Faithful Bee: Community Living in Chelsea

You can’t swing a dead cat in a room full of religious beliefs without hitting some controversy. For instance if the cat bumps up against Islam, the religious issue du jour comes up—the Islamic community center that’s being built near Ground Zero. Ask anyone across the country about the construction, and he will have an opinion no matter how informed he is on the circumstances. A religious sect gets tossed into the public arena, and suddenly things get ugly.

Community courtyard with nineteenth century chapel.
The community courtyard with nineteenth century chapel.

In a city that hums along in coexistence with the tightly held ideology of tolerance, talking about any religion or faith is taboo. We aren’t religious; we’re just spiritual, some say. Most people squelch their own beliefs for the sake of getting along. We are afraid of affecting one another. But all that is about to change.

I moved into the Chelsea neighborhood about a month ago and joined an intentional community at an Episcopal seminary. In the Episcopal church, everyone is welcome: agnostics, Buddists, pagans, Catholics, Southern Baptists, a priest married to a Muslim, a Quaker, and several gay, soon-to-be Episcopal priests live on the historic seminary grounds. Despite our differences, we’ve been thrown together to live and worship together. It’s a bit like MTV’s Real World of the spirituality set. I hope I will be able to share candid stories about community life in the day-to-day, how we share our faith, and all of the ups and downs that come into play.

The Faithful Bee column isn’t going to pretend that religious violence doesn’t exist (tra-la, la-la, la . . . we’re just happy spiritualists! Shoot, I’ve already pissed off PETA and several New Yorkers in my first paragraph) nor will it be a zealous diatribe that further separates what many hold sacred. This, however, is a column meant to primarily entertain while informing and exploring what it means to practice faith in the myriad forms it comes in.

Who am I to write about faith? For one, I want to emphasize that I am a sojourner, not a professional at this spiritual stuff. I will attempt to speak on other faiths and tread humbly on their sacred ground, but I am a Christian, and for reasons pointed out to me in college, I cannot mask my identity in what I write. I process all my experiences with this lens and with my California-centric ideologies. Here’s a summation: I believe in tolerance of all cultures and beliefs, but in practice, I’m as judgmental and self-righteous about seeing my opinions as truth as everybody else.

For another, I married into the faith. My husband is getting his doctorate in theology here in the City and is in the process to become a pastor. This of course doesn’t exactly extend into my credibility, but it does mean I’m immersed in it willingly or no.

Many adventures are sure to abound as we grow closer as a community and the niceties wear off. At least, we can hope (or pray) for an interesting column.

original post, 10/10/10 @ 01:00

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