Breda Page Violette has found new places to find God. She’s found God in Jewish temples, Muslim mosques and Sikh temples and that has helped her find God in unexpected places in her daily life.
Page Violette, 17, is a facilitator of The Brookfield Institute’s Living in a World of Difference program, starting Oct. 14. (Learn more here.)
The high school junior first took part in a program run by the Rev. Dr. Karen Nell Smith, her cofacilitator in Living in a World of Difference, in 2015. She visited a Jewish temple on a Friday, during Shabbat, and listened to a Muslim woman talk about her faith.
“It was the first time I understood there was a broader concept to religion,” said Page Violette, who grew up in a small church in Lunenburg, Mass., that was combined Methodist and United Church of Christ. “That was pretty much my only experience,” she said. At the temple during Shabbat services, she was struck by the similarities to her own faith — a communion-type ceremony, the basic structure of the service — but was also struck by the difference — reading right to left and the relics in place.
Then she met Mary Lahaj, a Muslim chaplain from Wayland who has participated in other Brookfield interfaith events. “I live in a town with little diversity,” Page Violette said, “and had never interacted with a Muslim. You hear so much in the news, but then to hear it from someone and get a human connection … Mary’s Islam does not promote violence and I thought about that a lot afterwards. It was so nice to have her insight and explanations.”
Page Violette followed her Brookfield experience with a trip to Boston to participate in the Cooperative Metropolitan Ministries Interfaith Youth Initiative, held for a week during the summer of 2018 at Brandeis University. The week continued her awakening.
“I don’t know if I would have gone to Boston without Karen Nell’s introduction,” Page Violette said. And her second time in a Jewish temple gave her the chance to listen more to the rabbi, what he was saying, “the heart of what he was saying.”
“I came back feeling like I had felt God in places that aren’t traditional Christian places,” Page Violette said. “My Christianity was strengthened and it encouraged me to keep seeking God in other places.” Another benefit was talking with peers who are also religious, something she can’t often do. “There were youth my own age at these events and I could interact with them.”
Beginning Oct. 14, Page Violette and Karen Nell Smith will lead Living in a World of Difference a four-week exploration of Abrahamic faiths. Participants will learn more about their own faith by learning about Jewish and Islam faiths and are welcome to attend as many of the four sessions as they want. Email Karen Nell Smith at email@example.com to reserve your spot, or call her at 508-331-3081.