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February 2, 2014 – 12:58 am
The spring quarter of the Celtic Calendar brings the gift of Insight and Inspiration and is the time of new beginnings and germination of seeds, bulbs and ideas that have been forming and waiting all winter until the returning Light of Spring to sprout.
What are you germinating? What plans, new ideas, projects have you been dreaming, and how ready are you to bring them into the new light of Spring? NOW is the time and COURAGE is the word for this season of new growth and expansion. Just as the bulbs that we planted last fall are beginning to set down their roots in preparation for blooming , so the ideas that we planted in the fall and winter are germinating and taking on a life force of their own.
The question is, how do we feed that life force, so that the bloom may be large, colorful, long lasting, and the scent be sweet and powerful enough to attract the people that are drawn to it?
We begin with Commitment to a Vision; moving on to setting our Intention, and then to Creation – setting the actual vision into motion, and connecting it to the Divine Source. Bringing the Divine into this growth project, and holding the door open for Angelic assistance can be part of the creation of whatever you are envisioning and can create the energy necessary for growth.
So here’s to new growth, new projects and new creations; Divinely inspired, Divinely led and created.
We wish you great joy and clarity as you move forward into creating your new life’s project.
Dean Deb and Rabbi Roger
January 31, 2014 – 12:36 am
In 2010, the U. N. unanimously adopted the first week of February as World Interfaith Harmony Week.
As part of the 2014 observance of WIHW, on Wednesday, February 5, 2014 Rabbi Roger Ross was part of a panel discussion titled Engaging Religions in the Prevention of Atrocity Crimes.
webcast live at http://webtv.un.org This even was organized by the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, the United Religions Initiative, the Partnership for Global Justice, and the UN Department of Public Information.
January 11, 2014 – 12:13 am
The first year of the program focuses on the study of the major religions of the world exploring the commonalities and uniqueness.
The Class of 2015 began their on the ground classes in the ISIS Space the first weekend in January 2014.
The guest speaker Rev. Heather Principe presented a talk on Native American Spirituality.
The photo below shows the Medicine Wheel she demonstrated for the class.
August 12, 2013 – 1:36 am
One of my favorite places on Earth, The Findhorn Community, is a magical place on the Northeast coast of Scotland, where the Moray Firth meets the North Sea, near Inverness. It is place where the Devic (plant) world and our 3D world meet. Where the veils between the world are thinnest.
It is a place of magic, nature spirits, music, natural beauty and growth; animal, plant and human. It is a place I go to when my soul needs refreshing , rewiring and retreating, and I always find my true self again there. It was appropriate that I return this year, the Community’s 50th birthday.
Findhorn is the oldest, non-religious, spiritual community in existence in the world. It began with three people out of work, living in a caravan (house trailer), in a caravan park by the Moray Firth. By tuning in and connecting to God, Eileen Caddy began to hear what God wanted them to do, and her husband, Peter Caddy followed God’s instructions and began to plant a garden in what was basically sand. The third member of the trio, Dorothy McClain, spoke to the nature spirits of the area and began to communicate
with the devas of the seeds they were to plant. They told her exactly what was to go into the garden in the sand, how to nourish them and help them grow. The results were 30 pound cabbages, and zucchinis the size of baseball bats. The Community was born from the energy that originated with the first gardens.
More and more people began to gravitate to this site on the North Sea and the Community began to grow, and for 50 years the energy that was originally used to grow vegetables, began to be used to grow people’s consciousness, their energy and their inner beings.
It was my joy to be able to share this with two of our students, who decided to come on this summer trip and to take the program that the Foundation offers for people who come for the first time, The Experience Week Program.
I have included some photos of the incredible flowers, veggies and grounds, and natural surroundings that I experienced while I was there. I had a chance to swim in the Findhorn River, and to cook in the original community kitchen in Findhorn Park, and to watch the Dance, Music and Storytelling Conference that was going on in the Park as well. And I was so happy to reconnect with my beloved friends that I have not seen in many years.
June 24, 2013 – 12:35 pm
On Sunday June 9, 2013, Rabbi Roger, myself and all the deans were overjoyed to ordain the second ISIS class of Interfaith/Interspiritual Ministers at The Riverside Church, in Manhattan. All 14 of them are amazing souls and are so ready for the ministerial choices they have decided to follow. We will be watching with awe as they blossom and give back to the world and Gaia herself. Congratulations to all of them!
