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Ministering to ministers

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I was touched by a forum for ministers and those studying to enter the ministry in how they were ministering to one another. It was an interfaith service at the All Faith Chapel at Vanderbilt Divinity School on Sept. 11.

Each one struggled with his or her sadness, as a red-haired woman began to play a small Celtic harp. I recognized the tune – "Let it Be" by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. A fitting prelude.

Assistant Dean for Student Life, Dr. Lloyd Lewis, commented after the service: "9/11 has made clear the absolute importance of being in interreligious dialogue around the world. But it has also made some people entrenched in their belief that they hold the truth.... For some people, the world they want to hang on to is a world that no longer exists.

"I can understand their fear. [They are] trying to avoid living in chaos.... Now when ministers go into the parish, down the street is a mosque or Buddhist temple. Ministers have to take on responsibility for learning how to be in dialogue, to respect and honor others. They also have to be good educators about their own religious traditions."

More than 30 denominations are represented at Vanderbilt Divinity School. The student body includes parents and grandparents entering the ministry as a second career, a majority of women, and a multiracial population. These are seasoned workers for God struggling to make sense of things.

Student Jason Shelton dedicated the first hymn to a family friend who died in the World Trade Center. Jason wrote haunting music to the poem "How Sweet the Darkness" by Rachel Bates.

Kurt Schreiber, from the Christian Science tradition, read passages without comment from the Bible and "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy. I was touched that in an hour of need, it wasn't preaching but the inspired Word of God that ministers wanted.

He began with the words, "God - is - Love." Readings on peace comforted the crowd. "I will not fear what flesh can do unto me" (Ps. 56:4). "Seek peace, and pursue it" (Ps. 34:14). "He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good" (Matt. 5:45).

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