Faith Among DiversityNov 01, 2017 ● By Frisco STYLE
While there are many faith-based organizations represented in Frisco, we know that part of our citizenry does not acknowledge the presence or importance of faith in their lives. It is clear that everyone is on a journey to find meaning and understand truth, and the progress made on this journey does not elevate one person over another. However, we can all acknowledge the contribution of our faith-based organizations to the fabric of our community, and there’s no better place to recognize and celebrate this than our November Thanksgiving issue.
We asked leaders in our community to contribute stories based on the importance of faith, even among our diversity, and celebrate their expression of faith, especially as related to the holiday season. This is a chance for the community to celebrate the diversity among our local, faith-based organizations.
Some of the stories in this collection are of a personal journey, challenge or lesson, but they all focus on the importance of community and raising families in our area to have faith.
Hospitalitywritten by Aaron Alexander - Creative Pastor, Hope Fellowship
Six years ago, my family landed in Berlin, Germany, to serve a young church and give ourselves to ministry for almost three years. We were alone, with two young children and massive language and cultural barriers in our way. No matter how hard we tried, we were outsiders, and we began to give into loneliness and isolation. Our faith was intact, but we were in desperate need of friends and community. Out of regular and familiar options, we began to find friendship with a group of people from our language school who were just like us — expats from around the world who were alone in a foreign country and looking for connection. And it all happened around a dinner table.
Weary of waiting for someone to invite us into their world, we began to open our home up almost weekly to people just like us, even if they came from different countries, world-views, faith backgrounds, political leanings or cultural understandings. Meal after meal, we witnessed relational walls come down after each bite, the refill of a glass or polite refusal of a second or third helping. Hospitality had not only changed our current situation and those we ate with, but also how we viewed the world and how we saw faith in action. Strangers became friends, and those friends became like family.
If you are out and about any night of the week in Frisco, you should be able to notice the unique diversity that is beginning to take shape. We share restaurants, shopping, kids’ sports and the sidewalks with people from every walk of life, background, religion and culture. And it is easy to only see our differences, as they seem many. And, my guess is that many feel like we did in Berlin — like they are looking for community and open doors.
Despite our differences, we have much more in common. In almost every major religion, hospitality is a bedrock of how that faith is expressed. Jesus spent countless hours at a table with people different than him, which got him in trouble with the religious leaders a few times. In our society today, it seems like our differences are too great to overcome. That we are destined to be a fragmented, isolated mass of people simply sharing physical space, with little emotional, relational or spiritual connections between us. But, does it have to be that way? As a Christian, I can say that hospitality is key to our faith and how we live it out in our daily lives.
By opening our doors and setting our tables for others, our faith is made stronger — whether that is for a Christian, Jew, Muslim or someone of any other faith. Humanity is shared and realized around a table. It is hard to argue about life, faith and politics when you are worried about spaghetti not getting all over your face.
Hospitality is a way of being in the world. It happens in our homes and around our tables. Jesus invited strangers into the home and made them disciples. As followers of Jesus, we welcome the stranger and make them friends. As a church, we are actively involved in local outreaches, supporting local ministries, food drives and service projects in our mission to serve our community and world.
As we all strive to live in peace amongst prosperity, our differences cannot be what keep us apart. Because of our faith, our differences should be what bring us together. As we head full-speed into Thanksgiving, Christmas and the holiday season, what a beautiful role we could play in one another’s lives if we let our faith come alive around a table of hospitality and mutual respect.
As a congregation at Hope Fellowship, we periodically read through a Communion Liturgy that reminds us of the openness of the Table of the Lord. We say out-loud together, “This is the table not of the church, but of the Lord. It is made ready for those who love Him and for those who want to love Him more. So, come you who have much faith and you who have little. You have been here often, and you who have not been here long. You who have tried to follow and you who have failed. Come, because it is the Lord that invites you. It is His will that those who want Him should meet Him here.”
That is our prayer for our congregation and for our city. Will you join us at the table?
Servicewritten by Suzanne Jensen - President of the Women's Ministry in Frisco for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
As the holidays draw near, our thoughts turn to family and often to those who are no longer with us. I find myself thinking of our son, Tyler. It has been 14 years since we celebrated our first Christmas without Tyler. He passed away from complications with leukemia in the spring of 2003, and as the holidays rolled around that year, our family was still getting used to a new life without him. I knew Christmas would be hard because Tyler loved Christmas; what 8-year-old doesn’t?
The sun was just beginning to set that Christmas Eve and I was preparing our traditional dinner. I was feeling melancholy as I considered the fact that there would be no one waking up at the crack of dawn to excitedly open presents. Tyler’s siblings were teenagers, prone to sleeping in. There would be no Batman or Spiderman action figures under the tree. The reality of this Christmas was hard for my heart to grasp.
