By Rev. Joel S. Slotnick
In just a few days, persons of Christian faith around the world will be celebrating Easter. Sharefaith.com describes it (in part): “Easter Sunday is the day of rejoicing that follows the sorrow of Good Friday and Holy Saturday. For most Christians, Easter is the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It bears witness to God’s enduring promise of eternal life. As the climax of Holy Week, Easter is a time of hope and assurance. It is humanity’s turning point from destruction to glory and salvation”.
In a few weeks, persons of Jewish faith around the world will be celebrating Passover. Chabad.org describes it (in part): “The eight-day festival of Passover is celebrated in the early spring, from the 15th through the 22nd of the Hebrew month of Nissan. It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. And, by following the rituals of Passover, we have the ability to relive and experience the true freedom that our ancestors gained.”
With all the things going on in today’s news, why would I talk about this? Both are a part of who I am today as a person. With the last name of Slotnick, you can rest assure people look at me kind of puzzled when I am introduced in many social settings as Reverend Slotnick. Let’s be honest, my last name screams out Judaism, not Christianity. If asked, I share how it came to be.
I have written before that I grew up in a Jewish household. I didn’t have a Bar Mitzvah as my parents had divorced and my mother wasn’t able to afford sending three kids to Hebrew school. Payment plans for such a thing in the ‘60s were pretty non-existent. You paid or you didn’t go. However, we were raised to observe the Jewish holidays and what they were about. I didn’t think too much of it as a kid. I knew it was hard work to learn a new language, let alone reading Hebrew and I saw what my friends went through. But in high school, I needed an elective, so I chose Hebrew. All I can say is “oy.” It was very difficult for me as a teenager. I could only imagine how I would have felt experiencing this as a child. I passed, but barely. I just couldn’t connect. I don’t know if it was the language, the ritual or what.
However, I did connect with church, which I experienced with Catholic neighbors. Don’t ask me how or why, I just did. Over the next 19 years, I had a relationship with God and had faith; however, I didn’t attend any “formal” house of worship.
Twenty-six years ago was Easter Sunday, April 15th, 1990. I was invited to attend church with Christian friends of mine. They knew I had been to a church before, so it wasn’t an odd request to them. Besides, I was going to be having Easter dinner with them. So, I went.
Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. I was 32 and it has been about 20 years since I had last been in a church. The experience was beyond what I ever imagined as my spiritual journey began and my faith strengthened. You might say it was the day I “got my calling.” As the Pastor was delivering his sermon, I envisioned myself doing the same thing.
I wanted to be sure my feelings were true and not something that was a whim, so I continued to go weekly. And each week, I continued to know this was the direction my life was supposed to take. I only had one reservation. How do I tell my family? We were raised to be open and talk about anything, but this was one of those things that you just don’t walk in the house and say to a Jewish mother “Hey Mom, I decided I’m going to follow Christianity!” It took months, but eventually happened. She knew I had been going to church with friends and came out and asked me point-blank “Just how involved are you at that church?” I pulled out a business card that said “Worship Coordinator”. The discussion continued and it was very long.
She didn’t fully understand, but I did make it clear, I would one day be wearing clerics. On December 16th of 1990, I was baptized into the Christian faith. It wasn’t until my mom came to visit me and attended a church service with me and “saw me in action” seeing just what it meant to me. I introduced her to the pastor and congregation. Since that day, she and my family have been extremely supportive of my faithful journey. They are proud of who I am as a person, and my accomplishments over the last 26 years. My twin brother and his girlfriend were in attendance at my ordination to the deaconate in 2005, which made the day even more special. In 2011, I was ordained as an interfaith minister. Over the years, my mom has continued to come to church at least once a visit. At 58, I couldn’t be happier in my journey.
So, to those of you, who question your faith path in life; choose the one that makes you feel the most comfortable, even if it’s not the one you grew up with. It’s not always an easy choice, but in the end you must do what is best for you. There is nothing better than a faithful journey you were meant to be on.
I leave you with these words: “To see the other side, to defend another people, not despite your tradition but because of it, is the heart of pluralism.” ~Eboo Patel
Rev. Joel S. Slotnick is an ordained interfaith minister and full time digital court reporter. He can be found on Facebook and followed on Twitter.