Six women of different religions shared their journeys of faith as part of the 2015 Interfaith Season.
The event, organized by Unificationist co-pastor Wendy Stovall, was held March 10 at the Family Federation for World Peace & Unification Church in Salt Lake City.
Buddhist, Presbyterian, Jewish, LDS, Islamic and Unificationist faiths were represented.
Carmela Javellana-Hirano shared her journey to the Buddhist faith. She was born in the Philippines and raised Catholic, but it was only after she had moved to America, experienced the death of her mother and felt extremely alone that she began to search for religion. She discovered the Buddhist faith and began her training.
“This is when I first encountered what compassion really meant, and it felt like I came home,” Javellana-Hirano said. “I was no longer an orphan. I was no longer alone. I was home.”
In 2014, she received her first ordination as a Buddhist priest in Japan.
Christine Myers-Tegeder, a Presbyterian pastor referred to as “Pastor Chris” by her congregation, shared her experience of her call to minister. Myers-Tegeder was originally a professional musician. She conducted orchestras and taught music.
“Personally, I would have loved a big, obvious message from God. Sky-writing would have been nice, a few bolts of lightning would have been appreciated,” Myers-Tegeder said. “But God doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes it’s in the quiet, personal messages.”
After she graduated from seminary, she and her family relocated to Utah, where she is the associate pastor in the First Presbyterian Church and volunteers as a chaplain for Primary Children’s Hospital.
Virginia Hecker shared her personal experience of moving from a Jewish majority in Detroit to a Jewish minority in Salt Lake City.
Hecker wasn’t raised in a particularly religious family — they were mostly Jewish by culture only. However, when she moved to Utah, she found a book about what Jews believe and she decided to study it.
“Being a good Jew is about living a good life,” Hecker said.
She is a now a member of her congregational choir and of Congregation Kol Ami.
Jenny Pulsipher, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, felt that her journey of faith was a bit different than the other stories shared that night.
“I haven’t traveled very far from where I began. I started out as a Mormon, I’m still a Mormon and I’ve never stopped believing,” Pulsipher said. “For me, the journey has been more building on the faith as I developed as a young child. It’s been a daily effort to fulfill the covenants that I’ve made.”
She teaches at BYU and is the author of many books about Native Americans and Europeans in early America.
Maysa Kergaye, a member of the Islamic faith, shared her journey of going from opposing religion to preaching it almost daily. When she was about 15, she left a Catholic boarding school and moved to America to live with her mother.
Kergaye’s father hadn’t been a very religious man, and her mother was the complete opposite, causing Kergaye and her mother to butt heads on a lot of things.
“I think my mom did the wisest thing ever,” Kergaye said. “She prayed. And instead of her changing me, God changed me. For me, there were too many experiences for me not to believe that God was playing a role in all that was taking place in my life.”
After attending an Islamic youth camp, Kergaye had a change of heart and decided to live the Islamic faith in the fullest way she knew how.
She and her husband opened an Islamic school, for which she was the principal for a number of years. Now she is a member of the Islamic Speakers Bureau, an organization that works to educate others about the beliefs of the faith.
Stovall also shared her journey. She was raised in Zimbabwe and became Unificationist after her divorce from her first husband. Questioning why marriage was the way that it was caused her to turn to the Unificationists for answers.
She also explained that her Unificationist faith helped her be more accepting of all people.
“Growing up on a farm, I just knew black people as the farm laborers. I didn’t know anybody as a personal friend,” Stovall said. “I learned that we laughed and cried at the same things.”
She has been a member of the Unificationists for 39 years.
In addition to the speakers, a string quartet and youth choir shared songs of unity and the importance of standing for God.
In her closing remarks, Pulsipher quoted a scripture from the Book of Mormon, saying, “Has the day of miracles ceased, or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men?”
“I think it speaks of God’s love for all people,” Pulsipher said. “And my belief (is) that he knows us and will intervene in our lives, inspiring, directing and saving us.”