World Religions | Christianity and Judaism

March 08, 2016

A synagogue. The Torah. A Friday night Jewish Shabbat service. These are a few of the things we studied this last weekend for our studies of Judaism.

The thirteen students of the World Religions ECS listened the incredible Kobi Chumash, a professor of religion at Colorado College, speak to us about his life, his relationship with Judaism, and Judaism all around the world, on Friday afternoon. I was blown away with the amount of knowledge that simply comes with one religion. I did not previously realize that there were different branches, if you will, of Judaism like in Protestantism. I also did not know why Jewish men and sometimes women would wear a kippah (the small cap) when going to their synagogue. I also did not previously know the differentiation between kosher and nonkosher animals. Mr. Chumash was very kind and enthusiastic. He captivated me with his knowledgeable words and amazing faith. When we went to Temple Shalom, I had the privilege of being in extremely close proximity to century-old Torahs. The strange part of the Torah is that it was written without vowels or punctuation in Jewish. I also found the service to be extremely casual (at least more than my normal Episcopal church service) and inclusive; I say inclusive because I really had a sense of community and relaxation because in my services, everything is very organized and serious. I only feel a sense of community after the service when we are all welcome to have snack in the fellowship halls. I am really happy that I had the opportunity to learn about one of the three Abrahamic religions that is not my own.

About New Life Church - I was extremely surprised. Maybe I should have expected what I experienced, but I had no idea what I was in for. I am not saying that the services and practices of New Life Church are bad or evil, but it was extremely different from anything I’ve ever experienced religious-wise. I felt like it was more of a concert than a church service; there was no altar, there were no substantial readings, and Jesus/the crosses were off to side while the Christian band and their huge stage with colored professional lighting was at the center of attention. In many ways, I thought the service was about the performance, the idea, and the look of it all rather than actually praising the Lord and Jesus Christ, although one of the fathers (Pastor Brady Boyd) did a really nice job of analyzing and explaining parts of the Gospel for half of the service. Also, the communion hardly felt like that, because you went to the area closest to your section of the giant church with people holding a tray of tiny shots of grape juice and eensy bread squares and went back to your seat. In my church, the clergy would first bless you when you received wafers and wine, so this communion felt like I got up to a get a little snack. Also, I noticed the appearance of the employees; none of them were wearing robes or black shirts with the little white band that goes in your collar. This church and its service was extremely modern, and I’m not saying at all that I am against, but it is just not something I would participate in every Sunday, especially with the thousands of people that attend that church.

Benet Hill Monastery is place I will always remember; the sisters there (which are not officially nuns by the classical definition) were so incredibly hospitable and welcoming. The actual building and campus was very beautiful, not only the chapel and prayer rooms they had, but the outdoor areas, such as a Zen garden and different shrines like St. Scholastica. The sisters were a total inspiration because of their drive to seek marriage with Jesus and God and life devoted to prayer. A woman I will never forget is a woman who had a room for herself in the monastery like every other sister, but she had an enormous collection of… Stuffed animals. Yes, I said stuffed animals. She collects them time after time as people will drop by and donate a stuffed animal of any sort to her room, but she doesn’t just keep them; when we walked in, it was a room shrouded in toys, and you know what she said? “Take as many as you’d like, for you, a younger sibling, a grandmother, take one!” She is one of the most charitable people I will ever meet. Another thing about the sisters at Benet Hill: they are a unique group of Benedictine sisters that follow the Benedictine Rule. This is a set of rules and vows a sister must take to officially become a sister and to officiate her marriage with Jesus, as signified with rings. One of the Benedictine Rules was hospitality, which was indefinitely shown today at our visit. They were very kind, welcoming, and warm-hearted ladies with a good outlook on life.

As we wrap of Christianity and Judaism, we move to a completely new area of religion with the Eastern religions. I’m excited to meditate on thoughts of experiences to come…