DIVIDED WE STAND, UNITED WE FALL Read the words of Thomas Jefferson, celebrating religious diversity in a letter he wrote to a Jewish leader in Savannah, Georgia, in 1820: “the maxim of civil government being reversed in that of religion, where its true form is, “divided we stand, united we fall.”
On the first Sunday in May– May 1, 2016 (or other times during the year) – churches dedicate their worship to a celebration of our interfaith world. Progressive Christians thank God for religious diversity! We don’t claim that our religion is superior to all others. We recognize that other religions can be as good for others as ours is for us. We can grow closer to God and deeper in compassion—and we can understand our own traditions better—through a more intimate awareness of the world’s religions. On PLURALISM SUNDAY, churches celebrate elements of other world faiths in their sermons, litanies, and music; many feature speakers and singers from other faith traditions. Some congregations have exchanges with other faith communities, going to each other’s houses of worship.
SOULJOURN is a resource at Patheos.com for celebrating religious pluralism and for learning about the faiths of the world, and inviting people to explore religious diversity in their own “back yards”. The novel by Jim Burklo, Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California, is a conversation-starter for churches and other groups that are exploring world religions. The online study guide for the novel is a resource for discussion about world religion and interfaith relations. Congregations that welcome “Souljourners” – people visiting houses of worship of traditions other than their own – can advertise their welcome with this logo:
HOW CHURCHES CELEBRATE PLURALISM SUNDAY:
Rowntree Memorial United Church of Canada London Ontario celebrated Pluralism Sunday on April 28th, 2013 – relying on materials available through The Center for Progressive Christianity with the Bohemian Cafe dialogue from the Pluralism Project presented during sermon time.
St Andrew’s on The Terrace Church, Wellington, NZ, invited a member of the Buddhist community to speak about his journey as a secular Buddhist at our Sunday morning service on 5th May 2013.
First United Methodist Church of Madison, celebrated Pluralism Sunday on May 5, 2013 with worship focused on appreciation of religious diversity and what we receive from other faiths. Liturgical movement and music of other traditions were included. The church also hosted an interactive, intergenerational World Peace Village that day with banners, prayers, traditions, and sacred items from several different faiths.
First Congregational Church of Tacoma, WA, held an Interfaith Celebration Service and Dialogue on Sunday, April 22nd, 2012. An interfaith inspired service happened at 11am with speakers from several different faiths. Afterward a round-table discussion ran from 1p-3:30pm.
Countryside Community Church, UCC, Omaha, Nebraska conducted “The Faith of Jesus in a Pluralistic World” in 2012, the first in a 6-part series in a chain of TWELVE 6-part series called “By This Way of Life – Twelve Journeys Into the Heart of Christian Faith”.
On May 6, 2012, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Parish, Tempe, Arizona, hosted Imam Yahya Hendi and Rabbi Gerald Serotta as co-preachers for the 10:30 AM service.
On Sunday May 6, 2012, “Conversations about Progressive Christianity”, a study group of Lynnhaven Colony Congregational Church, United Church of Christ sponsored its Third Annual International Pluralism Sunday. After the success of sharing with local Buddhist communities, and then a progressive Jewish congregation last year, in 2012 they shared time and talent with a local Catholic Workers Movement house. Special guests were Steve Baggarly and Kim Williams who operate Sadako Sasaki House in Norfolk, VA. They offer short and long-term hospitality to homeless men and women and serve 100+ folks four mornings a week, bringing “breakfast-to-the-streets. This “faith-based”, intentional community supports the Plowshare movement for disarmament and is involved in nonviolent civil resistance against militarism locally and with the Atlantic Life Community.
Unity Church of Monterey Bay in Monterey, CA consistently honors other paths to God or the Sacred by reading sacred Scripture from at least two other faith traditions (in addition to the Judeo-Christian scripture) on the topic of the Sunday lesson.
In May 2012 it offered a series based on Karen Armstrong’s book “12 Steps to a Compassionate Life” which also cites various faith traditions.
