By Tanya Tiger
If someone, anyone, had told me, even a few short years ago that I would embark on a journey into Interfaith Ministry I would have laughed in their faces and told them they were crazy.
Ask anyone who has known me for more than a second and they will tell you that I have been anti-organized religion for as long as they can remember. I could find fault with any denomination you threw my way, and I enjoyed tearing down others’ beliefs, as horrible as that sounds.
Having been raised Catholic, I had seen my fair share of the inside of churches and I joked, until very recently, that I would burst into flames if I dared to darken their doorsteps now. It has been many, many years since I entered those hallowed halls. It was a personal choice I made after I left Catholic School. I had seen too much hypocrisy and I’m not a fan of religious dogma. I have a distrust of anyone who tells me they know “the one truth” or “they hold the key” to saving my soul. I have seen too many people act piously in church and then commit heinous crimes in the community.
“Religion” became a four-letter word in my mind. All I had to do was look at human history to see how many times men had committed atrocious crimes against humanity in the name of their God. All I had to do was turn on the news to see history repeating itself. All of this is why I never in a million years imagined myself wanting to be ordained a Minister, of any kind.
So why, after all these years of questioning faith, God and religion, would I “suddenly” decide to enter that realm? Well, the answer is neither easy nor short but I will do my best to explain.
I am doing this because it feels right on a soul level. I am doing this because I am choosing to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. I am doing this because I believe that I can make a difference, even if it’s a small one, and by doing so I hope to set into effect a ripple of healing across time and space. I am doing this because, if not me, then who?
To clarify that last statement, what I mean is not that I am better suited, or more qualified, or holier than anyone else, and therefore I am the perfect fit for this role. I mean quite the contrary—I am messy and human and divinely tattered and torn. I am a mirror for most of society. They can see themselves when they look at me. There is solace in that connection. There is sanctity in recognizing that you can be perfectly imperfect and still divine.
And, why not me? Why not any of us? We could all become ordained if we chose to… if we were called to do so. I choose this because I deeply believe in the power of love and its ability to heal us and the Earth.
Love found me on Krissy’s last night in the hospital, before she passed. While standing vigil at Krissy’s bedside, when we finally knew that she was not going to make it, I was asked, by a Catholic Bishop no less, “How do you see God? What does God mean to you?”
I sat with that question quietly as I looked at Krissy laying there in bed and the answer rose up in my throat and escaped my lips, before I even realized that I had spoken. “God is love,”I said.
The Bishop looked at me, and with teary eyes he said, “Exactly, God is love.” In that moment I let go of a lot of the baggage I had carried surrounding the name “God” and of religion in general. I realized that at the very core of all beliefs—no matter their origins—love was front-and-center. In that moment I realized that love is my God and those two questions were the spark that ignited the flame in my mind and started me down this path.
And, it was not lost on me that the questions posed were presented to me by someone packaged in an iconic image, the Bishop, for which I had held such disdain in the past. The Divine has a wicked sense of humor.
Love is why I have been drawn—called really—to the Interfaith Ministry.
I can make this path my own. I can minister to people from a place of love rather than dogma. People can be themselves fully and imperfectly without fear of humiliation. They do not have to harbor anxiety about showing the sides of themselves that may have previously been labeled as “unholy” or “imperfect” or “beneath God.”
No one is “wrong” in their vision of God here. An Interfaith Ministry allows for peaceful coexistence of all beliefs. It promotes cooperation, support and peace. Interfaith opens doors, rather than shutting them, and asks people from all walks of life to enter, sit, talk and join a community of people who wish to see humanity rise to its fullest potential.
All paths lead to the same end no matter where that path may begin. All are welcome here. My privilege as an ordained Interfaith Minister is to honor and respect the religions of the world and the chosen spiritual paths of individuals. There exists an underlying belief and knowledge in the connection between all religions and all peoples of the earth. It is with this belief and knowledge that I seek to promote inner healing and harmony within diverse communities.
And so my journey begins.
Editor: Dana Gornall