I saw on the news that places of worship are consolidating and closing all over Rhode Island. With members aging and most millennials not attending as their parents once did, the population is dropping beyond the level of self-sufficiency. My own church is facing this dilemma, and it was during a sermon last Sunday that the reality of this hit me. It was also during this sermon that we were reminded to listen with an open heart to others and respect their opinions, even if we disagree.
The issue of religion is a difficult question. It is not one that can be proven scientifically. There are no black and white answers. Different religions are philosophically different in many ways; Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witness, Muslim and Jewish have vastly different ways of worship in a variety of different places; mosques, temples, synagogues and churches. Unless I am mistaken, the one thing these religions all have in common is the belief in a higher power. Without intending to promote any one religion, I envision the following Bible quote to pertain to many of the aforementioned faiths, even if it may be philosophically worded differently. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself”
My own interpretation of religion requests that I be kind, respectful, helpful and accepting. (That kind of sounds like the Boy Scout Motto!) I throw in joy for each and every day, and appreciative of everything I have, (even though my possessions and bank account are very limited.) My most spiritual, heartfelt trait is to love everyone and to do whatever I can to help others. Unfortunately, this trait has also been my most criticized. Yes, we have limited money, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have an extra bedroom in my basement for a homeless veteran who has a multitude of mental health issues as the result of his service to our country. That doesn’t mean my daughter, Marie and I can’t make 150 bag lunches for Crossroads, pay off the National Grid bill for a family that is destitute and cold, or continue to provide housing and food for my three adult children with disabilities who still live at home.
What I have done in the name of faith has often been criticized as foolish or, even worse, “crazy.” The truth is, the core of my very being is filled with a joyful love, the outcome of which is a joyful life with no room for regrets.
This is therefore a respectful suggestion for people to experience joy to their lives; “lighten up” and love one another. Bring flowers to the crabby lady next door. Let the miserable man behind you in line at Walmart go before you with a smile. Hug and kiss your son even if he made a mess by trampling mud on the just vacuumed living room rug. Look for the good in others, and smile often.
If you belong to a religious group, share your good faith. Listen and encourage each other, compromise and work hard to keep the amazing group together. A joyful place of worship will survive.