Faith might very well stem from the same place inside all of us, but it manifests itself in all shapes in sizes. Since starting as the religion editor here in 2011, I thought our Words of Faith column that publishes twice a month was an important feature but not completely representative of all the various faiths in our county. In short, it was written predominantly by Christians, with the exception of one Jew, Rabbi Dan Sikowitz.
Many of these columns come from area pastors or former pastors, and recently, I've invited others to join in. Three new voices in the local spiritual community — Helen Tasker, a Quaker; Mike Campbell, a Buddhist; and the Rev. Toni Fish, pastor at Unity in Frederick — will begin writing Words of Faith columns in the coming months.
Maybe you are familiar with these names, but if not, I think when you begin to read their ideas, you'll feel like you know them because these columns often touch on deep, personal experience and wisdom gained through a spiritual life.
"How can we give that faith to others?" Tasker writes in her column in today's religion section. "I realized what a blessing my faith was when I had my first teaching job in Joliet, Ill. A tornado had ripped through a nearby town, leveling a high school and killing nearly 30 people. One of my students told of how she had lost her best friend and her boyfriend. Nearly 25 years later, I can still see her beautiful, big eyes tearing up. She had no place of worship, no faith that life would or could get better, or that a divine presence was available to her. At that moment, I realized what a blessing faith is and began to wonder how one person could give faith to another human being."
Many times, these columns offer little gems of wisdom that I take with me, and I trust that readers do the same. Recently, for instance, Sikowitz posed a question I often ask myself: Why are some people seemingly born spiritual, while others go perhaps their whole lives without feeling anything divine or having what they could call a spiritual experience — and more importantly, how can we all get along and communicate our beliefs in a constructive way?
Leaning on an idea he'd read in John Sexton's book “Baseball as a Road to God," in his column "Looking for God in all the wrong places," Sikowitz writes, "All too often, those who cannot experience spirituality or the ineffable refuse to believe that others can; even worse, they think that they are somehow intellectually superior because they refuse to believe. It doesn’t make them intellectually superior, it only means that they are unable to accept what science can’t prove and science can never prove the ineffable because it is outside of the realm of science."
The Words of Faith column, now with 10 rotating writers, runs the second and fourth Saturday of each month. And I will add: I am always open to adding more voices to this column. Don't be shy.
Another big change comes with the new monthly feature From the Pew, written by Nancy Hernandez, a former News-Post reporter. A past religion reporter, Blair Ames, started the feature a few years ago, with the idea to visit a different congregation a few times each month and write about his experiences. What songs did they sing? Was the congregation young or old, large or small, and what were their beliefs? How was one denomination different from another? And most importantly, what brought these people together each week, and how did they choose to worship?
Blair has since left the newspaper, and the column went dormant until Nancy revived it. She started with the Basilica of the National Shrine in August, visiting during the 239th birthday celebration in honor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Following that, she wrote about Rabbi Jordan Hersh at Beth Sholom this month, and her next visit, with New Market United Methodist Church, will run Oct. 19.
Nancy takes us on a journey to each place of worship, offering us a visit without the gas mileage, recounting the sights, sounds and scents that make each place unique.
Feel free to email me with any suggestions and ideas for the religion section at email@example.com.