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CYF Seminar 2024

By Denisha Dodge-Summerour

I attended the 2024 CYF Seminar “Face-to-Face With Other Faiths.” For seven days, I visited Washington, D.C. and New York City to explore different religions and their cultures and beliefs. During my stay in D.C., we visited the Washington National Cathedral and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. In the Washington Cathedral, we learned about the different stained glass windows and the meaning of each. My favorite window was the one of outer space because it looked cool and they incorporated their view of religion and outer space. In the Basilica, we saw that they had statues of Mary in different races and cultures.

We had a private tour of the Capitol and were able to observe a session of the House of Representatives. We walked past the White House and visited the monuments. That was my favorite part of D.C. My favorite monuments were Martin Luther King and the Lincoln Memorial. I read Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial close to where he gave the speech in the 1960s.

We also visited the Holocaust Museum. When we first went in, we were jammed into the elevator like they were jammed into the railroad cars. It was unbelievable that this happened not even a century ago and that people say it didn’t. It was disturbing to see how people were treated. It also made me think of things that we as Americans have done in this country that we should acknowledge and not try to cover up.

Arlington Cemetery is a beautiful place. We visited the Kennedys’ graves and saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where we watched the Changing of the Guard and laying of a wreath. Some of the tombstones had different religious symbols – a Star of David, Lutheran cross, Russian Orthodox Cross and Crown, even the chalice for the Disciples of Christ and others. I had a really good time in D.C. other than all the walking.

After D.C., we went to New York on a train, where I went to sleep. After the train ride, we all went to the Jewish Synagogue, where we listened to the Shabbat service. The next day, we walked the Brooklyn Bridge, where I saw a really amazing view of New York and the Statue of Liberty. Then we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and saw all of the amazing artwork there. We attended “The Outsiders” musical, which was really good and fun to see. My favorite part was the number where they made it rain. I still want to know how they did that, and the fire, too.

On Sunday, we went to Riverside Church, where the guest pastor, Reverend Doctor Adolphus C. Lacey, did a Juneteenth service. One thing that he said that stood out to me was, “When you know who you are, you act like that.” That saying alone made me feel something that I can’t describe; it uplifted me. After the service, we visited Grant’s Tomb and went past Columbia University. We went to a Buddhist Temple, and all of Buddha’s stories were on the wall and in time line order. They also had a wall of memorials. It was a very amazing place to see.

The last thing we did was got on the Staten Island Ferry and saw the Statue of Liberty, where we saw an amazing photo of her when the sun was setting behind her and she was glowing.

The last day, we first went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. That was my favorite part of going to New York. For me it was like I was there, even though 9/11 happened before I was born. Seeing all the damage and hearing all the stories people had is an experience that is indescribable. I think that everyone given the opportunity should go and see the 9/11 Memorial. We then went to Trinity Church, and I got to see Alexander Hamilton’s grave and learn how the church stood when 9/11 happened. We also walked through Central Park and had communion at the Bethesda Fountain. It was a very relaxing end to the day, and it was one of my favorite times of the week.

We flew back the next day, and I realized I really did miss the greenness of Kentucky with all of the trees and fresh air.

During all the time, I learned that Christianity is similar to other religions in how we all use music and in how our beliefs can teach us to be the best version of ourselves we can be. Also, we all have gathering places, holidays, rituals, and scriptures. This made me realize how we all have more things in common that we think, and that we should use what we have in common to bring people up than use our differences to tear them down. Show our love to them in what we all share.

Finally, I want to thank everyone for making this trip possible for me and giving me the opportunity to learn more about Christianity and other religions. Thank you and I really am grateful for you all.


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