Living Across Religious Traditions: A Breath of Fresh Air

by Rev. Katie O’Dunne Kilpatrick
Academy Chaplain, 
Woodward Academy; Atlanta GA

What a wonderful two days at my very first General Synod! I have appreciated times of worship, calls to impact the world as a church, and connections with those leading in amazing work. I was particularly intrigued by this afternoon’s workshop on Living Across Religious Traditions: The Spirituality of Multiple Religious Participation.

I currently serve as the Academy Chaplain and Comparative Religions teacher at Woodward Academy, a large private school in Atlanta. Even outside of my teaching role, my life centers around interfaith work. My students come from various religious backgrounds and worship in many different ways. I currently help to lead interfaith prayer services for Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and Sikh students together. Even amongst the faculty, weddings or baptisms within families with multiple religious participation are not uncommon. While I love my work, I sometimes feel isolated and like I am “learning as I go,” seeking to provide meaningful/safe spaces for those of some many beautiful/unique traditions.

Today’s session was a breath of fresh air. In this particular session, I had the opportunity to hear from presenters highlighting practical ways to lead ecumenical services. I also heard of the beautiful reality that individuals engaging in spiritual practices of more than one tradition are on the rise. In fact, many individuals in the room are engaging in the same or similar work as chaplains or pastors of congregations! Formally and informally, we shared ways to embrace one another’s similarities without watering down our beautiful distinctions. I also had the opportunity to connect with Rev. Karen Georgia Thompson, UCC Minister for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, on her incredible work in this area with a particular focus on Indigenous Religious Traditions.

While I may be rambling a bit on interfaith passions, I say all of this to state that I feel connected here at Synod. I think that as religious leaders, we sometimes feel like we are doing it alone – we aren’t! We are never alone! I am thankful for this group, for practical knowledge, and for the opportunity to join in fellowship. I am also thankful for the many ways that God is working in the UCC as we appreciate not only the way that God works within our denomination or within the Christian tradition but in many traditions throughout the world.