My calling in life....

"What does it matter that we take different roads so long as we reach the same goal. "- Mahatma Gandhi

OR

"One River, Many Wells" - Matthew Fox (although I really think it should be "One Well, Many Rivers"!)

OR

 

All paths lead up the mountain to enlightenment!

Many people in the UK do not understand the meaning of being an Interfaith Minister.

There are many interpretations applied to the word "interfaith" and probably even more to "interfaith minister".  Many people do not understand it at all, others think of the multi-faith dialogues that go on between major world religions.  There is a wealth of these interfaith initiatives springing up everywhere particularly since Tony Blair retired as Prime Minister.  In his parting speech, he promised the setting up of an interfaith initiative, now known as the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.  Yet others will think of interfaith in terms of straddling all faiths, and, in my case, no faith.  Don't get me wrong, I derive great inspiration from many of the faith traditions.  But I subscribe to none, to the exclusion of others.  I believe all faiths have great value in helping us to live our lives more fully, to become the Spirit blessed people we were born to be.  I also believe that faith/religion has been responsible for some of the cruellest atrocities ever known to mankind.

My interest in interfaith is perhaps a little different from all of the above.  I see interfaith as rising above all faiths and subscribing to none, all the while honouring the beauty and wisdom deriving from other faiths. Interfaith is not meant to be a new religion but perhaps a new faith movement. My path in life has always been to not get boxed in by anything.  Hence, the interfaith training suited me perfectly.

I undertook my training with the Interfaith Seminary from 2004-06.  I was ordained in July 2006.  It is a rigorous two year training.  The greatest emphasis however is on the experiential nature of the training.  It is not only about intellectual learning but also about healing one's own spiritual wounds in order to be of service to others.  In the first year, each month covers a major faith tradition.  There are readings, lectures, discussions, a written paper and spiritual practices involved with each faith.  The aim is not to become an expert in any one faith but to gain a working knowledge of the faith.  And, to understand how the faiths relate to one another, what they have in common, what they share.  My greatest lesson from this first year is that all faiths basically teach us the same thing: how to live better lives, be better people, and love one another.  It is in the individual/group interpretations where the basic teachings get diverted from their true essence.

In the second year, we explore the fundamental issues of life: birth, death, relationships, illness, trauma, healing, the quest for meaning and purpose.  We learn to put together ceremonies and perform them in front of our colleagues for practice and feedback.  Another important strand of the training is that of spiritual counselling, which works on the basis that in essence we are all already whole, i.e. there is nothing wrong with anyone.  This is not meant to whitewash the reality of the pain and suffering that we each experience but more to rise above this reality, to the realm of the "true self".  Here we can recognise that each person is whole and complete just as they are.  The role of the Spiritual Counsellor is to remind their client of their inherent wholeness, which they may have forgotten along the way.

Each year includes involvement with a study group of 5-6 people, with a mentor, and with the larger group as a whole.  There is a residential retreat at the end of each year and, after the second year's retreat, the ordination held in Second Church of Christ Scientist in Notting Hill, London.

There are about 500 interfaith ministers in the UK. There is a myriad of interfaith ministries: some people come from their own faith tradition and return to it with their interfaith training, to help broaden others' understanding and compassion with other faiths; others are therapists, healers, shamans, life coaches, etc.  And they use their interfaith ministry and spiritual counselling skills to better serve their clients: ministry of another sort, still others use their ministry skills to bring spiritual principles into the business community. 

I had no idea what my ministry would look like.  When I came to make my ministry vow, it is to "walk the sacred path and shine the light for others embarking on the sacred path".  How this has unfolded for me is to become a mentor to the 2006 intake of ministry students, to preach in many Unitarian chapels throughout the LDPA district (and beyond!), to teach sacred chanting at my Unitarian chapel (Hampstead), and to continue to offer my labyrinth walks.  It was the labyrinth that led me into ministry in the first place and it continues to be my vehicle to reach out to others.

My ordination day was the happiest day of my life and I love being an interfaith minister.  I have finally found what I am meant to be doing in this life!!!