Interfaith Immersion Day 6

Friday

Our week comes to a close today. It’s a packed day!

First, a visit to the Islamic Society of Greater Valley Forge for jumu-ah prayers.

This particular community is situated close to a Jewish synagogue next door and a Baptist church across the street. This intentional grouping of faith traditions has led to increased awareness, cooperation, and sends a powerful message to the community. Read more here and here.

Before prayers, we headed downstairs to their community hall. Other students from Villanova Univ. were visiting and joined us. After some brief introductions and an orientation, we all participated in the Friday prayers and listened to a message by one of the leaders of the community. It was right on point–he talked about seeking justice for those who have none, and of helping the marginalized and those who are different than you/not part of your particular community. Pretty much what this week was all about.

After prayers we went downstairs for Q&A and pizza. Fabulous conversation. I so appreciate this community!

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We were pressed for time, so we piled into vehicles and immediately made our way back into Center City Philly for our visit to Congregation Rodeph Shalom.

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We were greeted immediately by Rabbi Eli Freedman. The place was abuzz with activity in preparation for the Shabbat service. Rabbi Eli brought us into the sanctuary.

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The architecture is uniquely beautiful. Here’s a closeup of where the Torah scroll resides.

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The students had a quick Q&A with Rabbi Eli.

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He talked about Rodeph Shalom being a “Reform” Jewish congregation and more progressive in its social stances and commitment to justice for marginalized communities. Rodeph Shalom is also extremely active in interfaith work and a leader in interfaith cooperative projects in Greater Philadelphia, including POWER and PICO.

Rabbi Eli shared a bit about what to expect in the Shabbat service and about the importance/significance of the Torah in the lives of Jewish people.

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Afterwards, a few moments to munch on Challah bread and fruit and then it was time for the service to begin. We were greeted with “Shabbat Shalom” as more and more people started to arrive and make their way into the worship space.

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After the service, we made our way just a few blocks over from Broad St. to the Mormon Meeting House for the production of Savior of the World, a musical depicting the birth and resurrection stories about Jesus of Nazareth, as told in the Christian Gospels.

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Whew! What a day, what a week! All of us exhausted, we called it a night. The students return to Ohio on Saturday morning. Look for some guest bloggers soon, as some of the students will share their experiences. Thanks for joining me on this journey!

No matter what religion you practice [or if you don’t practice], we are better together. Meeting people who are different than you, honoring and learning about their sacred spaces and practices–will lead you to more understanding and opportunities for personal growth. I also think it enables us to work towards a more just and peaceful world.

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Josh grew up in Indiana and Iowa before completing a Masters of Divinity [M.Div.] at Princeton Theological Seminary [NJ]. He has worked in a variety of settings, including the Presbyterian Church (USA) and United Church of Christ (UCC) in Philadelphia, Hawai’i, Mexico, and Michigan. Currently, he serves as pastor of Love in Action United Church of Christ, a progressive, Christian, LGBTQIA+ affirming and interfaith community in Hatboro, a suburb of Philadelphia. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre/Speech from Northwestern College (IA). Josh has worked with youth and young adult programs for 25 years regionally, nationally, and in Latin America. He is also a trained actor and performs regularly with the dinner theatre company, Without a Cue Productions, LLC. He has developed theatre arts curriculum for use in worship, youth groups, education, and group-building. Josh is also committed to promoting religious pluralism and partnering with people of all faiths and those who identify as atheist or agnostic to build bridges of shared values and cooperation. He is honored to work with the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia as a Fellow and a Consultant. Focus areas include: University alternative spring break and summer programs that incorporate faith encounters and service-learning for students; workplace diversity programs that promote understanding in organizations, corporations, schools, and hospital settings. Josh also enjoys playing basketball, strumming on the guitar, traveling, learning language, or making strange and funny faces. He lives in Center City Philadelphia and thinks vegan cheesesteaks are amazingly good.

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