‘Exploring Differences, Deepening Faith’

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.

News media contact: Joey Butler, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].


Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

UMNEWS-SUBSCRIPTION
Mission and Ministry
Tim Tanton (center, in red), chief news and information officer for United Methodist Communications, shares updates with African communicators and other UMCom staff during the 2019 General Conference. World Press Freedom Day, observed May 3, commemorates journalists and highlights the difficulties they face while reporting truth. File photo by Kathleen Barry, UM News

World Press Freedom Day and the church

Tim Tanton with United Methodist News talks about giving voice to the voiceless and why freedom of information is essential not only for society but for the church.
Evangelism
The Rev. Tom Berlin (left) presents a copy of his book, “Courage,” to Massachusetts National Guard Chaplain Chad McCabe in the chapel at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. McCabe, whose unit was assigned to help provide security at the U.S. Capitol after the January riot, contacted Wesley Seminary asking for Bibles, novels and board games for troops stationed there. Photo by Lisa Helfert for Wesley Theological Seminary. Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Church responds to chaplain's call to help soldiers

A National Guard chaplain got Bibles, games and 150 copies of a new book about courage when he turned to Wesley Theological Seminary for help keeping soldiers occupied in Washington in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection.
Violence
The Rev. William B. Lawrence.  Photo by H. Jackson/Southern Methodist University.

What would Jesus tell the US Capitol rioters?

The Rev. William B. Lawrence examines the claims of Scriptural authority by violent protesters who stormed the U.S. Capitol.