Crossing Over: Locals Step Beyond Faith Divide to Learn About Other Religions

November 7, 2009

Author: Matt Vande Bunte

Source: The Grand Rapids Press

Learning about other religions is a little bit like picking up a second or third language, mused a senior minister at Grand Rapids’ Fountain Street Church.

It’s dipping your toes into a faith you may only have heard about in a cursory way. It’s opening your mind to the ways other people worship, while still being comfortable with your own beliefs.

“You’d be surprised how little people really know about how non-Christians, or even non-Protestants, live their lives in a spiritual way,” said Fountain Street’s Fred Wooden, whose downtown church recently hosted a Hindu dinner.

Whether it’s for cultural awareness, spiritual reflection or something else, many local people this fall are making a point to learn about other faiths.

As part of Fountain Street’s “Feasts of the Soul” series that earlier this year included a Ramadan celebration with local Muslims, the Diwali festival last month attracted about 100 people to share in the food and spiritual practices of local Hindus.

“We think of (someone outside our own faith) as bizarre or strange because we just don’t know them. The more you actually meet with, eat with and talk with people, the more familiar you become,” Wooden said.