Part of the Easter standard operating procedure is people in higher up positions putting forth their official statements of blessings or greetings. We posted such proclamations on our Facebook page from our Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Elizabeth Eaton, and the Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod, Laura Barbins. Those were obviously geared to ELCA congregation members, as well they should, in such communications. But I also noticed something different in an email I received from my college alma-mater in Wittenberg University. The campus pastor, The Rev. Tracy Paschke-Johannes, wrote, “Blessings of Spiritual Growth and Peace.”

As we continue in the Holy Month of Ramadan, enter Holy Week on the Christian calendar, and look toward Passover on the Jewish calendar, it is a busy time in our world's faiths and at Wittenberg University.

To assist our Christian neighbors in their walk throughout Holy Week, two students, Sophia Paskiet ’27 from Toledo, Ohio, and Faith (Nicole) Kline ’27 from Westerville, Ohio, created an art display featuring the Stations of the Cross. Set up throughout the chapel, these 12 individual works of art tell the story of Jesus' arrest, trial, and crucifixion in preparation for Easter, the holiest of days in the Christian tradition.

Other students are observing Ramadan, using our interfaith prayer space for daily prayer, reading, and reflection. To conclude this holy time, a community-wide meal is being planned with leadership from the McClain Center for Diversity and the Office of International Education.

At the start of Passover, Jewish students will receive personal contact from the chapel, ensuring they have resources to observe their faith and information on local Jewish communities, if needed.

With each opportunity for worship and reflection, we explore the relationship between faith and learning on our campus as a diverse community of learners.

This holy season, in whatever way you celebrate, know that the Wittenberg community and Weaver Chapel wish you blessings and peace!

Of course, I recognize some Christians would be outraged at such an “Easter blessing.” “How dare an ELCA pastor, at an ELCA-affiliated institution of higher learning, include non-Christians in a greeting celebrating the Resurrection, the most pivotal moment for us Jesus-followers!” “If she really wanted to, why didn’t she just write a separate one for the Muslim and the Jewish students, and let us have our own?” “In a time when the church is dwindling in numbers, are we not allowed to do a little more…self-preservation as opposed to being all lovey-dovely with everyone else?”

Except, the email ended with this verse: “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” And there’s something to be said for that amidst a higher institution of learning that isn’t full of tried-and-true Lutheran students (it really never was anyway).

There’s something to be said about the true essence of love: the fullest extent of loving all our neighbors as our very selves. There’s something rather noble about opening up a chapel that was crafted to host worships of Jesus Christ, to be sure, but still allowing the holy space and time for other non-Christians to soul-fully nourish themselves and their service towards others. There’s something flat-out right about treating all children of God with basic dignity. There’s something pure about that intermingling of sanctuary usage in deepening our collective spiritual connection. There’s something lovely about Christians rising above the shouting and the name-calling and shaming of those who are at all different from the supposedly high-and-mighty us. There’s something admirable about such Christians willing to take the chance of being different from the mainstream of such desperation to preserve our most coveted form of organized religion. There’s something excellent about one of our own institutions of higher learning willing to further enhance their liberal arts-ness in engaging countless ideas, traditions, cultures, etc., as if such wisdom-enhancing, in fact, shapes better human beings. There’s something praiseworthy about recognizing such classroom and extra-curricular activities and dining hall eatings and choir singings and worship space sharings with various faith expressions can occur, and you can still be your own Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, or whatever else, child of God when you go back to your dorm room. Lest we forget, we are all in this together. Amen (so let it be)!

In Christ,
Pastor Brad

Image: Weaver Chapel, Wittenberg University (Springfield, OH)