From left, Donald Kengaku Zezulinski of Clear Mountain Zen Center,...

From left, Donald Kengaku Zezulinski of Clear Mountain Zen Center, the Rev. Henrietta Scott Fullard of Long Island District, African Methodist Episcopal Churches, and the Rev. Robert Cederstrom of Christ Lutheran Church of New Hyde Park. Credit: Donald Kengaku Zezulinski; African Methodist Episcopal Churches; Christ Lutheran Church

Faith has the power to move mountains, according to an oft-paraphrased passage in Matthew 17:20-21. This week’s clergy discuss how their leadership roles have moved them to practice greater self-control, to manage shyness or to follow God’s call unquestioningly.

The Rev. Robert Cederstrom Sr.

Pastor, Christ Lutheran Church of New Hyde Park

Two ways come to mind. I have definitely become more empathic since becoming a pastor, and, hopefully, I have become more tolerant.

My enhanced sense of empathy has genuinely allowed me to walk with people who are experiencing difficulties in their lives and assure them that God is with them on their journey. I find listening (rather than talking) to be a key element in relating to people in need.

Tolerance has never been my strongest suit. I often tell the story of my pre-pastor days, when, if someone cut me off while I was driving, I would cuss them out and drive 10 miles like a maniac so I could cut them off. Now I just cuss them out and smile. We can do little to stop our knee-jerk reactions, but we can certainly control the emotions and actions that follow.

Forgiveness is at the heart of our faith, and revenge has no place in our hearts at all. My newfound tolerance has definitely given me a sense of peace and well-being in my life, a change I wholeheartedly recommend to everyone.

Donald Kengaku Zezulinski of Island Park

Senior student teacher, Clear Mountain Zen Center

Becoming the center of attention has been my biggest adjustment after stepping into a leadership role.

Before his death, Kendo Rich Hart, my first teacher, asked me to continue as the head of Clear Mountain Zen Center, which he founded. In this role I teach and lead meditation, organize study classes on Buddhist texts, participate in events hosted by a local college and apply my knowledge of Zen to assist people in substance abuse recovery programs. In general I engage with anyone looking to understand, practice or deepen their practice of Zen.

I can no longer comfortably hide behind my teacher or consult with him about what to do next. In many ways, I’m doing the same things I did when he was teaching me and, yet, I feel a greater depth and breadth of understanding, a deeper honesty. I’ve learned that Zen isn’t about hiding from life or its struggles. On the contrary, Zen training teaches us to engage life.

I never consciously set out to be a spiritual leader. I might appear to be friendly, outspoken and engaging, but I tend to be shy and introverted. I would be dishonest if I didn’t say that at times, I wish I could retreat behind my teacher again.

The Rev. Henrietta Scott Fullard

Presiding elder (retired), Long Island District, African Methodist Episcopal Churches

In Isaiah 6:8, the Prophet Isaiah is in God’s holy temple when he hears the voice of the Lord asking, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Without question or curiosity about the end result, or even knowing what the journey will be like, Isaiah responds with enthusiasm: "Here am I; send me!"

I heard the voice of God in my ear for the first time when I was in my late 30s. I was sitting in church when I felt his movement within my spirit. I ran to the altar to thank him. I had been working as a high school principal, but from that day forward I dedicated my life to becoming a minister and was ordained in the 1990s. Hearing God’s call led me to something new, different and risky without a clear path ahead. Ultimately, becoming a spiritual leader changed me in a way that permeates the very depth of my being, centering and focusing the structure of my life.

I minister with the knowledge that God is my leader, and therefore I must continue to stand on his word as a source of strength, commitment, power and determination to guide his people.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com. Find more LI Life stories at newsday.com/LILife.

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