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One student’s approach to interfaith dialogue as "On-call Chaplain"

Jul 29, 2022

Course: Interfaith Dialogue and Collaboration (2022)
Faculty Mentor: Ted Brownstein

by G. Stewart Mathison

I am using aspects of the course Interfaith Dialogue and Collaboration in my near-once-a-week work as an “On-call Chaplain.”

I have served as one of the chaplains at the local cancer and infusion center since last December, and I typically speak with patients who are primarily Christian. Because of my background as a former Roman Catholic and also a person who has studied a number of other faith traditions, I can speak with them across a range of perspectives. Some occasionally ask me, upon seeing my Chaplain name badge, “What church are you with?” I explain that I am not with a church, am a member of the Bahá’í Faith, am not ordained clergy because there are none in the Faith but have some training, and am here to be a support for them in any way I can be. Sometimes, they ask more about the Faith, as the vast majority have not heard of it before. I only relate as much as they seem to be interested in. Often that’s the end of the conversation about spiritual or faith matters. Sometimes they request a prayer for healing and I usually share one from the Bahá’í prayer book I have with me.

I have also been a fairly regular voice in our Local Spiritual Assembly about looking for interfaith opportunities in our area, trying to raise the level of awareness among our members about ways in which we may engage with others in this field of endeavor.

In addition, I participate in several online groups, some for meditation and others for spiritual direction/companioning. In the former situations, I introduce myself, where and when appropriate, as a Bahá’í, which then may open up a brief introduction to the Faith. In the latter, I am a member of Spiritual Directors International; I have an online profile there that notes my being a Bahá’í. I am currently providing regular online and phone spiritual companioning to several individuals of various faith traditions. As needed, I can draw upon my Catholic Christian background and studies, my current Bahá’í Faith, as well as Buddhist and Hindu writings and teachers. I definitely use an interfaith approach.

Contributors

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G. Stewart Mathison

This was G. Stewart Mathison's sixth Wilmette Institute course since 2015.

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