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Asking the Clergy: How can friends help us on our faith journey?

From left, the Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr.

From left, the Rev. Earl Y. Thorpe Jr. of Church-in-the-Garden, Rabbi Elizabeth Zeller of Temple Chaverim and Anu Jain of Jain Center of America. Credit: Church-in-the-Garden; Maureen LePiane; Aishwarya Jain

The simple pleasures of camaraderie are celebrated July 30 on the United Nations International Day of Friendship. This week’s clergy discuss how, in addition to enriching our social and interpersonal lives, friends can help in our faith practice and make us better people overall.

The Rev. Earl Thorpe Jr.

Pastor, Church-in-the-Garden, Garden City

I would argue that it is impossible to think of a faith journey independent of friendship. That is, it is a terrific miscalculation to think of faith as only an individualistic pursuit.

Our faith journey includes and is bolstered by the communal experience and encounters of faith believers in their faith walks. Our sacred texts are replete with a litany of examples of the intersection of faith and friendship. We remember the didactic story of Job and Job’s friends’ influence on his own faith journey.

Jesus expresses the depths of friendship with respect to one’s faith when he proclaims, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus follows that by calling his disciples not simply servants and followers, but friends! This is a remarkable testament to the value and interconnectedness of friendships and faith.

True friendship, like true faith, means that one agrees to the highest standards of personal commitment, love, trust, belief and service. True friendships are not fleeting. They do not break or fold in the midst of adversity. Rather, they flourish and reconfirm their presence throughout our challenges. The defining characteristics of friendship are the same attributes found in our faith and faith journeys. They are divinely linked.

Rabbi Elizabeth Zeller

Temple Chaverim, Plainview

The word “friends” in Hebrew is chaverim. As the senior rabbi at Temple Chaverim in Plainview, I love that we get to call ourselves a community of friends.

Judaism is built on the idea that traveling along your faith journey with others is actually necessary to practicing your Judaism. A minyan, a gathering of at least 10 people, is required to say many of our daily prayers aloud. Our fall festival of Sukkot asks us to invite guests into our temporary huts so that they and we may increase our joy and our celebration of the holiday. During lifecycle events, at least two witnesses are present to acknowledge the next step in a faith journey.

Judaism invites us to live our spiritual and religious selves in community with one another, in most everything that we do. It helps us lift up those who have fallen, make sweeter our joys, our parties and celebrations, and increases our sustainability and longevity for years to come.

Anu Jain of Jericho

Executive board member, Jain Center of America in Elmhurst, Queens

Friends always have an impact on our lives, our learning and our personalities. When we are with our spiritual friends, they are never going to harm us or anyone else. In fact, they will try to help us improve our lives.

My religion says that people with faith in God are afraid of doing wrong and will try to prevent their friends from doing wrong. We respect our religious friends and have confidence that they will guide and help us when we hit our own bumps in life. Their prayers help to consistently lift our lives and relay our concerns to God.

Religious friends must have credibility in our eyes because they have to point out any wrongs that we commit. However, the two traits that are most important are an ability to maintain confidentiality and a consistent desire to pray for the welfare and well-being of their friends.

The larger truth is to remember that God is the best friend, and our faith in God leads us and keeps us going in the right direction.

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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