'Exploring Differences, Deepening Faith'

'Exploring Differences, Deepening Faith'


The author enjoyed a very multicultural, multifaith experience while living on campus at the Hartford Seminary. <br/> A web-only photo illustration by iStockphoto.com/Alex Max.The author enjoyed a very multicultural, multifaith experience while living on campus at the Hartford Seminary.
A web-only photo illustration by iStockphoto.com/Alex Max.

Stepping out of our comfort zones to follow God’s calling on our life is risky, but full of unimaginable rewards. Six years ago, I did something I considered crazy: I quit a job I loved to follow a calling on my heart into ministry. 

I am not one of those people who can tell you precisely what that ministry looks like, even six years later. Each step on this journey has taught me so much more than I expected. About three years ago, the journey led me to Hartford Seminary to get my Masters in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations.

The header on the seminary’s website says, “Exploring Differences, Deepening Faith.” Hartford Seminary is a multifaith, multicultural school. It houses the country’s oldest center for the study of Christian-Muslim relations

But what I have learned in my classes has been just a piece of my overall education at the seminary. I have learned so much from people I would never have had the pleasure to meet if I would not have answered God’s call on my heart. My roommates and neighbors on campus have been mainly Christian and Muslim students from the United States, France, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Palestine, the Philippines, South Korea, Syria, Thailand and Turkey – to name a few.

Our house has been the site of Thanksgiving, Eid and Christmas Eve celebrations, and movie nights. At one such gathering during the beginning of my first semester on campus, I watched a group playing Jenga. During the first couple of games, the students were playing for the pride of their individual countries. However, as the night progressed, alliances were made based on the house each lived in. It went from being a game between individuals from various counties into one that developed deeper friendships. 

Teresa Mueller. A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of Teresa Mueller. Teresa Mueller, A UMNS web-only photo courtesy of Teresa Mueller.

I may not have chosen any of my roommates and neighbors on campus, but they have truly been a gift. They are the people I eat with, disagree with, study with, play games with and pray with. In short, we have shared our lives in up-close and personal ways. Our kitchen has seen the late-night rehashing of a classroom discussion, news from around the world or happenings in our personal lives. Learning about a religious tradition is one thing, but getting to know the people from many cultures that make up those religious traditions brings it to life. This journey has led me around the world through the people I have met without even leaving home. 

In a few months, I will be leaving this house that has been my temporary home to continue this journey. I will miss the kitchen and its many memories most of all. Its walls have been infused with the smells of myriad spices from all over the world. With each new roommate, I discover a new favorite spice or food. Each of them has enriched my life in so many different ways. Like the spices that enhance the flavor of foods, they have enhanced my life. 

We all look at the world from our own unique perspective, and I have been truly blessed to be surrounded by others who have opened up and shared their lives with me, both inside and outside of class. My life is that much richer because of it.

*Mueller is pastor of United Methodist Church of Bolton, in Bolton, Conn. She is currently in the process of becoming a deacon.

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