Guest Blog by Rev. Dr. John H. Danner
This past weekend my congregation shared a pulpit exchange with our sisters and brothers who are part of Bat Yam–Temple of the Islands.
I preached at the Friday night service held by Bat Yam, and their rabbi, my friend Stephen Fuchs, preached at our nine and eleven o’clock services on Sunday morning. Such an exchange between Jewish and Christian rabbis and pastors is not unusual, but what makes this exchange somewhat unique is the simple fact that we don’t actually exchange pulpits, at least not pieces of furniture.
For you see, Bat Yam shares our building, shares our sanctuary, shares much of our life. We engage in joint outreach efforts, joint educational programs and joint fellowship activities.
I began my tenure here on Sanibel exactly eight years ago, and frankly, one of the key reasons I accepted this call was knowing of the unusual partnership that our two congregations had formed over the years. Twenty-seven years ago, Bat Yam was formed, and then took up residence here–and they’ve never left! We have lived together without benefit of marriage, so to speak.
And over that time we have grown evermore close in our work and our ministries, while still retaining our distinctly different ways of approaching the Divine.
Indeed, we celebrate the reality that we have serious differences, for that reminds us again and again that the Holy is beyond mere human capability to explain or define. And our individual understandings are enriched by sharing those of others. Indeed, being together as we are, helps us move past seeing one another as “the other” so that we might embrace one another as sisters and brothers, as children of the one same God.
These days I feel even more strongly that what we are doing, simply by sharing life together, is bearing witness in a world that needs to know people of faith, people of different faiths, can get along, can work together, can help repair the world, tikkun olom.
For while we are of different faiths, we share a common faith, a common trust, in the Maker of the Universe. And while we who are in the United Church of Christ, do not routinely begin any of our prayers with the words baruch atah Adonai eloheinu . . . we too join in praising the Lord, the Eternal One.
A wise Jewish teacher with whom I have more than a passing familiarity, once said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.” It is my constant prayer that we are empowered to continue in our efforts at peacemaking right here on Periwinkle Way.
Dr. Danner is our “Landlord Pastor” at Sanibel Congregational UCC Church that is also home to Bat Yam Temple of the Islands.
For me Dr. Danner embodies everything a spiritual leader should be.