1. Have you ever had an experience of a religion other than your own? And, if so, what was it like for you to experience something different? If you haven't, what religion might you like to study, experience, and learn more about?
I grew up in a community with a large Jewish population, so I counted among my friends, neighbors and classmates many Jews. This was my norm. I didn't think twice about fellow students missing school days for high holy days, and talk of Pesach and Seders (among other holidays and events) was as common as conversations about Christian holidays and traditions. I attended several Seders, and though the first one was a new experience for me, it never occurred to me to consider it as something "different." In fact, for a period of time after that matzoh was on our grocery list.2. Have you ever studied, traveled, or explored other cultures? What and where, and when?
I was very fortunate to be part of a leadership team on a trip to Israel and Egypt in 1997. One of the things that impressed me most was the coexistence of cultures in Jerusalem that looked nothing like the conflict depicted via the media in the United States. I am so grateful for that first hand look. An impression was also made by our tour guide, a Jew, and our bus driver, a Palestinian. They ate together at most of our meals along our trip, and talked and joked together as we journeyed.
The camaraderie of these men stood in contrast to the reality of travel in Egypt, where Cairo street corners were populated by machine-gun-bearing soldiers, and our tour bus had its own undercover, armed guard. (The presence of the military was also evident in Israel, but they somehow "blended in." I guess that should be a little disturbing.)
Another impression was architectural. I found Israel to be uninspired, architecturally: homes were built of concrete and functional in design. Beauty seemed irrelevant. Egypt, on the other hand, and mosques in particular, were stunningly beautiful. With the Islamic prohibition on depicting anything live, geometric figures were lively, colorful, and dynamic.
3. Any stories you wish to share about a person (author, teacher, etc), or a friend or colleague, from another culture or religion, who has impacted you in some capacity?
My above answers hint at this. I don't think of individuals as having impact on me as much as being part of what has informed and shaped me over time. I was fortunate to grow up in a family and religious tradition (Quaker) that honors and values diversity. My own reality included learning from everyone, in whatever way their life differed from mine. Perhaps it is no wonder, then, that among my family my older brother is agnostic, his wife Jewish, my younger brother Buddhist, his wife a Buddhist converted from Roman Catholicism, and me, the Episcopal priest who tries to embody being a Quakopalian.