Learn more about who we are by following our blog, written by our pastor, preacher, and chief evangelist. Engage in the everyday sacred as Abby writes about the deep and ordinary all at once.
One of my children’s Montessori classmates has kidney cancer. She is four. The fear is unspeakable. Thankfully grace abounds and WE ARE not without hope. Her diagnosis is excellent. The care she is receiving is world class. And her community is surrounding her with tangible love—meals dropped off, fundraisers, cards, playdates.
I am not particularly close to her mom. We have seen each other endlessly at pick up and drop off. Enough so that we exchange pleasantries, she knows my occupation, I hers. She is a yoga instructor, I a pastor. We like each other, but our lives are full. She has not become part of my inner circle, nor I hers.
When the Montessori community discovered her daughter was diagnosed with kidney cancer, my own hidden fears thrust me into action. As a pastor, I have walked with many through cancer and observed what can be helpful. Because of this, I ended up the coordinator of meals and parent volunteers. As a result I am in regular email communication with a woman who is very familiar, but not a close friend.
We email about details: where is your house, will you leave a cooler outside, do you mind if we put your daughter’s picture in the flier? But how can you email someone only about details when her daughter is throwing up from chemo and she has a folder filling with medical bills? I have decided to be authentically myself--which means being a Christian. I’ve decided not to be concerned about “religiously offending” even though I was pretty certain she did not share my faith tradition. In my emails I have made it clear I pray for her (I have not written the neutral “I am thinking of you”). I have told her we pray for her daughter in church, that my son remembers her daughter in his nightly prayers, that I have raised my fist at God a few times about her daughter’s diagnosis, that I often visualize her family and pray God’s love surrounds them like a warm blanket and at other times I visualize God’s strong arms picking her up to move her on to the chemo appointment. I have been fully my Christian self.
Something miraculous has happened: my relationship with this woman has become religiously intimate. She does not share my faith. But she has a faith that is her own and beautiful and full. She has written me emails with such beautiful words such as “I bow to you.” She has written about releasing her fears and handing them over, about her journey through control, and always she thanks me through a simple blessing: Namaste.
We are far too cautious these days about offending others with our religious beliefs—so cautious that we stunt relationships. I have no intention of making this mother a Christian. She has no intention of making me a part of her tradition. Yet because we have been honest about our own spiritual practices and journeys, a richness and depth has arisen that would never have been there otherwise.
Let’s quit tip toeing around. Let us honestly share who we are as faithful people with one another, no matter what our faith is, owning boldly that we can be deeply faithful without a desire to convert others to our tradition. Maybe that’s our best interreligious future—not a world in which everyone pretends to be secular in order to avoid offense. Maybe in our best future everyone is who they are, and thanks God for each other as they are.
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.