter, a dear retired Presbyterian pastor and his wife, the Lutheran pastor with whom I had a business lunch a few weeks before. The Episcopal priest who came to do the ritual of blessing is also an old colleague and we kissed each other’s cheeks when he arrived.
It was genial and warm and perfect. When all had gathered, we went from the front door to the downstairs to the backyard and back upstairs as the priest prayed a blessing on each room and we murmured our assent.
We finished with the Eucharist and I joined the other non-Christians in the livingroom as the Christian folk partook of the Body and the Blood in a final act of community and blessing.
Then we ate and drank and told stories. We talked about one man’s road to the diaconate and how he had answered a phone call from the bishop, thinking it was his partner. The retired Presbyterian minister recommended a book on Mary Magdalene and the host and I told the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe with much hand waving and glee.
We went home later, full of good soup and bread and cowboy cookies, and we left the house well-blessed. The priest had done his fine work and we had laughed and discussed and shared both food and affection, sitting in a circle of peace on the screened-in porch.
The blessings went both ways–as all real blessings do–we blessed the new home of our friends with our care and love, and we were blessed by being in such good company. Even the dogs looked happy, as dogs mostly do.