It has been a great joy for Rabbi Roger and myself, as we look back on all the years and all the Ordinations where it has been our honor and joy to officiate. Some of our graduates have contacted us and reminded us of their Ordinations, _____( fill in the blank) years before this one, on this very same weekend. My heart is glad in so many ways for the wonder and joys they have experienced in their ministries.
So to all the graduates we have had the honor to ordain, we offer you Many Blessings on your paths, and much joy, honor and respect to you.
Dean Deb and Rabbi Roger Ross
May 15, 2013 – 4:19 pm
That was the first question my parents asked when I told them I was planning to be graduated and ordained as an interfaith minister, with Reverend before my name.
What’s a nice Jewish boy like me doing in a place like that? Isn’t my Judaism enough? Is my heritage so awful that I would turn my back on it? What had my parents done to deserve this? Was I going to convert?
It took a great deal of effort, time, and patience on my part before they finally began to understand. Everything flowed from the statement “Never instead of; always in addition to.”
No, Mom and Dad, I am not turning my back on my heritage. I am deepening my understanding and using it as a benchmark against which I can reflect the knowledge of other faiths. Yes, Mom and Dad, there were things I was taught as I was growing up that left me unsatisfied and vaguely aware that I wasn’t complete. Did being one of the Chosen People necessarily mean that no other people could reach out to God? Did being a Jew mean that I had to keep other faiths at arm’s length? Was I going to be contaminated by my interest and, heaven forbid, involvement in other religions?
That’s what I was led to believe, that it might even be a sin to participate in any other religion’s services or even step into any others’ houses of worship.
I thank God that I’ve had the chance to learn differently, to find out not only that could I study and participate in other faiths, but that, along with acquiring a fine higher education, I could become a person who could minister to others. I could reach out to those who might be attracted to me as an expanded Universal Human Being, to touch them where they are, to help them heal and grow whole.
I began to explain to my parents by quoting Geoffrey Parinder, from his book, “World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present”
“To study different religions need not imply infidelity to one’s own faith, but rather it may be enlarged by seeing how other people have sought for reality and have been enriched by their search.”
Knowledge leads to understanding, and understanding to tolerance of people with different viewpoints. In this light I began my exploration, and to reveal my discovery before I talk about the journey, I found that there is, indeed, but one God, one God who is worshiped by thousands of different names, but one God. The most powerfully positive statements about religion have always been nonsectarian and have always led to the same conclusion–worship God in whatever way you may, but worship God.
As the historian Arnold Toynbee said, “The true purpose of a higher religion is to radiate the spiritual counsels and truths that are its essence into as many souls as it can reach, in order that each of these souls may be enabled thereby to fulfill the true end of man. Man’s true end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
I continue to use my family’s questions and reactions as a baseline against which I measure my growth in spirit and knowledge. I have observed their fear that Judaism would lose another son to something else, indefinable but out there waiting. Well, it hasn’t happened.
Through my studies, I have had the opportunity to learn of the Quran from my Muslim brothers and to learn of its similarities to the Jewish scriptures. I’ve had the opportunity to sing and dance with Sufis and reach a level of bliss as warm and satisfying as any I’ve found with my Chasidic friends.
And finally, when I was able to let go and be a Muslim and worship Allah with Imam Wall, I found the same joyous and profound connection to God that I’ve always found as a Jew.
And without a doubt, for me it was one God, the same with many names.
And so, my path into religions and practices has led to deeper realizations and higher levels of God consciousness .
I have taken shamanic journeys and have met my power symbols in the form of the mountain lion and the fox, and I’ve found that they exist to show me ways to more deeply understand the plan of the Creator, my God. I have learned to care, even more deeply than before, for this planet, which is the creation and gift of my God.
When I celebrated communion with my friends who are Christians, I found I could be a Christian for the moment and experience the grace, love, and communion of the Trinity. And I know that the Trinity, for me, represents all the aspects of the one God I worship. I have been a Roman Catholic and a Methodist and a Unitarian, and each time all I found was love and acceptance and an awareness that God loves me, no matter what anyone calls God.
