491: A new kind of spiritual question— What makes a “faith leader”?

A “faith leader”?
    It’s an odd new phrase—but we need to find new phrases like this to describe what’s unfolding  in American religious life.
    What is “unfolding”? In a dramatic transformation of spiritual life, especially for millions of Americans raised on mainline religion, we’re seeing a diverse array of inspired men and women rising up with potent spiritual messages. What makes this a transformational moment is that many of these spiritual movers and shakers are not ordained clergy. Some are not even affiliated with a specific religious group.
    We’ve been making this point since ReadTheSpirit was launched in late 2007, but the reality of this transformation is especially obvious this summer. We’re talking here about the inspirational teaching going on from musicians, writers, filmmakers, community activists and other lay people. That’s what we illustrated in our stories about “The Gospel According to U2” and the terrific new Sikh feature film, “Ocean of Pearls.”

    This week, we invite artist Nancy Thayer, whose paintings hang in collections around the world, to write a week-long series on what it means to be a “faith leader” in the world today. The story below is her “Introduction” to the 5-part series—which appears all this week at OurValues.org. The series is designed as 5 short, daily, thought-provoking stories. We welcome your comments at OurValues.org—and we invite you to use this series in your small groups to spark discussion.

    Here is …

By Nancy Thayer

Am I a faith leader?
    A few years ago, I was invited to join the board of an organization of faith leaders in the Metro Detroit area. This group, now called InterFaith Partners, was formed after September 11, 2001, by individuals who wanted to actively support peace, understanding and mutual respect among members of our many faith communities.  Many of these board members were clergy, pastors and long-time peacekeepers. With a great deal of humility and reservation I accepted the invitation. Although I have served my church in many capacities for over two decades, I asked myself, “Am I a faith leader?”
    I am an artist, a teacher, parent, wife and friend. I can say all that with ease.
    But, am I a faith leader? This is not an easy question to answer.

    Several months ago, my daughter-in-law was having a large challenge that was causing her a great deal of stress. As I worked to prayerfully support her, I assured her that Our Creator was already providing all she needed to reach a solution.
    She looked at me and said, “That’s just like the way you see the glass.”
    I said, “You mean the glass being half full instead of half empty?
    “No,” she said. “You always see it overflowing.”
    While her comment made me laugh, it does have a lot to do with how I see the world. 

    I believe that an all-loving, all-powerful Creator is providing each of us with whatever we need to meet any challenge. I believe that through prayer, quietly listening with expectation for right answers and ideas, we are made aware of the infinite source of solutions and inspirations that surround us. I depend on this daily as an artist, a teacher, parent, wife and friend. I don’t know if this makes me a faith leader, but it has brought many blessings to my life. It has provided me with the courage and confidence I have needed to accept opportunities and meet challenges.
    One of those recent challenges that I have accepted is an invitation to write for Dr. Wayne Baker’s OurValues.org Web site. This 5-part series will briefly discuss some of the opportunities I’ve had to express a sense of leadership as an artist, educator and parent based on my faith.
    Please join the discussions that will follow and add your comments and personal experiences. Have you been a leader? Do you see yourself as a faith leader? What is your definition of a leader?
    We’d like to hear what you think. You can do this by just clicking on the Comment link at OurValues.org. We will post your comments for all of us to read.
    Your comments will keep the glass overflowing.




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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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