The doorbell suddenly interrupted my thoughts. Assuming it was the deliveryman, I went to open the door. To my surprise, our front lawn was covered with the faces of those who I knew and loved. It was a group of our church, school and neighborhood friends. Without a word and under the direction of our church choir director, they began to sing “Silent Night.” My husband and children quickly came to the door to see what was happening. We stood in the doorway with our arms around each other, wiping away tears from our eyes as these sweet friends gathered on Christmas Eve to share their love and light with us. I felt peace knowing they had not forgotten how difficult this first Christmas without our son would be. It was a simple gesture, but one that even 14 years later, still shines bright in my memory and warms my heart. I felt the love of Jesus Christ, our Savior, through this simple act of kindness.
As president of the women’s ministry in Frisco for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I believe it is often through another’s small and simple acts of service or kindness that prayers are answered. So many times, in this ministry, I have seen that God answers prayers through others. I know we can be His hands.
The holidays often stir a desire in most of us to want to serve. Sometimes we are deceived to think that our service and giving needs to be grandiose, organized or far-reaching. But, it is often the small and simple kindnesses given one-on-one to those around us that are the most impactful.
There is One that we can look to as the perfect example of ministering to the one. It is He who showed us how to best love others, particularly the outcast, the downtrodden, the burdened, the grieving, the stranger, the sinner and the hard to love. Jesus Christ taught, “In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Perhaps if every one of us found just one person to bless, serve, lift or love this holiday season, we could heal what ails our world. If not forever, at least for a season.
Outreachwritten by Sunitha Cheruvu - Karya Siddhi Hanuman Temple Community Outreach Coordinator
Community — it is what draws people to Frisco when searching for a thriving city with hospitality to call home. Merely living here does not make it home. You have to take part in the community and engage. That same calling to be a part of something greater drew many across North Texas to the Karya Siddhi Hanuman Temple (KSHT), a non-denominational Hindu Temple founded by Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji. Like most houses of faith, it is predominantly run by volunteers. Some hail from halfway around the world, while others are born and raised in Texas, bringing a unique culture sense with them. We speak different native languages and communicate in English to bridge the gap. Yet, somehow, through the various mix of cultures and experiences, the commonality of our faith with its core tenets unites us and binds us to the community around us. The key Hindu tenets include respect: for everyone and all faiths; non-violence: do no harm to any being; an omnipresent God: God is in everyone and all beings; karma: you reap what you sow, so think before you act; and selfless-service: humbly helping humanity is service to God. Those are the driving principles behind KSHT community outreach.
The community outreach efforts started alongside the inauguration of the Hanuman Cultural Center in July 2009 with free lunch on Saturdays and participation in Adopt-a-Street. As awareness grew, so did the outreach efforts to include providing food, blankets and other essential items to the Bhutanese refugees who made Dallas/Fort Worth their home and starting a free annual health fair in partnership with Baylor Scott & White Medical Center, which served more than 100 patients its first year.
The growing community led to the opening of the main Temple facility in July 2015. Volunteers increased outreach efforts to do more for the wellbeing of the community. This included assisting more patients at the health fair, increasing donations to various local food pantries, holding a school supply drive to benefit Frisco ISD children on the free and reduced meal program, donating a computer charging cart to Roach Middle School and joining other community organizations in giving college scholarships to FISD Seniors through the Frisco Education Foundation. The first ever KSHT Walkathon was held to benefit Frisco Fastpacs and stop childhood hunger this year. The response for the walkathon was enthusiastic, even from those who could not attend, yet donated to support the worthy cause. Fastpacs was also selected to receive the KSHT Share Your Food charitable donation this spring. When Hurricane Harvey struck, KSHT delivered urgently-needed items to Houston and raised funds for the relief efforts.
Hinduism considers charity, especially feeding the hungry and service, to be the highest of virtues. “Let the rich man satisfy one who seeks help; and let him look upon the long view: For wealth revolves like the wheels of a chariot, coming now to one, now to another” (Rig Veda. 10.117.1-6).
The following Hindu blessing captures the essence of the faith as it seeks the wellbeing of everyone: Om, may all become happy; May all be free from illness; May all see what is auspicious (God); May no one suffer; Om, may there be peace, may there be peace, may there be peace.
With God’s grace, KSHT will continue to grow our charitable efforts in partnership with local organizations to give back to the community and enrich our fine city.
Relationshipswritten by The Leadership Team - Shir Tikvah
Judaism is a religion going back more than 4,000 years. In the book of Genesis, we read of Abraham and Sarah who answer God’s call to go on a journey of faith. They did so, and they and their descendants became the Jewish people. Though Jews grapple with the nature of God, man, the universe, life and the afterlife, Judaism is more concerned about actions than beliefs. Judaism focuses on relationships: the relationship between God and human beings, between God and the Jewish people, between the Jewish people and the land of Israel and between us human beings ourselves.
