Raleigh -- Intentional interfaith bridge building was the primary focus at the World Religions and Global Cultures Appreciation Luncheon held in Raleigh on Thurs., Oct. 7 by the Campbell University Divinity School. Twenty-two religious leaders representing 13 faith groups gathered around tables at the Campbell University Law School, eating culturally sensitive food prepared by First Baptist Church, and sharing fellowship and understanding. The religious leaders who had been invited were from synagogues, mosques, temples and churches in the Raleigh area who have hosted classes taught by Dr. George Braswell, Senior Professor of World Religions and founding Director of the World Religions and Global Cultures Center at Campbell.
Susan Blakely-Smith, a surgical nurse at Duke Raleigh, represented the goals of the Center through her presentation about her experiences as a Divinity School graduate working in a hospital. She said she studied diligently and enjoyed her time in Divinity School, specifically referring to the four classes she took under Dr. Braswell during her Master of Divinity studies. “But best and most memorable of all,” she explains, “I have walked through many of your hallowed halls and was welcomed. And a bridge was built.” Then she continued, one by one, sharing personal experiences that she has had with the people of other faiths sitting around the tables. In some situations, she ministered to family members; in others, members of their faith groups. In many cases, she has worshipped in their services. And each time, she said a bridge was built.
Blakely-Smith talked about taking Turkish cooking lessons at the Turkish Divan Society and piano lessons given by the organist at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. “The essence of the Christian faith beckons us to reach beyond ourselves and invest in the lives of others,” she reminded the 60 persons at the luncheon. “As I endeavor to live out my faith, each of you are a part of my bridges with our world. “
In addition to a welcome by Law School Dean Melissa Essary, Provost Dwaine Greene of Campbell University welcomed the guests by thanking them for expanding the world of our students. “You have been wonderful partners with us, helping our students to be aware of the world around them,” said Greene. Dr. Andy Wakefield, Dean of Campbell Divinity School, stated “It takes a step of faith for us to sit down together, to hear one another and to listen respectfully.” He said that it is good for the faith groups to come to know one another and to learn from each other. Dr. Braswell referred to the New Testament of the Bible when Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, to which He replied loving the Lord your God and loving your neighbor.
40 years ago, Dr. Braswell took students to Washington, D. C., to give them the opportunity to see world religions firsthand. For the last 10 or so years, he has taken them to the various places of worship in the Raleigh area, giving them the same kind of exposure.
For more information on the World Religions and Global Cultures Center, go to divinity.campbell.edu.
Photo: Chris Chapman (left), pastor of First Baptist Church, Raleigh, visits with Imam Mohamed Baianonie and Imam Sameh Asal from the Islamic Association of Raleigh during the World Religions and Global Cultures Center Appreciation Luncheon held at Campbell University Law School.