Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ten Commandments Hike - An Illustrated Adventure


So yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting 10 houses of worship along Laurel Highland Council's Jewish Committee on Scouting's Ten Commandments Hike. The basic premise was to travel around Oakland visiting the different churches and learn three things: 1) about the architecture of the building 2) about the commandment they were assigned* and 3) about the denomination that the church/house housed. I did this back in 2010 in this post here, and I decided that I wanted to do it over again. I enjoyed learning about the denominations, and where I fit, and the whole idea of "duty to G-d"**

Rodef Shalom
Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic
That brings up an interesting. The first stop was the Jewish temple of Rodef Shalom, and we began from there with a talk from the Scout Exec for our council, Mr. Mike Surbaugh. He asked for life scouts to raise there hand. Me being a life scout, I raised my hand, and along with another gentleman was summoned to the front of the room. He prefaced his question with "Whether you knew it or not, I'm about to prepare you for your Eagle Board of Review." He then asked us what "duty to G-d"** means. (Sidenote: it's in the Scout Law... if you don't know that, I will not be taking the time to explain it... google it.)

The whole hike's mission was to answer that, and I think I may have an answer. I'll wait until the end to answer, though.

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran
Nevertheless, I'll spare you the details of the eight hour journey, but I will give enough room for pictures that I took along the way. We then made our way to Holy Spirit Byzantine Catholic Church, adjacent to Rodef Shalom. From there, we went to Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. After each of the stops, we had time for a question and answer session. My favorite questions were the ones that were either "How is [insert religion here] different from Catholics?" or "What's the difference between [insert religion here] and Christian?" My favourite answer was given at the Lutheran church with the latter question. The campus pastor looked confused for a second and the responded "Nothing! Lutherans are Christian" and went on to explain the formation of the Lutheran church and the church doctines versus that of the Catholic faith.

(Sidenote: roughly 40% of Pittsburgh is Catholic. It's certainly not the case everywhere, but whatever)

From there, we went to Saint Paul's Roman Catholic Cathedral. I won't include a picture simply because of that figure above. This is about the same idea that the pastor there had, and didn't bother to explain Catholicism.
The Crew at The Christian Science Church

My personal thought is that if you want to learn about yourself, have someone else of the same quality or better explain your position and allow you to examine it through a microscope. Granted, I'm not Catholic but I kind of want to hear from a semi-expert what it's all about.

Saint Nick's Greek Orthodox
From there we went to a Baptist church that was reminiscent of a Gothic Cathedral complete with scary-looking organ in the front. Then we moved to the Christian Science Church. I'll again point you towards my last post on this topic, and my explanation of Christian Science. The Same holds true.

From there we visited Saint Nicholas (Greek) Orthodox Church. I put Greek in parenthesis because I am of the opinion that we should become a Holy, Catholic[in the universal sense] and Apostolic Church again and create an American Orthodox Church with all the ethnicities  Hopefully this could happen in my lifetime, but that is another post for another time.

Heinz Chapel Exterior
Remember what I said about through a microscope? The gentleman from the Orthodox Church did exactly that, and explained my faith for the other people in the room. It was interesting. I plan on writing on that in the future in and of itself.

We then visited my all-time favorite stop, Heinz Chapel. Heinz Chapel is this cool little non-denominational chapel on the grounds of the University of Pittsburgh. I say all-time favourite because it has beautiful stained-glass windows, high ceilings, the whole thing is Gothic-style awesomeness.

Heinz Chapel Interior
The whole building has a built in 4,000 something pipe organ into the walls. Hearing this thing played is AMAZING! We were lucky enough to have an organist follow us on this trek, and everywhere there was an organ, he played for us. Heinz Chapel was the last organ stop, it was indescribable to hear it.

Islamic Center of Pittsburgh
If you ever travel to Pittsburgh, Heinz Chapel is one of those places that if you're lucky enough to visit, DO IT. The stained-glass windows are 68 feet high continuously, with brilliant colours and because it is on a University Campus and nondenominational, there are philosophers and the sort in the artistry. Again, a must-see. There we had a Buddhist gentleman talk about meditation* and Buddism.

We finally went to the Islamic Center of Pittsburgh. This was not a stop in the previous year that I had gone, but it was something I wanted to see. I wanted to hear what Islam was about simply out of curiosity.

Let me get this across clearly: the media paints one picture. I wanted to see another.

The Imam was a nice gentleman who explained the Islamic faith to a room full of Christians, Jews, and the sort. He gave the side of his faith, and dispelled some things. He also talked about his faith and the Five Pillars of Islam* and the duties of those of the Islamic faith. I tread carefully here, but I feel that he represented well, and gave me much to think about.

So again I present the original question: "What does Duty to G-d** Mean?" I'll answer with this: It's first recognizing that there is a higher power (the proverbial Something-bigger-than-Phil) and having a relationship with that higher power. It's understanding and respecting ("tolerance") other religions, as well as your own views. Take, for example, I am an Orthodox Christian. I don't identify fully with those of the, say, Lutheran faith, but I can respect their beliefs as theirs, and can fully say with an open mind that this is my stance. These are my views. Having a duty to this higher power comes with the territory. It's knowing right from wrong in my case, may be different in others.

*The BSA isn't a Christian Organization, and the BSA has only the requirement to believe in a higher power. Some, such as Buddism and Islam, fit this criteria yet do not recognise the Ten Commandments. They instead talked about their faith.

**This isn't a typo. In the Jewish faith, they don't type out the full word with the "o" as a sign of respect. The idea is that the name is sacred, and if something is printed out and then thrown away, it's like throwing away the name of G-d. I did this for this post because I thought it was a pretty cool idea

Note: I feel the hate mail coming already. It's good to learn about other faiths, my mission was awareness and education, NOT CONVERTING YOU OR I!!!! - AP

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