Niles Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Fremont, CA, celebrated Pluralism Sunday on Sunday, May 8, 2011 with a dialog sermon (by the Rev. Jeffrey Spencer and the Rev. Steve Kindle) based on Matthew 2:1-12 and Acts 10:9-16. It covered topics such as how we become Christians, the implications of our stories of becoming Christians, why (given the plurality of religions that exist) we are still Christians, and (given that neither claimed that Christianity is superior to all other religions) what we think about the validity of other religions and the purpose of evangelism for progressive Christians. You are invited to listen to the audio of it here.
On Sunday, May 22, 2011 at Plymouth Congregational UCC in Helena, Montana, Rev. Cathy Barker preached on religious pluralism and use the wonderful “Reading from Many Traditions” from the Tanenbaum Center, with special music with Native American drum and flute.
On Sunday May 1, 2011, the “Conversations about Progressive Christianity” study group of Lynnhaven (VA) Colony Congregational Church, United Church of Christ sponsored its Second Annual International Pluralism Sunday. After the success of sharing with several of its local Buddhist communities last year, this year the church shared time and attention with members of the Jewish community. Rabbi Israel Zoberman, Founding Rabbi of Congregation Beth Chaverim in Virginia Beach, was the speaker for Pluralism Sunday at Colony Congregational. May 1st was also Holocaust Remembrance Day and the church focused this solemn remembrance from an Interfaith perspective and the themes that follow for the whole human family. In addition to this special day of worship May 1st at 10:00 am and potluck meal at 11:00 am, several other learning opportunities happened: a Shabbat service with Congregation Beth Chaverim on Friday April 15th at 7:30 pm and the community-wide Holocaust Remembrance Day service at 6:45 pm on Sunday May 1st at Ohef Shalom Temple in Ghent.
The Unitarian Church of Weymouth, MA, featured a Pluralism Sunday sermon by the pastor, Richard Trudeau, on May 1 titled “More Like an Eddy than a Rock,” presenting the basic ideas of Buddhism, contrasting them with those of Christianity, and pointing out ways in which the two supplement each other.
First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, TN, celebrated Beltane on Pluralism Sunday, May 1, 6 pm. Bel was the Celtic sun god who was in his glory during the light half of the year. In the old traditions, this feast day celebrated the new growth and fertility of the land and all of its inhabitants. The Peacemaking Committee celebrated with dancing and dining at the church, and will hold the rite outside if weather permits.
The Congregational Church of Belmont, CA, on May 1 heard a local Baha’i leader speak in worship and the pastor of the church, Kristy Denham, preached on “Many Streams, One River”.
First Congregational Christian United Church of Christ, Chesterfield, VA on April 10 had Malik and Annette Khan of The Islamic Center of Virginia to do a presentation of Islam with the church’s Adult Faith Formation gathering. It also celebrated pluralism in its May 1 worship.
Celebrations of Pluralism Sunday include many other creative ways of embracing religious pluralism as integral to our Christian faith. Mt. Hollywood Congregational UCC in Los Angeles included in worship a performance by the students of the Shanti Interfaith Choir from the University of Southern California. St. Paul’s Church in Laramie, Wyoming, read the Golden Rule in 6 different religious traditions. Other churches focus on sermons about religious pluralism: Rev. John Shuck, First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethtown, Tennessee; Rev. Christine Paulus, St Luke’s Church in Philadelphia.
SIGN UP your congregation to be listed as a participating church for 2016 – by emailing Rev. Jim Burklo, Pluralism Sunday Coordinator for ProgressiveChristianity.org. (Churches can celebrate the event on other dates and still be listed as participants – indicate your plans for the event to Jim so these details can be listed on our site.)
PLURALISM SUNDAY is initiated by ProgressiveChristianity.org. Congregations worldwide have adopted its “Welcome Statement” that affirms that other religions can be as good for their followers as Christianity is for us.
Learn here what churches around the world are doing to promote religious pluralism as a profound expression of the love and the humility that Jesus preached and practiced. You’ll find sermons, litanies, book reviews, and other resources your congregation can use to create a celebration of PLURALISM SUNDAY that is appropriate for your community.