Love to Learn, Learn to Love

by Mary Johnson, Children's Ministries & Director of ATB&B

At All Things Bright and Beautiful, our hope is that the children realize that they are lifelong learners. While the teachers have a profound influence on their acquired knowledge at this young age, the goal is to instill in them the desire to continue to learn about the people and the world around them throughout their lives. This became applicable to me as I leaned of a faith tradition I had never heard of before until I attended a meeting of the Winnetka Interfaith Council.

At a meeting this year, I learned that the three Wisemen, the Magi, were probably of the Zoroastrian faith. I had never ever heard of this tradition. Perhaps I have never heard of them because there are so few Zoroastrians throughout the world: 125,000 world- wide and 25,000 in North America. You cannot convert to this faith: you are born into it. This tradition is known for its industry, integrity, and respect for the earth. Some have called them the first environmentalists. One speculation is that the Magi were really magicians (the term magic comes from Magi) and thus were able to escape pursuit undetected.

                    "And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod,
                     they left for their own country by another road."
                                                                          Matthew: 2:12

The story of the Magi coming to the manger to give their gifts to the Christ Child is familiar to all. We celebrate their arrival at the manger on Epiphany and we sing "We Three Kings." The truth is, the Magi were not kings at all. They were priests and astronomers. Perhaps we would not have the tradition of giving gifts on Christmas if not for the story of the Magi.
There are so many interesting details of various faith traditions that I am continuing to learn about as I attend the interfaith presentations. For those in this parish who attended the Thanksgiving service here, you had the opportunity to hear scripture and sacred texts from the faith communities who participated. Did you know that the Baha'i faith is led by the lay members of the community, as there are no ordained clergy? Something else I learned is that the fundamental differences between Orthodox and Reformed Judaism is the interpretation of the Torah: the Orthodox believe that it comes directly from God and cannot be changed, and the Reformed view it as a reflection of the time and a way to deepen their relationship with God. I am excited about all the opportunities ahead this year to learn and understand more fully the essentials of the faith traditions in our community.

On January 11, at 7:30 p.m. in the sanctuary of the Winnetka Congregational Church, there will be another presentation of the Winnetka Interfaith Council that you are welcome to attend. The presentation entitled "Islam vs. Radical Jihad" will be given by Mr. Kamran Bajwa, a corporate attorney who leads the Middle East practice for the international law firm, Kirkland Ellis.  Mr. Bajwa also teaches a course at the University of Chicago Law School on Islamic Law and modern political constitutions. He has been very active over the past 20 years with think tanks and civic organizations. After the presentation there will be time for Q and A.

In this New Year, I hope each of you will find a way to embrace the "lifelong learner" in you. There are abundant opportunities in our community. Perhaps the presentation on January 11 will be a place to start.