Our scriptures (the Torah) tell stories of how these relationships developed (and continue to develop) and stipulate some mutual obligations created by these relationships. There are 613 commandments (mitzvot) in the Torah. The most widely-recognized, of course, are the 10 commandments that Moses received on Mount Sinai. Some Jewish movements, Orthodox Jews, for example, believe all these stipulations are absolute, unchanging laws from God, while Reform Judaism emphasizes the evolving nature of our faith.
Shir Tikvah, our reform congregation here in Frisco, provides a community, rather, a family, to focus on personally meaningful worship, fun social activities, holiday and life cycle celebrations and an engaging education program that is not only for our children, but adults, too! Being a member of a Temple Family enriches lives and helps us to focus on the ethical aspects of our faith, not simply the ceremonial ones.
Shir Tikvah, literally translated as “Song of Hope,” gives us hope that our faith will continue to grow, and be nurtured in our every-day lives. Judaism does not require us to give up our questions or to deny our doubt. In Jewish life, questioning faith is not the antithesis of religious belief. In fact, doubt is what fuels the journey. Having the solid foundation and emotional security of the Temple Family allows the opportunity to explore faith as it evolves.
With this being said, the belief in God is fundamental to the Jewish experience, and the commandments very much apply. We are grateful to live in such a faith-based community, even if we are a significant minority. Faith in a belief that there is a power out there greater than ourselves, one that holds us to a high standard in a divine image, one that compels us to live with compassion, drives us to do the right thing — even when nobody else is watching.
Our mitzvot teach us to support our community. They teach us to open our doors and assist those in need. They teach us to act when a human life is in danger and to love the stranger. They even teach us to not destroy fruit trees! So, at Shir Tikvah, we donate to the Frisco Food Bank during our High Holy Days, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We open our homes on Passover to host people who do not have a place to celebrate. We reach out to immigrants who struggle to find their place. And, we raise money or collect gift cards for those effected by natural disaster. We bring songs of hope.
Our mission is to provide a welcoming, nurturing Jewish home to every member and every family on their journey to strengthen their faith.
Giving Backwritten by Father Greg Methvin - St. Phillips Episcopal Church
Holiday time is like no other time of the year, but just what kind of time it is, is hard to say. We hope it is the “most wonderful time of the year,” but grit our teeth to get the decorations up and make it to all the company, family, neighborhood and school parties on time.
We buy some time for holiday concerts and our preferred presentation of “The Christmas Carol” (do we have time to see “The Nutcracker,” too?) We block some time for a parade or holiday park. Just be sure to make it to church on time for the musicals and pageants!
For some of us, though, it is a dark time. Some of us miss loved ones and some of us look back on holidays past when we knew better times. Time marches on and we know, above all, the holidays are clearly a time for shopping. If we plan our time, we will get those presents bought in time and delivered on time.
But, softly, underneath the blaring traffic and over-stuffed parking lots, ticks another clock. It is an old, sacred clock called “advent,” which is four weeks wedged between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The word “advent” means “coming” or “visit,” and reminds us that while God came to Earth in the little town of Bethlehem centuries ago, He promises to keep coming, even to us, if we are ready to welcome Him. How do we get ready for that?
Advent Time calls on us to prepare our souls for His arrival. John the Baptist cried out “Prepare the way of the Lord,” so we pay attention to the state of our souls, sweeping out the collected cobwebs of neglect, rearranging our inner furniture to reflect God’s best for us and taking out the trash that clutters and pollutes our souls. At our church, we kick off with Advent Family Nights to equip all ages with devotions and resources to begin this important work. Each week of worship, a family will light a candle on our Advent wreath that signals the Light only God can bring and that drives away all darkness.
Advent calls us to take a good hard look on the inside, but also to take loving action for those around us. In thanksgiving for God’s goodness, a rush of giving goes out from our church to our community and world. Those gifts take the form of Thanksgiving Boxes we prepare and deliver through Frisco Family Services, as well as supplying staff and gifts for their Holiday Store. We lace up work boots and head out to tiny Nocona, Texas, where we have been caring for families and meeting needs for years. We even stretch our arms to India where we supply living and education expenses enough for 100 girls to climb out of poverty and provide a better future for their families.
Advent keeps an eye on Bethlehem and we know we will celebrate Jesus’ birth on Christmas Eve and Day. However, it is a slow, steady pace that gets us ready to experience God now. If we do it well, peace and goodwill is not just an ancient message from heavenly hosts in Bethlehem. It can be a fresh headline in our hearts, homes and city. I cannot think of anything more wonderful than that.