Moody Methodist Hosts Course in World Religions
Promoting peace and a greater appreciation of diversity was the goal behind an 11-week course on world religions offered this fall at Moody Methodist in Galveston.
In response to the tensions between religious groups in America today, Moody Methodist Church, Galveston, offered a course on world religions this fall. The Spiritual Formation Ministries Team of the congregation enthusiastically promoted the class as part of the regular programming of its Fellowship Ministries on Wednesday evenings. Senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. Jerry Neff led the class, drawing on his own experiences with social justice issues in ministry, and using a United Methodist curriculum on the topic of world religions.
“This class on World Religions was one of the most interesting I have led in quite some time,” shares Dr. Neff. ”Partnering with the University of Houston Religion Department gave this study a depth it wouldn't have had if we had just used a book. These visiting scholars brought knowledge and passion to our study. Our class participants have been able to ask questions and engage each speaker with respect and genuine curiosity.”
Clergy leadership from Moody began to reach out to the UH program last summer. By collaborating with the Religious Studies Dept. of the University of Houston, Moody has invited four scholars to Galveston for lectures on Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism. “We appreciate the assistance of Dr. Christian Eberhart, Chair of the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies and the Director of Religious Studies at UH for his collaboration and help,” says Rev. Dr. Randall Robinson, Pastor of Spiritual Formation for Moody. The four UH scholars giving lectures at the church have included: Dr. Bhavya Tiwari, Instructional Assistant Professor, India Studies, lectured on Hinduism; Dr. Trung Huynh (Rev. Thich Hang Dat), Adjunct Professor, lectured on Buddhism; Dr. Dogan Koc, Executive Director of the Gulen Institute at University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work, lectured on Islam; and Rabbi Kenny Weiss, Executive Director of Houston Hillel, spoke about Judaism. About 120 people have attended each session, many from the larger Galveston community.
Paul Ray Heinrich says, “I have enjoyed this class. I respect all world religions. I would like to know why Christianity has so many denominations. Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, and so on.” Another participant, Amanda Manner, describes herself as an individual who has never experienced any other religion or different church other than Methodist. “I have gained an understanding of basic practices of other religions,” shares Amanda. Robert Gard adds, “The love of the Lord expressed in various scriptures of world religions is a pleasure to experience as presented by Adam Hamilton; the class has been very meaningful.”
Mickey June Wright is thankful to have a better understanding of others’ beliefs.
For others the class raised deeper questions. Dorothy Karilanovic shares, “Exposure to interpretation of world religions can open up new understanding of a unity in their essence and how human experience is shaped and conditioned by language, geography, catastrophic natural events, and the upheaval of war. God is always imminent, but whose god?”
Dr. Neff believes that listening and understanding others is one of the best paths to a more peaceful world with safe communities for all. He explains, “The core teaching of Jesus proposed a new kingdom—God’s kingdom—that would include all people.”
“Two aspects of the experience touched my heart,” adds Dr. Robinson. “The first was seeing how hungry people are to understand those who are different from themselves. This was a genuine desire to see the world through someone else's eyes, with an underlying hope that connection and potential healing could be real. And second, I found the presenters from UH to be such generous, gentle, and joyful people to be around.”
Pastor Neff senses that all participants learned a great deal and will be better for it. He adds, “Too often our fear of others is fed by a lack of knowledge. This study allayed some of the fears and misunderstandings of our participants and created an atmosphere of understanding and appreciation for persons of different faith traditions.”