Why can’t people of different religions just get along, and why can’t religious people quit trying to change people who aren’t religious?. . .What’s the difference between spiritual and religious, anyway?. . . Can you be an atheist and be spiritual, too?
These questions perplex many of us today as we watch horrific images of violence committed in the name of religion, struggle with our own feelings about the intersections of religion and public life, and wonder where we fit into the paradigm of contemporary spirituality.
Many people find the answers in interfaith philosophy. Interfaith isn’t a religion, but an approach to religion and spirituality that embraces people of all beliefs, or lack thereof—those who are adherents to specific religious traditions, those who are spiritually or religiously eclectic, and those who do not profess any faith or spirituality. Interfaith celebrates the commonalities among all religions and philosophies—such as the “Golden Rule,” which appears in various forms in all sacred texts—but does not promote the merger or synthesis of different faiths. Interfaith respects diversity of belief in all forms.
As an interfaith minister, I do many of the same things church-affiliated ministers, rabbis, imams and other religious leaders do: lead worship, perform life rituals such as weddings and funerals, visit the sick, vigil with the dying, advocate for social justice, offer spiritual guidance, and teach. In doing so, I use the spiritual language, symbols and references that resonate with those I am serving. If those involved have differing beliefs, we work together openly to make our spiritual interactions affirming and helpful to all. Interfaith rituals and services can be particularly meaningful to families whose members have varying beliefs.
People often ask me if I belong to a particular church. I am a member of the Congregation for Creative and Healing Ministries in Berkeley, California, which ordained me in 2010 after I completed the ordination studies program at the affiliated Chaplaincy Institute for the Arts and Interfaith Ministries (www.chaplaincyinstitute.org). I also completed the Chaplaincy Institute’s Spiritual Direction Program and am a certified Spiritual Director (please see the page on Spiritual Guidance.) I attend a variety of religious services, including interfaith services, in my hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and in other cities I visit.
Because I am not paid by any particular church or religious body, I charge reasonable fees for my services, and when possible, I do charitable work for those who do not have access to spiritual assistance and cannot pay for it.