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Asking the Clergy: Important lessons from those of different faith traditions

Narinder Kapoor, the Rev. Thomas R. Schmidt, and

Narinder Kapoor, the Rev. Thomas R. Schmidt, and Rabbi Mendel Teldon Photo Credit: Narinder Kapoor / Denise Schmidt /Tom Keller

Long Island’s religious diversity brings people of many faiths together in neighborhoods and even in houses of worship where ecumenical services are held. This week’s clergy discuss the value of listening to people who hold different religious beliefs.

Narinder Kapoor

Member of the board of directors of the Multi-Faith Forum of Long Island, Melville

As one of the directors of the Long Island Multi-Faith Forum, I have had ample opportunities to meet and get to know persons of different faiths. I’ve found that the first step in learning from a person of another faith is to open up your mind and become receptive to different ideas and concepts — to attempt to become universal in your thinking. As long as you are thinking inside the box, you are deprived of newness and freshness. This type of openness affirms the positive values of living in a pluralistic society.

In the Hindu Scripture Bhagavad Gita, almighty Lord Krishna categorically reaffirms that he dwells in the hearts of all. And indeed, the person I learned from is very far from my own experience as a Hindu. He is an American Indian who believes in animism. He tells me that he profoundly believes that a soul exists in all things, animate or inanimate. This man often demonstrates to me a genuine empathetic state of mind coupled with integrity and inclusiveness. He increased my understanding of what oneness and acceptance mean.

I have learned from him that I should continue to promote interfaith understanding, cooperation and acceptance in our increasingly diverse society, and that all faith-based routes lead to the same destination.

Thomas Schmidt

Apostle, New Apostolic Church, Bethpage

Simply put, spiritual leaders and devout believers should be joyful. Why? Because seeking holiness brings us closer to God, the source of all lasting joy. And the closer we come to God, the more joy we find in our fellow believers.

Ecumenism adds to our joy. This is an important lesson I’ve learned time and again from the Rev. Thomas W. Goodhue, executive director emeritus of the Long Island Council of Churches. This was evident from the start when I met Rev. Goodhue. He extended a welcoming and inclusive hand from LICC to the New Apostolic Church USA. He chose to seek and find what was positive in our church. His good humor and unflappable nature didn’t just break the ice but melted it.

The Rev. Goodhue has written in our church bulletin, “Being six feet, five inches myself, I have always known that one size doesn’t fit all. We don’t all pray the same way, we don’t all need the same sort of worship to nourish our souls, and we don’t all want to (or can) gather at the same time or day of the week.” He intentionally reaches out to all people of faith and goodwill. He is a catalyst to open ecumenical dialogue and cooperation. Swimming upstream against racial divisions in our region, where our communities are too often stratified by class and race, he is a goodwill ambassador of faith for the beloved community that he, and I, believe Jesus longs to see.

Rabbi Mendel Teldon
Chabad of Mid-Suffolk, Commack

There’s a saying in the Talmud, “Who is wise? One who learns from every man.” (Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter 4:1) One of the fundamental beliefs of Judaism is that every single person is created by God and can have a vibrant, unique and genuine relationship with their higher power.

While a Jew’s relationship with God is specifically through Judaism, a non-Jew can go to heaven as well. If God created all of us in his image, then someone who was created not of the Jewish faith must not require Judaism in their relationship with God. (Conversion is possible but unnecessary to have a relationship.)

So every person, regardless of their background or faith, carries with them a spark of God and can teach us something valuable based on their life experiences. In addition, one of the methods God communicates with us is through other people. Every person that we come in contact with is put into our lives by God to teach us something. Our purpose is to cultivate these relationships and listen to the messages they bring us and try to understand why God put them in our life.

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