One of the most moving experiences I have yet had came while I was attending an interfaith conference at the City of God in West Virginia. In this amazing place founded by the Hare Krishna movement, I had the opportunity to face the oldest prohibition of Judaism, that of the existence of idols. What I learned was that no statue represented God, no object represented God; there was only worship of God (Krishna) the Most High. If anything, the comparison was to the mezuzah, which serves as a constant reminder to worship the one God in all God’s glory. The names and ceremonies and forms have no ascendance over one another, love of God is all there is, because love of God is love of self, and only when I love myself can I love all of God’s creation unconditionally.
Searching for the truths of love of myself has followed the adjoining path of searching for the truths of religion and the path of psychological and philosophical healing and “wholing.” Each level I studied of each discipline had an effect that opened another space for me to heal myself, so that I might be able to help heal all I will reach out to in my ministry.
The reading list is no mere compilation of titles; it is a pathway to integration and wholeness. I learned from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, in “On Death and Dying”, how to be with the dying and how to counsel the living in the presence of death. From Ram Dass and Paul Gorman, who wrote “How Can I Help?” I learned to serve rather than impose. “A Course in Miracles” taught me that God’s plan is love and that my separateness from God was an illusion created by me and really doesn’t exist at all. “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” helped me strip away my fear of the dying process, the time of transition. All the readings on Neuro-Linguistic Programming prepared me to see, to really see, the people I’m in session with and to be able to focus on them, understand what they are really experiencing, and to make a positive impact on their processes.
In conjunction with my work and my studies, the healing and “wholing” work I’d begun has grown in such depth and intensity as to reach levels of which I was completely unaware when I began. I have studied shiatsu (Japanese acupressure massage), and I’ve been using it in my work with people’s blocked energy. I had never before accomplished the results that I reach now with my clients or the inner knowledge that I myself recognize. Now, because of my willingness to unconditionally love and serve the person I am working with, I achieve more results, which are more rewarding for us both. The Shekinah, the indwelling spirit of God, now leads my hands and guides my work.
Since I have become a master teacher in several forms of Reiki, I have been privileged to work with some very high levels of Universal Energy. The work I do every day is immensely powerful, and my grasp of this transcendental science expands constantly. However, I have never experienced such a growth in my intuitive understanding of the meaning and use of this energy as I experienced when my heart was opened to the consciousness of God within and without, God, who empowers all of us to remove the blindfolds we ourselves have imposed and see all the glorious possibilities and all the paths we thought we’d never find. Now, when I use the Reiki Energy for healing and wholing it is whole, as am I because of the presence of God.
So, Mom and Dad, I hope this helps you to understand that I am all that you wished I should be and even more. I am a Jew with a deep love and respect for my history, traditions, and religion. I am a Jew who is so sure of his relationship with God that I am willing to reach out and minister to people of all faiths. I know who and what I am and will be eternally.
I thank you for giving me life and starting me out on the road of Judaism, and in the spirit of the heart of our religion, I’d like to present “Interfaith” to you Kabbalistically.
I Interconnected and Inner connected with God
N Noble and Nice and not Needy and New to life at its fullest
T Tender and Truthful and a Teacher to be Trusted
E Enthusiastically and Effortlessly loving
R Really one with my God and my people
F Fair and Faithful and Full of love and compassion
A All-encompassing, Alivening, and Aware
I Intelligent, with an Integrated Jewish Identity
T Thoughtful, with a Thirst for knowledge of my Traditions
H Holy and Healthy and Helping others to Heal.
And finally, I leave you with the letter J, which stands for joy. Never before have I been so joyous. Never before has my life been filled with such meaning. In this time of incredible changes in my life, I am filled, not with fears and doubts, but with joy.
These are the words of Joyce L. Boice, from her writings
“At One With All Life”
Choose Joy and your life will flow with abundance.
Choose Joy and all obstacles shall become as sand.
Choose Joy and all partings shall be as breathing spaces before a new beginning.
Choose Joy and all currents of change shall be as a joyous adventure.
Choose Joy and all distrust shall flow like clouds dispersed in wind.
Choose Joy and the earth shall rejoice.
Choose Joy and your soul will reach its perfect form.
Choose Joy and the Song of the Cosmos will fill your daily chores.
Choose Joy and your being will radiate the love of Spirit.
