Growing Through an Interfaith Perspective
Junior Hannah Jordan considers her experience at a Hindu Temple while on the Interfaith Fall Break Trip.
This fall break, the Chaplain Office’s Interfaith Trip ferried me to Washington D.C. to sample the vast ocean of world cultures through experiencing a few different faith traditions. I’ve grown up with a Christian background, and continue to walk in that faith tradition today, so I know the Protestant Church pretty well. But I had never been to a Hindu temple, a Muslim Mosque, or even an Orthodox Christian Church before this trip. While each house of worship struck me in different ways, the place that surprised me the most was the Hindu temple. At first, it was the most uncomfortable for me. Our group found ourselves seated on the floor in a large room, encircled by Hindu deities: small statues that Hindus believe to be manifested by the gods themselves. I watched people filter in—some sitting immediately, others making the rounds, saying prayers to certain deities. All the while, a priest played music, chanting in Hindi words that I could not understand. In all honesty, I felt out of place.
But, as the service progressed, we had a chance to talk with one of the elders of the temple and hear stories from him about his faith tradition. It was fascinating. After hearing from him, we were invited to share a meal with the people at the temple. But they didn’t just invite us to eat with them. They invited us into their lives, into their tradition of living. I felt honored to be a part of it. This is just one example of how, after entering into and experiencing these houses of worship, I understood in a more tangible way that these buildings carry with them much more than mere “religion.” These houses of worship carry traditions, faces, and ways of life that were previously foreign to me. It’s beautiful. I gained so much through experiencing these new faith traditions. It made me think a lot more about what I believe and why I believe it. It can be a healthy thing to broaden your perspective so as to deepen your own beliefs. On a larger scale, I think it’s essential for our society to experience new things, especially in regards to faith traditions. How else can we engage in meaningful dialogue with others whose beliefs are different from our own if we have no common ground? Interfaith allows barriers to be broken and stereotypes to be stripped away so that people and their stories replace “religion”.