Pride in Shabbat
By: Tim Rosenberger
December 19, 2014
In my mind, my childhood had been an experiment in interreligious understanding. My mother, a born again Christian, and my Catholic father had decided that Lutheranism would be a compromise religion around which they would unite our family. Despite this ostensible détente, the walk home from church each week would feature each parent finding fault with some element of the sermon and even more faults with the revisions of the other. As children, my siblings and I were confirmed Lutheran but attended Latin masses and Methodist services on many occasions. Within the small Lutheran schools that I attended through twelfth grade, this qualified as deeply knowledgeable about “other faiths.” In fact, I remember a middle school class on “cults and heresies” featuring many of the denominations that Georgetown lazily groups together, along with mine, as “Protestant Ministry.”
While worshipping with groups of Christians outside my experience still sometimes feels like a new experience for me, I felt compelled to take advantage of the opportunities Georgetown provides for wider religious exploration. I was particularly happy to have the opportunity to participate in Georgetown Jewish Chaplaincy’s Halloween Pride Shabbat event. Cosponsored with GUPride and the LGBT Center, this service welcomed a wide array of students, all in fantastic costumes, to join together in worship and reflection before going their separate ways to engage in Halloween merriment. Rabbi Rachel Gartner and her regular attendees were well prepared for the massive influx of outsiders and made us all feel included and welcome. I was particularly impressed by the logistical effort that allowed Shabbat to be seamlessly moved to a larger venue at the last minute and provided prayer caps for all men in attendance.
Worship began with a song with which I was unfamiliar, but as the song repeated over and over, most of us were able to join in. Rabbi Rachel encouraged the many first time Shabbat-goers to make their best attempt at active participation. Rabbi Rachel shared a few words before welcoming a student to the front of the room to offer a reflection. I found this method of sharing spiritual wisdom and reflection to be particularly effective and to be an interesting expression of Georgetown’s Jesuit values. Students were actively engaging with their belief and with the ethical issues that it raised. The entire point of their reflection and exercise was to see how they could use their faith, and their minds, to serve the world in a God-pleasing manner. This reflection, delivered by a student bedecked in golden tights and a cheese head, perfectly captured the welcoming and practical spirit of the community that I encountered.
As the event concluded, I was struck by some quintessentially Georgetown elements of the entire process. The student helping Rabbi Rachel collect prayer books was not Jewish. In fact, he was one of the coordinators for a Sunday evening mass. In all, I recognized students from five different faith communities in attendance. As we piled out of the space, it was interesting to hear student conversations tying the service they had just experienced with classes or with their own faith traditions. Georgetown had, as is so often the case, raised my bar for interfaith engagement.