So be it, for love is made manifest through Joy.
©Rabbi Roger Ross, December 8, 2003, revised May 15, 2012
All Rights Reserved
April 13, 2013 – 4:03 pm
The question most asked of us as ministers has been and will continue to be, “How are you serving?” or, “Who are you serving?”
After all, we are told that to minister is to be in service to humankind, and that is so true. But, what is service? Is it something concrete that we can put our finger on, or is it something more elusive?
Service is doing God/dess’s work on this earthly plane.
As Ram Dass and Paul Gorman wrote in, How Can I Help?
Right where we are, in whatever we’re already doing, the opportunity to be of service is almost always present…All we have to do is ask, “How Can I Help?” with an open heart, and then really listen.
It is vital to remember that, at the moment of creation, we became Shufeit Elohim… partners with God/Goddess/All That Is. We are God’s hands, eyes, mouths, legs and heart here on earth. God can do nothing in this physical realm without our help.
Humankind and all living things began as a community, and somewhere along the way, we forgot. We were given tasks to perform based on the knowledge that we are inner and inter-connected to all other living beings, but somehow, over millennia, we forgot. At least, in our minds we forgot. But, our hearts remember.
What our hearts remember is that we were given loving stewardship of all of creation, and our job is to take care of, to love, and to comfort all that God created. Because we forgot, pain, disease, sadness, anger, separation, duality and chaos came into existence.
It is our job, as is said in Judaism, to bring about Tikkun Olam, the healing of the world. The more that we stay open to that which needs to be healed, the more we can come from a place of compassion and a desire to help. Whether we just listen or do something, great or small, it is our natural state of being to be of service to every living thing on this planet and this planet, herself.
The Dalai Lama says:
Religious people must do more that offer prayers if the world is to become a better place to live.
Whenever we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us develop inner happiness and peace.
When we do not know someone or do not feel connected to an individual or group, we tend to overlook their needs. Yet, the development of the human society requires that people help each other.
When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us to develop inner happiness and peace.
Service is listening; listening to the world without, and listening to that small still voice within.
In the twelve months from September 11, 2001 to September 11, 2002, there were many opportunities to be in service…There have been those who served by listening to families deep in grief at the thought of loved ones torn from this life. These families were struggling to make some sense of an unimaginable tragedy and found the greatest help in those who would sit and listen as they poured out their hearts. In the days and weeks following the catastrophe, it was the priests, rabbis, imams, and ministers to whom theses families turned and with whom they were able to achieve some measure of solace. The largest single “denomination” of clergy in active helping roles during this time was the Interfaith graduates, who simply stepped forward in the moment, and who were present to listen and serve.
Some brought water, soda, coffee and food to the rescue and recovery workers and sat with them as they ate, and listened. Others gathered at the different respite area to be with workers and families who desperately needed spiritual care before they could allow themselves to rest, and listened. And, all the chaplains were there to pray for the soul of each recovery and for the closure and comfort each discovery would bring to a family.
There were those who staffed the family assistance centers, and listened, supporting families as they began the process of reordering their lives. Some accompanied families to view the site and, some stepped in and did the seemingly impossible, who listened to what was needed, and single handedly created things that were needed, like a center that found temporary housing for all the rescue workers who came to New York and had nowhere to sleep. All of these things, and more were done because the Interfaith Ministers were trained to listen and then do what was necessary.
Service demands an active role. Service is not something to think about, but something to do.
Many of our students and graduates are actors, singers, dancers, and comedians who bring relief, and raise awareness and money to help care and heal those in pain or need.
Service is learning
This is a special gift of and for Interfaith Ministers. We can share simply by learning as much as we can about the lives, beliefs, and cultures of people perceived as “the others.”
Ignorance always produces fear. Knowledge allows for compassion and appreciation. As Interfaith Seminarians, we make it a point…a vocation… of this kind of learning which fosters a deeper connection to the whole human family.
Service is compassion.
For all of us with a sense of compassion, it is a natural instinct to help…to alleviate the suffering of someone else. For those who choose to help, there is a deep awareness that our lives, our happiness, our inner peace, our very well being, are inextricably connected to the same things in others.
And, no act of compassion is too small.
