2012 Year of Interfaith Understanding

Worship at Bethlehem in 2012

In the greater Grand Rapids area, 2012 has been declared the “Year of Interfaith Understanding.” Bethlehem is engaging in this faith-based community wide initiative to learn and grow, both in understanding and respect of other religions. As such, we will draw upon appropriate resources of other traditions for inclusion in our worship throughout the year. Our hope is that by using these selections, we will grow in appreciation for the richness of diversity we hold in our common humanity. These resources may also invite us to see God in new ways and deepen our understanding and appreciation for our own Christian faith.

On Sunday, January 8, the Baptism of our Lord, we follow Christ into the river with the native people of the Hopi Tribe. “There is a river flowing now very fast” sheds light on a world where change is happening as swiftly as the fast moving river, where sometimes it feels we are barely able keep our heads above the water, where many of us are frantically grasping for the shore. What might we experience if instead we move through the current in celebration, focusing on the sacredness of our situation, gaining strength from our community and the promise that Christ is always present with us in the holy waters of change and transformation?

During the season of Epiphany (from January 15-February 12) where we will focus on ‘Unity in Community,’ our worship begins with a retelling of the mystic Jewish Kabbalistic creation story Tikkun Olam, or “the repair of the world.”  Note how this story places our community at the heart of an epic, unfolding story—and with each small act of kindness, with each effort to see the divine spark in another, with each heartfelt prayer, the Divine can see and act through us as we participate in the momentous work of restoring the fragments in our world.

During the season of Lent (February 22-March 31) as we gather for worship, we will silently mediate on the opening words of the Muslim holy book the Qur’an. This short chapter is known as ‘Al-Fatiha,’ and is key to the understanding of the whole book. In his daily five prayers, a Muslim reads it at least seventeen times. In prayers, it is always read in Arabic, even by non-Arabs, so the English translation we are using is considered an interpretation.

Stayed Tune:

Passion/Palm Sunday (April 1)

Maundy Thursday (April 5)

Good Friday (April 6)

Easter Day (April 8 )

Season of Easter (April 15-May 20)

Day of Pentecost (May 27)

Holy Trinity (June 3)

Season of Pentecost (June 10-Novermber 18)

Reformation Sunday (October 28)

All Saints Sunday (November 4)

Interfaith Thanksgiving Service (November 12)

Christ the King (November 25)