I grew up in Whiteville, Caucasian County, Upper Canada. There was one black family, no east Asians, and no south Asians. There were some Dutch and some Germans, but no one—I mean no one—spoke French. Catholics were exotic.
I recall quite vividly when I arrived fresh from the corn fields in the big, bad city of Toronto. My first real job was standing alone till midnight behind the counter of a variety store in an inner city neighbourhood renown for poverty and crime. I should have hated it but instead I loved it. It was there that I met my first sex workers, drug-dealers, and gang members. I was suddenly faced in a radical way with the discontinuity of my values, my interests, and my frames of reference with those around me. I had only travelled fifty miles, but I had landed in a whole new world. How could I listen, learn, and love among these new friends without flushing everything I held dear?
A dozen years and a few degrees later I found myself serving as a minister in arguably Canada’s most liberal Christian denomination. So often I found myself wondering whether or not our faith-community stood for much at all, so I authored the bestselling Jesus 24/7 series on what I thought it meant to be authentically Christian. At the same time, I was intimately involved with publication of Three Testaments, the first co-publication of the Torah, the New Testament, and the Quran, and then Four Testaments, placing side-by-side the Analect, the Tao Te Ching, the Dhammpada and the Gita. I struggled with, and am still struggling with, that same question that never really left me: How can I genuinely believe what I believe and at the same time be authentically open to learning from you, my Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist, agnostic, atheist friend?
This summer I’m hosting a four-day workshop at Emmanuel College where friends from a variety of faiths can come together to wrestle with such lofty ideas as truth, revelation, scripture, history, divinity, salvation, and community. Just as important, we’ll work together on building our skills for inter-religious dialogue and mutual appreciation. I’d love to see you there. I’m betting you have something to teach me.
Registration Information: https://ecinterfaith2019.eventbrite.ca