Come take a walk with me through the garden. It’s a little wild. There are brambles down by the creek, weeds between the stones of the walkway, some things I don’t remember planting, but they look very nice, so I’m watching to see what they do. Of course, later this summer, the brambles will be full of merlot-dark blackberries. Some of the weeds will be dried to use in my cooking. And the lilies and roses are bursting with bloom this year – gotta love the show-offs in the garden. In the shade of a tree out back is an emerald-soft moss; it’s so small that most don’t notice it, but I love to stand there barefoot and feel the breeze in the early evening as Venus peeps over the horizon.
Interfaith involvement looks much like a wild garden. A tangle of contradictions, surprises, delights and sometimes disappointments, one must walk carefully. But the risk is rewarded richly, often in ways one could never have seen coming.
Here in South Carolina, when among interfaith colleagues, I find that I am no longer a minority. I am the representative of one of our faith traditions. No one religion is given more prominence or weight than another. No question that there were some blinks and confused faces at early meetings when I introduced myself as Pagan. As one minister said to me, thinking I was joking, “Yeah, I could say that about lots of my congregation members, too.” When she later realized her mistake, however, she was all questions and interest, eager to learn and compare my spiritual culture with hers. An imam sat in my living room for a meeting last year and raised a “new business” item with the group, about learning to be sensitive in our use of language. He noted that he has been using the word “pagan” in a derogatory manner with his masjid members for his whole career and that he realized he has to change that.
But the change is not just in other people’s perception of Paganism. I, too, am changed each time I step into the garden with my new friends. Some days are not pleasant and I return home exhausted and sweaty. Even then, I know we’ve done good, hard work, and will see results in time, if not soon. By broadening my own awareness through visits to places off the beaten path – the Sikh gurdwara, Mormon stake, Baha’í Center — by discussing the difficult questions, and sharing life experiences with my interfaith friends, I gain perspective and insight about my own Pagan spirituality.Wild Garden will explore and report on Pagans in the growing – yes, like a garden – interfaith landscape. I’ll be posting, as well as hosting a number of other Pagan bloggers who are out there somewhere in the blackberry patch. Wild Garden will place a particular emphasis on the local and regional grassroots movements happening around the country. By sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire readers to put on a sunhat, grab some gloves and come on out into the sunshine.
Some of you have read my past accounts on Palimpsest, about months of my religion being listed as “Other,” about the minister who made an apology to me and all Pagans the subject of his Sunday sermon, about my role on the board of directors of Interfaith Partners of South Carolina. I’ll continue to share those stories here at Wild Garden, along with my observations and the personal lessons I learn. Maybe you have a story to tell? We at Wild Garden will be all ears to your comments here at the blog. We want to hear what you are doing, what has worked for you, scared you off, intrigued you and inspired you.
If you’ve been curious about something where you live but have been unsure how to get started, here is all that you need:
∙ Willingness to learn, change, grow.
∙ Two-sided open conversation.
∙ Honesty and sincerity on your part.
∙ Assume others are honest and sincere.
∙ Define yourself, not others.
Finally, no good interfaith blog would be worth its salt if we did not quote theologian Hans Küng, who has famously said, “There will be no peace in the world until there is peace among the religions and there will be no peace among the religions until there is dialogue among the religions.”
The point of interfaith work is to build ties with others. We may have no common religious beliefs at all, but we all share a common humanity, families, needs, life passages, joys and sorrows. We can open to friendships, and in the process gain better understanding of other faiths. The ultimate goal is to build peace.
World peace through gardening – I’m in!