Thirty PC students and staff members visited a mosque, a synagogue, and the National Presbyterian Church during a recent trip to Washington DC. The Celtic Cross members went on the trip to explore how the church works with other faith communities.
“I call this group my ‘church nerds,’” said Rev. Beatrix Weil, chaplaincy resident at PC. “Some of them are thinking about becoming pastors, and others are interested in being the church outside of the walls of a church.”
The group spent three days in the nation’s capital learning about Muslim and Jewish traditions as a foundation for thinking about interfaith relationships.
One morning they met with Nora Leccese, associate for domestic poverty and environmental issues, and Catherine Gordon, associate for international issues with the PC (USA) Office of Public Witness. The students attended a service at the Nation’s Mosque later that afternoon and then went to the Downtown Shabbat service at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue the same evening.
“This trip was a transformative experience for me,” said PC sophomore Will DeLaney, from Boiling Springs, S.C. “I took away from this a newer understanding of other religions and how we all work together. I also saw what happens when we try to break down the barriers and how beautiful it is.”
The Celtic Cross members interacted with active members of the Muslim and Jewish communities. One afternoon, the PC students met with Ursa Ghazi, a Muslim who works at the U.S. Department of State’s Education and Cultural Affairs Bureau. Students also spoke with Wendy Low, a member of the Conservative Jewish tradition who is passionate about the intersection of faith communities and social justice issues.
“I realized that people are not defined by their religion,” said Andy Gutierrez, a PC student from El Salvador. “And all denominations have a lot of things in common, especially their goal, which is to make the world a better place to live in.”
The students worshipped at National Presbyterian Church, visited the Holocaust Museum, and took in other national landmarks during their trip to Washington DC.
“This trip reminded me of the beauty of diversity and that religion does not need to be a reason to divide us,” Gutierrez said. “I have never before been able to see that part of being lovers of God is to get involved with the world that is outside of us. This experience has changed my life.”