| On May 7th (or other times during the year) – churches dedicate their worship to a celebration of our religiously diverse world.
Progressive Christians give thanks for this diversity! We don’t claim that our religion is superior to others. We recognize that other religions and traditions can be as good for others as ours is for us. We can grow closer to the Divine and deeper in compassion – and we can understand ourselves better – through a more intimate awareness of all the world’s religions and traditions.
Sponsored by ProgressiveChristianity.org, Pluralism Sunday is one way of fulfilling Point 2 of The 8 Points of Progressive Christianity:
On PLURALISM SUNDAY, churches celebrate other traditions in a variety of ways: sermons, litanies, and music; speakers and singers from other traditions, for example. Some congregations have exchanges with other faith communities, going to each other’s houses of worship. It’s entirely up to you!
SIGN UP NOW to be listed as a participating congregation for 2017 by emailing Rev. Susan Strouse, Pluralism Sunday Coordinator. (You can celebrate the event on other dates and still be listed as participants – indicate your plans for the event to Susan so these details can be listed on our site.)
Since I’ve taken over as coordinator for Pluralism Sunday, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon.
Former coordinator Jim Burklo sent me his files with participating congregations, names of clergy, and email addresses going back to the beginning in 2007. I figured the first thing to do was update the list. So out went an email to 1) introduce myself and 2) ask if they wanted to remain on the distribution list. As you’d expect, a flood of mailer-daemons immediately filled my in-box. There were also a few messages from former participants who were now retired from ministry and didn’t want to continue.
But the surprise was in the messages from former participating clergy who asked to be removed because their congregations emphasize pluralism on a regular basis anyway. I brought this to our worship planning team and found that they agreed. They wondered why we would have one Sunday a year to celebrate religious diversity when we did that all year round.
Well now, I thought, this is an interesting development. I’ve just taken over as coordinator of Pluralism Sunday and my own congregation wants to opt out. Even though for the past four years, we’ve had not just Pluralism Sunday but Pluralism Summer – 12 weeks of guests from a wide variety of traditions (I guess if you put it all together, we’ve actually had 48 Pluralism Sundays in those 4 years alone!).
And we’re not really opting out. Our liturgy has continued to transform into a more interspiritual – although still rooted in Christianity – format. For this year, we’ve decided to have something during the year around the holy days of other religions, inviting some of our interfaith friends back to share their traditions.
Then it occurred to me that something is happening here. It’s clear that some clergy and congregations still need to be encouraged to dip their toes into interfaith waters, especially in the context of Sunday worship. But it’s also becoming clear that many have moved beyond the toe-dipping stage and are swimming in the deep water. And I think these clergy and congregations have something to contribute: resources, experiences, collective wisdom, etc.
So I’m wondering if we need to be thinking about Pluralism Sunday 2.0. I know that I’d appreciate discussion on being a Christian church seeking to embrace pluralism. Issues around liturgy, biblical interpretation, hymnody come to mind. Also addressing questions and concerns in the congregation thoughtfully and pastorally.
So the next stage is to revise the website. And not only update information about this year’s Pluralism Sunday, but add a 2.0 page as well. I hope those congregations who’ve opted out will opt back in and participate. I hope that others will join in, too.
As always, I appreciate your thoughts and ideas.
MAY 7, 2017
(or another day of your choosing)
A little history . . .
Pluralism Sunday began in 2007. The idea came out of the 8 Points of Progressive Christianity, especially points 1 and 2:
By calling ourselves progressive Christians, we mean we are Christians who…
1. Believe that following the path and teachings of Jesus can lead to an awareness and experience of the Sacred and the Oneness and Unity of all life.
2. Affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey.
Coordinator of the project, Rev. Jim Burklo, explained that there are three general ways in which religions relate to each other:
(i) Exclusivism, which is the idea that my religion is correct, and all other religions are wrong, at best, and evil, the worst…
(ii) Inclusivism, which is the idea that my religion is the only true one, but yours is interesting. So we should tolerate each other’s religions and find ways to cooperate and communicate…
(ii) Pluralism, the idea that my religion is good for me and your religion may turn out to be as good for you as mine is for me.
“Pluralism is the concept that there are multiple loci of truth and salvation among the religions. [It] does not imply that all religions are the same or that all religions are equal; but it does recognize the possibility that my way is not the only way and that my religion is not necessarily superior to your” (J. Burklo, Pluralism Sunday, 2007).
You can observe Pluralism Sunday in any way you like. Click here for more information or to see what other congregations have done in the past. There will soon be an overhaul of our website page, so please stay tuned. In the meantime, I am always happy to share my experiences and resources and would love to hear yours!
Send me an email to let me know you’ll be participating!
On Pentecost Sunday 2007, we had our first Pluralism Sunday at First United. In fact, that was the very first ever Pluralism Sunday. The event was initiated by Rev. Jim Burklo, a pastor in the United Church of Christ and now Associate Dean in the Office of Religious Life at USC. A long-time proponent of progressive Christianity, affiliated with The Center for Progressive Christianity (now progressivechristianity.org), Burklo got the idea from the second of The Eight Points of Progressive Christianity:
By calling ourselves progressive Christians, we mean we are Christians who affirm that the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom in our spiritual journey.
This was the original promotion:
Progressive Christians thank God for the diversity of religions in the world! We don’t claim that our religion is superior to all others. We grow closer to God, grow deeper in compassion, and understand our own tradition better by honoring and exploring the world’s religions. Many if not most people think that in order to be a Christian, it’s necessary to believe that Christianity is the only valid way to salvation, and that other religions are inferior at best and evil at worst. But Pluralism Sunday spreads good news: there is a way to be Christian without making this prideful claim, which has been the cause of so much inter-religious division and misunderstanding. Pluralism Sunday takes a big step beyond mere “tolerance” of other religions, and affirms that other faiths may be as good for their adherents as our faith is for us.
This week, Jim handed the reins of Pluralism Sunday over to me. Yikes!
Thankfully, the folks at progressivechristianity.org will maintain the website; all I have to do is send them stuff. My immediate goals will be to:
- update the website with resources, stories, etc.
- get publicity out for this year’s Pluralism Sunday
The next stage will be actively recruiting new participants. So this is where you can help. If you’d like to receive information about Pluralism Sunday (and I promise there will not be a flood of emails), let me know and I’ll add you to the list.
Pluralism Sunday is May 7 (although you can change that date to suit your congregation’s needs). It’s not too late to plan something for this year. And I’m happy to be of assistance!
PS – If you’re concerned about how Pluralism Sunday will be received in your congregation, might I recommend The INTRAfaith Conversation: How Do Christians Talk Among Ourselves about INTERfaith Matters? It would be a good place to start.