Last week I had the honor of holding an Ecclesiastical Council in the Northeast Association of the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ. An Ecclesiastical Council is the final step for a person on the ordination track within the UCC. At these council’s the person seeking ordination stands in front of a sanctuary filled with voting members of the association, both clergy and laity and answers questions. The questions are based off of a person’s ordination paper and can range from upbringing, to theology, to how you would handle a specific situation. For example a question could be, “tell me how you interrupt the Trinity?” or “tell me about your tattoos?” or “why did you say X,Y or Z in your paper?”
One of the questions I was asked is “what have you taken from the Church of Christ, the faith tradition you grew up in?” The Church of Christ is a very different denomination from the United Church of Christ. In Church of Christ is a fundamentalist, evangelical tradition, which only allows cisgender male pastors. My initial gut reaction was to say, “nothing, because they have casted me out.” But instead, I paused and thought for a moment and said, “that tradition offered a lot particularly in terms of the importance of scriptures. Also, as a child I remember having to wear my Sunday best each week to church. My Sunday best included wearing a dress, which I hated! But looking back it was not so much about dressing up for church as it was coming to meet God as your best self.”
Even though both my upbringing in the Church of Christ, and now my current faith tradition, the United Church of Christ are both Christian denominations they are worlds apart. Prior to that evening I had never really reflected on what my foundation has done for me. Thinking about this question from an interfaith perspective helped me realize that while these two traditions are different I would not be where I am today with out that foundation. The Church of Christ is where I first meet God and the scriptures; this is where we roots were formed. Additionally having experienced both traditions, I have a greater appreciation for my current faith tradition as well as my former. I have been able to grow because of this understanding. I believe we can only grow if we understand other traditions.