Rev. Simeon Stefanidakis
Spiritual Temple professes itself to be an Interfaith Church of the Spirit,
Spiritualist-based, and Christian-oriented. “How can you be all that?” many would
ask. I hope this short article will help answer this legitimate question.
Interfaith Church of the Spirit,
our emphasis is, always has been, and always shall be, the Spirit; the
Divine Breath of God, made manifest within the whole of Creation. When I
say “the whole of Creation”, I mean it. It would be foolish and rather
arrogant for any one of us to consider that the vast expanse of the
universe (and, perhaps, even multiverses) is here solely for us denizens of
planet earth. Whether we ever discover intelligent life existing on other
planets is not the question here. The question is simply one of logical
thinking. Our solar system contains billions of stars. Furthermore, our
Milky Way galaxy is one of billions of galaxies in the universe. These two
facts have been firmly established amongst the scientific community. And
now, there are discussions and hypotheses that our universe (the one which
began with the Big Bang) may be one of countless universes within Creation.
The numbers here are staggering and astonish the mind. God is a God of
infinite Intelligence and Wisdom. Far be it from anyone to try and figure
out God’s plan and purpose, but any thinking person must ask: Why would God
create such an expanse of planets, stars, galaxies, and, perhaps, universes
if His intent was to breath living Spirit only into those existing upon
this infinitesimally small rock, known as planet earth. It defies all
manner of logic. But, let’s not get buried under all this. Let us focus our
attention on this planet and its inhabitants.
So, we can start
off by stating that we were all created in God’s Image, and most people
would accept this as truth. Great; good start! But, what does this mean?
What is God’s Image? Is God a
man? Is She a woman? Is He our Father, or is She our Mother? Is God white (sadly,
recent events in our country clearly show the division and debate over this
one question)? Is God black? Is God yellow, green, purpose, lavender,
chartreuse? Does God belong to any church? The majority of Christians
believe He is Catholic; the rest believe God adheres to their particular
brand of Christianity. Well, where does that leave the rest of our Human
Family? Are they somehow excluded from God’s Love and Grace? Many
Christians believe the answer to this question is a resounding “YES!” How tragic!
And what about
all those billions of souls who lived on our planet before the appearance
of Jesus? Are they also doomed to eternal segregation simply because they
were born before a certain date? How foolish and horrid to think so. Well,
that question was easily settled by the belief that, before Jesus
resurrected, he went down to the gates of Hell and “saved” all those who
were suffering there because they happened to live in the BCE era, rather
than the AD era.
I am not
singling out Christians, here. Many who adhere to other faiths also believe
that those who do not embrace their particular manner of viewing God and
God’s Plan are doomed to similar fates as those who do not accept Jesus as
their personal Lord and Savior.
think the Jews have it right: God must not be “humanized” in any form or
manner. To do so is blasphemous and denigrates the UNIVERSALITY of God. Not
only is this one-hundred percent correct; it is wonderful and marvelous.
Unfortunately, like so many others, many of those of the Jewish faith also
believe that their way is the only way.
lies the root of the problem: to so many people, their way is the only way
to God’s Kingdom. Their way is the only way to eternal bliss and spiritual
fulfillment. Herein lies yet another problem: are we seeking spiritual
fulfillment, or are we seeking religious justification? Does God belong to
any religion? What does it mean to be created in God’s Image?
answered this last question so beautifully, yet many fail to recognize the
implications of his words. In the Gospel of John, he says: “God
is Spirit, and his worshippers must worship him in Spirit and in truth.” (JOHN
4:24). I would encourage all people to pray, meditate, and contemplate
these fourteen words. Unfortunately, many would blithely dismiss these
words of truth, simply because they are found in the New Testament. Having
said that, I would challenge anyone, of any faith, to denounce the truth
revealed in John's words: God is
God is Spirit.
We were created in God’s image.
If we accept
these two statements, then we must also accept that we are all Spirit.
a church is to praise and worship the Divine Spirit of God, then it must
also praise the Divine Spirit of God within all people; ALL PEOPLE. Thus,
there is no room in any house of worship for discrimination, segregation,
or supremacy of any type. Houses of worship should be places of
But, we all
need guidance and a manner of embracing our spirituality. We all need some
type of order in our journeys through life. And this is where religion
comes into play. Religion comes from the Latin word “religio,”
(religionis), which means piety, religious scruple, religious awe,
superstition, strict religious observance. Therefore, religion is the
pathway each person takes to achieve oneness with God, or, as the Jewish
faithful say, to achieve “teshuva”, or a returning to the source. But, if
the source is God and God is Spirit, our journey is really not one of
religion (form), but rather one of spirituality (spirit).
