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Spencer: A Matter Of Faith

06/25/12 5:55PM By Suzanne Spencer Rendahl
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(Host) When commentator and former journalist Suzanne Spencer Rendahl heard that a Franklin , Vermont woman had challenged her town's inclusion of a Christian prayer during town meeting and won in court decision earlier this month, she quietly celebrated.

(Spencer) I've never met Marilyn Hackett - a women from a northern border town I've never set foot in - but I feel a kinship with her.

Year after year, she objected when her town meeting was opened with an officially sanctioned prayer to "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." When town officials dismissed her concerns, she sued, arguing that the practice violated the state constitution by compelling religion. And a St. Albans superior court agreed.

Until I left home for college in 1989, my parents insisted that I attend a suburban Connecticut church with them every week, despite my protests. As an adult, I've only entered churches to attend an occasional wedding and endured a surprise Old Testament reading at my own. But otherwise, in the few instances religion has entered my life, I've challenged it. Until my daughter turned five.

"Who is God?" she asked. " And why do people go to churches?" Later she demanded to know, "Who is Jesus?" Caught off guard, I replied "Um, he's a historical figure." Then week after week, she asked to go to church .

When I became a parent, I signed up to do the best I could to provide for all my children's needs; and I couldn't argue with my daughter's yearnings. So last winter I faced religion head-on for the first time in almost a quarter century and met with a local pastor.

I explained that even though he welcomed my atheism, I would feel hypocritical sitting with a congregation of believers when I'm not one of them. But I wanted to support my daughter.

Now every week she chooses whether or not to attend with family friends. She usually goes.

Meanwhile, I cracked open the New Testament and began reading Greek and Roman history for context so that when my daughter has questions, I can gently support, challenge, and remind her that different people believe different things. And that no one has a monopoly on the truth.

When my daughter announced "Jesus Christ is the Son of God," I replied, "It's fine to believe that, but I don't, and neither do your Jewish cousins, and most the rest of the world."

Then she asked why we didn't send her to a local Christian school. "Because," she insisted, "I'm a Christian."

"There are many different types of Christian churches," I explained. Some would celebrate her Aunt Shelly and Aunt Shelia's marriage, but not that one.

On the other hand, last month we carpooled with other church members to Open Hands Mission, a secular soup kitchen in a nearby town. My daughter and I worked side-by-side wrapping silverware with napkins, passing out salt and pepper shakers, serving watermelon for dessert and putting away chairs.

She counted 10 children among the 49 people we served that night.

"May we go back and help again ? " she asked.

We will.

It's an expression of faith that I'm thrilled to support.
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