Day 3 of Elijah Interfaith Summer School

Tuesday 4th August 2020 — Hosted in Jerusalem, participants zoomed-in from around the world

Tee exclaimed, “Dad”. “What is it?” I asked. “You are acting like a child.”

True I was relaxed, I was vibrant, I was animated and like a child, I was expressing the fullness of what I was feeling.

So what had placed me in such a state? I had just spent six hours listening and interacting on zoom with my fellow participants on day 3 of the Elijah Interfaith Institute Summer School

I was delighted to hear her comment even if she was perturbed by my state as Swami G who took the first session of the day spoke about the state of a child as the one that we wish to experience, open to all and not yet conditioned to be self -conscious.

A two-minute clip of Swami G

The previous day my enthusiasm had been knocked like a child’s when I was informed that my wifi connection was making it difficult for others to understand what I was saying. Once I understood how I could remedy the problem I did. Today with no such problems I came off zoom unfettered.

Our second session was led by Dr. Marcia Hermansen. She shared the following reading,

By the morning brightness,
by the night when it is calm!
Your Lord has neither forsaken you nor is He displeased with you,
and the Hereafter shall be better for you than the world.
Soon your Lord will give you [that with which] you will be pleased.
Did He not find you an orphan, and shelter you?
Did He not find you astray, and guide you?
Did He not find you needy, and enrich you?
So, as for the orphan, do not oppress him;
and as for the beggar, do not chide him;
and as for your Lord’s blessing, proclaim it!

She identified three different types of roles that we were likely to be occupying,

  1. Academic
  2. Pastoral
  3. Spiritual advisor

I identified myself most strongly with the Spiritual advisor role followed by pastoral. I enjoy engaging with the academic but I always seek to test it out by seeing how it can be applied to the masses to enhance their lives.

I welcomed the scripture for it was refocussing us on the individual and particularly the individual in need. Most individuals open to the possibility of the spiritual when they are most in need, “God I need your help.” It can be informed by books but it is not books that will meet their need it will be how the individual experiences the response to that prayer.

The third scholar of the day was Nader Saiedi. He drew on the work of sociologists Max Weber and Emile Durkheim in understanding meaning and particularly religious meaning.

I resonated most with his comment that people can become part of a religious group in order to find meaning but in so doing they can dissolve themselves into the identity of the group. He identified this as false meaning.

I see this in my own journey and the need for those who desire to remain in a living relationship with God to hear this warning. When our religion becomes part of a nationalistic identity and more about culture than a relationship with God it is no longer promoting spiritual growth.

I was relieved that Alon Goshen -Gottstein, the director of Elijah decided that we would have a kitchen table talk (zoon allows such realities) to conclude the day.

It was as important and nourishing to exchange ideas with the other participants as to hear the scholars. And I am still amazed that we are able to do this all by zoom.

Best day,




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Gordie Jackson

Gordie Jackson

Speaks with a Northern Irish accent, lives in Hertfordshire, England.