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Local congregations to hold inter-faith service


October 20, 2017

Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church and Pardes Levavot Jewish Renewal will be holding a special event at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 22.

The joint ecumenical service will feature theologian Rev. Matthew Fox, an internationally known speaker, author and teacher of Judeo-Christian beliefs.

Rabbis Victor and Nadya Gross of Pardes Levavot and Shepherd of the Hills Pastor Janet Kettering said that although the two congregations have shared a building since 2003 and have always worked closely together, they have never held a service like this.

“It’s one of those situations where we are both communities of faith,” Kettering said. “We have a different perspective, but there are parallels, obviously, in our belief systems and how we worship.

“I would say that our shared faith in God is what unites us in service and loving kindness for the sake of the whole world, not just for ourselves.”

The two hold several charity events each year, including gathering food donations for the Boulder County infant program and building Thanksgiving baskets for anywhere from 75-100 local families each year.

“We’re always welcome to worship with each other,” Kettering said. “They come to our Christmas Eve service, my husband and I worshipped at their Rosh Hashanah service a few weeks ago.

“When this opportunity came up, we thought it was a great chance to engage in deep humanism together and really look at what we do for the world instead of for our religious institutions. This was prompted by the Fox Institute in Boulder. We noticed so many parallels in what we do as far as the service goes.”

Gross said that he is excited to hear Fox speak at the event, as they both follow a similar line when it comes to how to approach religion and faith — from a humanist perspective.

He added that having an opportunity to hear from people of other faiths can only help enrich one’s own journey.

“The notion is that you can’t get all of your vitamins from one source,” Gross said. “So no one religion has all of the answers, all of the approaches. You look for vitamins from other sources, and that’s what we’ve been able to do.”

Both Gross and Kettering also see it as an educational opportunity.

“There are many in our faith tradition for whom this may be the only opportunity they have to worship as part of the other faith tradition,” Kettering said. “It is very much an educational opportunity. We see it as a way to show the neighborhood and community that we’re united.

“The richnesses of our faiths are something to be celebrated, to learn from and to teach from as opposed to something that divides us. It really brings us together and strengthens us as a community.”

Gross said that this attitude towards religion has been a growing trend in recent years, as many are less concerned with denomination and more about spirituality.

“It’s happening in Christianity and in Judaism,” Gross said. “The largest growing denomination in Judaism is unaffiliated. They’re not so connected to a denomination as they are looking for community, how to access the divine, how to live a life of higher consciousness.

“Along with that comes tolerance, acceptance and openness. While this is going on, we’re witnessing what I hope is the last gasp in America and Europe of parochialism, triumphalism, the ‘we’re right, you’re wrong’ mindset is disappearing.”

He added that Christians and Jews have not always seen eye-to-eye, even though the fundamental tenets are basically the same.

“Because of the history of antagonism between Christianity and Judaism for close to 2,000 years, neither side wanted to open up,” Gross said. “This is a period in history where we’ve all learned that we either need to work to love one another or we’re all going to die.

“That is so true …. Consider religious wars through all of these generations. It needs to stop, and it starts in the stopping phase by coming to understand what the other religion is all about. The things that we’ve been able to do with our two congregations … to study together and ask questions without feeling embarrassed. We can be open to say ‘I don’t know.’”

Gross said that as the relationship between the two congregations has grown over the last decade-plus, they all continue to learn from each other.

“Over the years, we became able to pray together and study together and really practice the term that Matthew Fox coined - humanism,” Gross said. “We don’t believe in a synchronistic service or homogenization. The theme and the longing is the same. It’s expressed in different liturgies, but they flow together.”

Worship begins at 9:30 a.m., communion will be offered along with healing prayer. Following the service, there will be a question and answer session and book signing with Fox.

The service will cap off with a potluck meal, and everyone is invited to attend. The church is located at 7077 Harvest Rd., in Gunbarrel.


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