Singing the Refuges: Worship and the Interreligious Family

Margaret Ellsworth, State of Formation, Mar.01

About a month ago, just like every Sunday, I slipped into the worship space just before 10am, bowed before the altar, and found a seat in the back row. I leafed through the service bulletin to take a look at what songs we’d be singing that morning. And after a few brief announcements, I joined in singing the morning’s first song.

I’m no stranger to “church-hopping.”  This was in many ways a familiar process for me. But on this particular Sunday, things were a bit different than I was used to. When I bowed to the altar, I faced not a cross but a golden statue of the Buddha. The song we sang was not a Christian hymn, but a chant.  This was my first visit to a Jodo Shinshu Buddhist temple, alongside my Buddhist/Christian husband, trying to make sense of our family’s interreligious identity.

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There was a time when the phrase “multiple religious belonging” had no meaning to me. That was before I met Drew, the man who became my husband, who identifies as both Buddhist and Christian. Drew taught me to meditate and engaged in many conversations with me about religion. We attended Christian churches together and researched Buddhist wedding practices when we got married. But we’d never worshiped together in a Buddhist context. Until recently, when Drew wanted to start exploring his roots in this community again.

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