Editor's note: Fairview Community Church's street corner sign prompted an email to Rev. Sarah Halverson from someone concerned about Wiccans in a Christian church. Halverson submitted this open letter in response.
Dear Concerned Christian Neighbor,
I want to genuinely thank you for your care and prayers for our church. I'm glad our sign caught your attention and made you stop and think.
I am not worried about your fears of me leading my church down the wrong path. We obviously have different beliefs about God.
That said, we believe that there is power in knowledge. We believe that our faith cannot be destroyed by learning about the faith of another. And ultimately, we believe that God and Jesus call us to be open, loving and tolerant (if not affirming!).
We also don't believe we'll go to hell because we have a Wiccan in our sanctuary and have a conversation about her faith.
And while we may seem incredibly radical to you, we're actually in line with a major Christian denomination: the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Francis just reminded us that Jesus challenged the disciples' intolerance of those who were different.
"Jesus broadens the horizon," the pope affirms. "The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us ... not just Catholics. Everyone! ... Even the atheists! Everyone!"
So, you see, even the pope knows that God loves us and redeems us all. Therefore, the most important path is the path of righteousness: doing good deeds, caring for the poor, seeking justice and living peace.
If he's not worried, neither am I. But thank you for your concern and prayers.
I will reciprocate and pray for you. I'll pray that we might live in a community that values our differences and seeks to find our commonalities, that we will refuse to let our own ignorance cause us to live in fear of the other, and that we Christians can follow in Jesus' example.
Finally, perhaps you, like me, know very little about Wicca. If that is the case, I invite you to join us on Sunday morning for our Interfaith Dialogue Day to learn more about the tradition. I think that all of us will leave more enlightened than when we came in.
A follower of that radical peacemaker, bridge-builder, justice seeker and bearer of love: Jesus, our brother and teacher
THE REV. SARAH HALVERSON is the pastor of Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun