With accidental start and end dates of Pentecost Sunday (’11) and Easter Sunday (’12), I have successfully completed my 30+ visits.But…I’m not done yet! The completed are, in no particular order:
1.Living Word Church (my childhood church) 2. King Ave Methodist (GLBTQ Reconciling) 3. Lake Erie Drive-in 4. Buddhist Temple 5.Pentecostal Mega-church 6.Baptist 7.African-American Baptist 8.Movie Theater Rock 9.Hindu Temple 10.Synagogue 11.Roman Catholic 12. Eastern Orthodox 13.Vineyard 14.Jehovah’s Witness 15.Mormon 16.Atheist 17.Stadium 18.Christian Spiritualist 19.Emergent Independent 20.Quaker 21.Hare Krishna 22.Scientology 23.Unitarian 24.Baha’i 25. Storefront Redeemed 26.Christian Science 27. Stone Village 28.Sikh 29.Naturalist 30.Taize 31. Vertias (church of the boot camp) 32. Seventh Day Adventist
(Note: My blog checklist is typically behind because I have to rely on my web programmer to change it.)
I was heavy on the Christian churches, especially in the beginning, so I am doubling back to attend a few originally on the list and several additions before the 5/15 deadline:
–Native American–Amish–Pagan and/or Wiccan–Kabbalah–Mosque
Though I’ve not had luck locating the following in my area, I am still interested in:
–Zoroastrianism–Tao–Sufi–Xenos–African/tribal–Voodou–Virtual–Rastafaria–Gnostic–Jainism–Confusionism–Shinto–New Thought–Polytheistic (any culture, but particularly Celtic)–Shamanism–Snake-handlers
With continual help from the Spirit, I’ve gone from Post-traumatic Church Syndrome (barely being able to enter a church) to being able, and excited, to attend places of worship of all faiths and even non-faiths. I’ve also completed a Thirty-Day fast, studied Ancient Christian and Buddhist meditation, read extensively on multiple religions, sorted out my own beliefs, found a faith I can believe in, known and seen my God, changed my career, discovered my ministry and calling, started this blog–thanks to the good advice of someone wise, written nearly 100,000 words for the book (probably only 10,000 that are any good!), survived three physical and one spiritual bootcamp & , (surprise!) found a church, and much, much more. But these are stories and conclusions for other days! I still have much more to write about. So, let the quest and the blog continue
I nearly quit Thirty by Thirty at least a dozen times. So…for all those who have followed and encouraged this journey…thank you! For those who have criticized it…thank you as well. Everyone who has touched this path has helped it toward completion. I’m not done yet. And probably never will be!
All my love–Reba
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Last Easter, I never imagined I would spend the following Resurrection holiday with the Sikhs, decked out in Indian dress instead of my Sunday best. But due to a looming Thirty by Thirty deadline on 5/15, I needed to cross Sikhism off the list more than attend a service of the Cross. So, off I went to the Sikh temple, grumbling about trading padded pews for floor-sitting, and cantatas for confusion. And Confused I was… quickly discovering that I totally suck at being Sikh.
How I Suck at Sikh, Exhibit 1: Language. While fluent in most dialects of Christianese, my knowledge of Indian languages is, ahem,lacking. Or non-existent. And the few words I do know? Like, for food? Naan,ghee,lassi), do not an appearance make in the Guru Grath Sahib (the Sikh’s First Holy Scripture). Nor do they figure in Mr. Esteemed Turban Man’s attempts to direct me through temple customs. (Which is how I ended up: A) trying to ritually wash my face instead of, correctly, my hands and B.) seated on the men’s side of the temple on a bench reserved for the elderly C.) listening to The Reading of Sikh Scripture for a full 90 minutes before realizing I didn’t have to stay in there the whole time and D.) Failing to bring cash or an offering to the altar and E.) Turning my back on the altar…a big no-no. Ooops.)
Exhibt 2: Timing. As I’ve discovered with other Eastern religions, time is a fluid concept. People show up when they feel like it, often over the period of an entire day, wandering in and out of the Temple to eat, chat and eat again. But I smartly managed to forget this fun fact when I showed up, ready to worship, or whatever, ten minutes before Sukhmani Sahib paath (service) start time. I was the only person in the Temple, save the Granthi (religious leader reading from Scripture) and a monk-like figure in the far corner.
Exhibit 3: Dress. Once the ladies did start arriving, I realized I should have made another trip to the Sari store. At least I knew to bring my scarf. But being white wasn’t the only reason I stood out…I looked pretty awful compared to their lovely traditional dress. All the colors of Easter eggs were represented,along with sparkles, beading and bells. And what was I wearing? Black.
Exhibit 4: Food. Eating or Langar (translation: free kitchen) is integral to Sikh services. Not only do they feed their congregation, they feed everyone who shows up. The problem? Smelling authentic Indian food before noon kind of turns my stomach. (No offense to the cooks intended.) Further, I somehow ended up seated at the kid’s table. And even the kids didn’t talk to me.
I realized I should just give up and go home. Not only did I feel bored and excluded, I was disappointed in all my inadvertently bad behavior. How do I manage to suck so badly when I’ve been at this foreign religion thing for 11 months??? But, right before I was about to dump my plate in desperation, my salvation appeared: a vision in purple dress, the English-speaking Temple President rescued me from certain failure.She took me under her gauzy wing, and I spent the following hours being introduced as “The author from Ohio State!” (which wasn’t quite right but I didn’t correct her). She talked and translated and embraced the “courageousness of my journey!” (also not quite right, since I nearly ran away before she showed up, but I didn’t correct her). She explained the religion to me, giving life to the stories and customs I had researched in advance. Her faith was so strong, and her temple work so tireless, that it gave me chills to hear her recount the tenants of Sikhism.
“There is only One God, the Creator of the Light. And we all worship Him no matter our faith, whether we know it or not…Being a Sikh is about freedom and equality: in gender, in religion, in race, in caste…we are all equal in the eyes of God. Which is why we all sit on the floor when we eat. Even me, especially me, because I am President here, it is most important that I sit equally, as a servant…remember in your journey equality, and do your interfaith work. Because it needs to be done, it must be done. People need to hear the message that we are all one.”
As I hugged her and others goodbye, I realized from her words that despite all my exhibits to the contrary, she didn’t think I sucked at being Sikh for a day. And who am I to argue with the President?
On my way out the door, she wished me, ”Happy Easter!” And it was.
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