The First Spiritual Temple has always embraced this
reality: we are all on a spiritual quest of return to our roots as Spirit.
To us, it matters not which pathway any person takes to achieve that goal.
What matters is that we are on a journey which will ultimately take us all
to the same place: God’s Great Kingdom of Spirit. God belongs to no Church
or Faith. God is Spirit. God is Love. God is Forgiveness. God is
All-Embracing. I do not believe that any rational person who believes in
any type of Divine Intelligence would disagree with this litany of
statements. Therefore . . .
God is Interfaith!
He can be nothing else!
This is why we
profess ourselves to be an Interfaith Church of the Spirit. We praise,
proclaim, and worship God’s spirit; and we praise and proclaim God’s Spirit
within all people, animals, plants, and the planet upon which we live. At
the foundation of all matter is Spirit. At the foundation of Materialism is Spiritualism.
Spiritualism! Another source of debate and confusion. The First Spiritual
Temple does not embrace Spiritualism as a religion. Our church was founded
before the Spiritualist Church was even conceived. Our Church emerged out
of the resurrection of the teachings of the Spirit, as given forth through
movements such as Unitarianism, Universalism, Theosophy, and Modern
Spiritualism. Let me make this
perfectly clear: we are not a Spiritualist Church. We embrace Spiritualism
as the “ism of the Spirit.” And since God’s Spirit is universal and belongs
to all faiths, so, too, do we embrace the pathways of all spirits/souls and
call ourselves an Interfaith Church of the Spirit.
Allow me to
share some of the contents of the Declaration of Principles to the Trustees
of the First Spiritual Temple, as written by our founder, Marcellus Seth
Ayer, and formally recorded with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on April
which shall tend to warp or distort the spirit, or which shall place the
intelligence of the people under any bond, shall be excluded from its
teachings . . . It shall be devoted to the promulgation of spiritual truths
through the highest intelligences, whether embodied or disembodied. It is
devoted to enlighten conscience, to give liberty of thought, without
license of speech . . . In the belief that the moral and spiritual life
finds its best expression through the religious element in humanity, this
Temple is devoted to worship.”
was not anti-religion, nor are we. He and we simply believe that all
teachings which warp or distort the spirit are unacceptable. And any
religion which professes that it is the only way does, in fact, warp the
spirit, by limiting the spirit. But, freedom of choice is the divine
birthright of all spirit. Thus, we have our beliefs; we do conduct
religious services; we do believe that religion is vitally important to all
people. But, we embrace the founding principles of all religions as viable
means of achieving our collective goal: Oneness with God and oneness with
about our Christian-based tendencies? Our church’s fifth principle states:
“We believe in the ministry, teachings, and person of
Jesus Christ, and we endeavor to follow his example.” What does this say?
Very simply, it states that we look to Jesus as an example of righteous and
holy living. We do not exclude other prophets, nor do we claim that Jesus
is the only way to salvation. The life of Jesus of Nazareth is a clear
example of how we should all live and conduct our lives: through
non-judgmental love, charity, and forgiveness. Jesus was a Jew, but he
really was Interfaith. He came to enlighten both Jew and Gentile. This
fifth article was carefully crafted in its wording. Many, today, including
many Spiritualists, doubt the reality of Jesus. We do not. We believe in
the person of Jesus Christ; that
he was born, lived, crucified, and died in the flesh, and, of utmost
importance, resurrected in the Spirit, as we shall all resurrect in the
We do not worship Jesus, any more than we worship any
soul in Creation. We
worship only God. We look at Jesus as our brother, who
travels the same journey as you and I; as all of us. He is most assuredly
further along on that journey, but he travels the same journey we all do,
regardless of which pathway we each choose to take on that journey.
So, yes, we are an Interfaith Church of the Spirit. Yes,
we are strongly Spiritualist-based. And, yes, we do embrace Jesus Christ as
a role model and a source of inspiration and guidance. No confusion; no
contradiction of terms.
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