There is an old story that tells of a man walking along a beach after a storm. Hundreds and hundreds of starfish had been washed ashore during the storm and stranded on the sand. They were certain to die before the next high tide could carry them back out to sea. The man thought how tragic it was that all these starfish were going to die, and he kept on walking. As he rounded a bend, he saw another man on the beach, picking up starfish and throwing them back into the water.
The first man said to the second, “There are hundreds, maybe thousands of starfish here. You can’t possible save them all. Don’t you realize that what you’re doing doesn’t make any difference?”
The second man didn’t reply. He simply picked up a starfish and threw it back into the sea. “Made a difference to that one,” he said.
The lesson is simple.
We can only do one thing at a time. We can only perform one act of service at a time. And, each act of service is a huge gift to the universe, no matter that the act itself seems small.
Compassionately listening to just one person in crisis and pain is as great an act of compassion and service as anyone can do.
It was Mother Teresa who taught:
We cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.
Kindness, compassion, learning, caring and doing…
These are the components of service.
©Rabbi Roger Ross, September 11, 2002, revised December 13, 2011
Use With Permission – All Rights Reserved
March 29, 2013 – 4:00 pm
“Patience is related to authentic spiritual courage. It is deep faith that the universe is unfolding as it should, even when things are not happening according to our own plans or timetables. All we can do is act with integrity, in accordance with our priorities and the guidance of the still, small voice within. After that, we must surrender all attachments to the results. ”
From Pocketful of Miracles
by Joan Borysenko, PH. D
March 2, 2013 – 4:00 pm
Interfaith is about Oneness. It is all very well to spend time discussing all of our differences and trying to find commonalities, ways to respect each other and yet still cling to our own understandings and fears. This world is becoming too small for all of us to stay contained in our own small reasoning’s and our own small boxes of what we have been raised to believe to be true.
Oneness is the understanding that all of our approaches to the Divine, have the same root; that of love, brother-sisterhood and the consciousness that we are all here for the same purpose; to love one another and the Earth we live on. Having an Interfaith understanding is the beginning of that idea and it is important to learn about other ways of looking at the world and religion and what people believe and think. BUT it is not the be all and end all of Interfaith or our consciousness.
It is wonderful that King Abdullah of Jordan , who is responsible for creating the World Interfaith Harmony Week at the UN, has written that “the true quest is to deeply connect on the level of Oneness.” He has said that “our true failing is not understanding our connections in a deep and meaningful way”.
What is a “deep and meaningful way”? It is my hope that everyone gathered here who is approaching Interfaith Understanding and acceptance from a single faith POV, will delve yet deeper to find that single core value that we all yearn for- THE CONNECTION TO ONENESS.
What is Oneness on a deeper level? I believe that it is the place we go within ourselves that allows us to connect to another person’s spirit, regardless of their dress, beliefs, gender, race or religion. The place that says “Yes my sister, I see you “, “Yes my brother, I see you”. I see the YOU that transcends the beliefs of your ancestors and your peoples. That takes and puts our connection on a higher level and brings us closer to the God of ALL understanding.
From that place, we can all begin to explore the concepts that make up each other’s faiths from a place of connection, Oneness. And then and only then, can we see past the surface issues that seem to cause such friction. These become less important, less distracting and we can open the doorway to true dialogue and peace .
What is it that women bring to begin this process? What can we, as women, do to connect to the Oneness in any discussion about religion? Interfaith Dialogue and understanding begins with listening, something we, as women, do so well. Listening, really listening, begins in the heart, and holds within itself the seeds of compassion, respect and understanding .
Since time immemorial, women have been the natural peace makers. We have always recognized that place of Oneness, where we are all one family. Throughout history, with very few exceptions, women have not started wars. As givers of life to children, women understand that Oneness exists within each child, regardless in which faith they are raised.
Women understand Oneness and that we are all one family. So how can we open up the dialogue for Interfaith Understanding on a really deep level? We can truly “see each other” and hold each person in that deep place of Interfaith Openness and acceptance.
Women as Interfaith Leaders
talk given by
Rev. Deborah Steen-Ross, MSC, ACH
55th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
©Rev. Deborah Steen Ross, February, 2011
All Rights Reserved
October 22, 2012 – 1:19 pm
Rev. Deborah Steen Ross Lecture
The New Life Expo – October 22, 2012