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Interfaith youth group takes the 'B-tour' and visits Buddhists, Baptists and Baha'is in Oklahoma

The Rev. William Tabbernee, Oklahoma Council of Churches' executive director, said the annual tours give youths an opportunity to visit different houses of worships to learn about the beliefs and traditions of different faiths.
by Carla Hinton Published: September 23, 2012

The youth directors at the Buddhist temple told the visitors about the temple's beginnings as a place for Vietnamese Buddhists to gather. The temple leaders also explained to the crowd why they were expected to sit on the floor — to signify equality — and other Buddhism concepts such as enlightenment and the four truths of Buddhism.

The youths also were taught lyrics to a simple song about happiness so they could sing along with the temple leaders.

A short question-and-answer period was held at each site along the tour, giving participants a chance to gain more understanding about the different faith beliefs.

A Muslim woman sitting in the pew at St. John asked why many Christian churches, including the Baptist church, have stained-glass windows.

Several Christians asked the Buddhist temple youth directors questions about the Buddhist concept of death and the importance of the numerous statues inside the temple and on the temple's outer grounds.

ViaFaith McCullough, 14, a member of Quayle United Methodist Church, said she enjoyed the temple visit and wished the group had more time to learn about Buddhism.

“I thought this was a different religious experience,” she said.

The Rev. Erica Thomas, associate pastor at Quayle, said she brought a group of nine youths on the tour.

“I pass by this place everyday, and I have always been so interested in Buddhism,” she said of the temple. “I'm not scared of exposing my young people to different things.”

Aaron Krueger, associate minister at Crown Heights Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), shared similar sentiments.

“I think it's really important to learn more and to try to educate ourselves out of a concept of tolerance as opposed to ignorance,” he said.

Genevieve Gordon, 14, and her friend Jayden Andrews, 14, both members of First Unitarian Church of Oklahoma City, said they found the tour informative.

“I thought it was great, and I'm really grateful that we got to look around,” Gordon said of the temple.

Tabbernee seemed enthusiastic about group's curiosity.

“The young people see that other young people are just like themselves, though they worship in a different way and have different faith traditions,” he said. “There's a basic underlying humanity because we're all created by one God.”

He said the youth tour has become so popular that a separate interfaith tour, one for both youths and adults, is planned for Oct. 21 in Oklahoma City.

by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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