When I moved to Madison County in July, it was my intention to get involved with the Metro East Interfaith Partnership (MEIP). I was surprised when I received an invitation to join their steering committee. My reaction was: You don’t want a newcomer to be on your steering committee, do you? But this is how I was welcomed, and I have been on the steering committee since my arrival.
The MEIP was established post-9/11. In late 2001, so the organization’s history tells it, a Catholic woman had left a letter at the door of a mosque in St. Clair County. The letter said, essentially, that people of different religions need to be talking to one another. The MEIP was formally established in 2002.
On the steering committee are Catholics, Baha’is, a Muslim, a Jew, a United Methodist, a minister of Religious Science, and representatives of two Mormon groups: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah) and the Community of Christ (known until 2001 as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and headquartered in Independence, Mo.).
The MEIP has for many years organized book studies. As I entered the group, a study of Abraham: One God, Three Wives, Five Religions by Baha’i scholar Frances Worthington was going forward. I have not yet read the book, but I did hear the author speak, as she came to us from North Carolina for a presentation at the Center for Spirituality and Sustainability at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. The figures of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and Keturah are, of course, central to the establishment of the concept of there being only one God of all peoples. Their faith, therefore, is the foundation for the faith of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Babism, and the Baha’i faith.
We are planning a study of a book on ethics and virtues by a Mormon apostle. I suggested that, given the imminent release of the film based on the book A Wrinkle in Time, this young people’s science-fiction novel might be a fitting candidate for a book study.
If you are not familiar with A Wrinkle in Time: Published in 1962, it won the Newbery Medal in 1963. The author, Madeleine L’Engle (1918-2007), was an Episcopalian Christian who wrote a number of books on her faith. I remember, in particular, her reflections on the liturgical year in The Irrational Season (1977), and I have considered her a companion in the adventure of wrestling with Christian faith.
A Wrinkle in Time, besides having the trappings of “space opera,” is a very heartfelt dramatization of the struggle of good over evil, and especially of devotion and love among the main characters. It appears that we will schedule A Wrinkle in Time for a summer book study. We will encourage children and young people to read it. I was an adult when I first read it, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to people of any age.
The MEIP has also organized tours of various houses of worship in the St. Louis and Metro East areas. Thus far, I have been able to be present for an event at a mosque in St. Clair County, which, as is so often the case, is an occasion to partake of great Middle Eastern food.
Next column: a return to types of prayer. I will consider (and, I hope, demystify) a thing called “meditation.”