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Marathon a Gathering of Faiths

Published 07:57 p.m., Friday, November 4, 2011

A quarter-century ago, I became a pastor of the Pineview Community Church in Albany. My focus was on loving and caring for people. I preached the gospel and my belief that Christ can transform anyone's life.

For a decade in the Pineview pulpit, I preached what I believed was the one way to faith. I wanted to persuade people and to correct those who did not see it the same way I did. I preached that Jesus was the only right way.

On 9/11 everyone's world was shaken -- mine in a deeply spiritual way.

Something shifted for me, not in whom I believed, but in what I thought of other ways of believing. I heard about fireman and emergency responders willing to sacrifice their lives. I had a picture of Jesus receiving all those people into heaven. The God of peace and love came into sharper focus. A few years later, I joined the UCC, the United Church of Christ, which extends a welcome of all people. I trained in a model of therapy called Internal Family Systems in which all parts are welcome and became pastoral counselor and clinical social worker specializing in family issues.

I still believe and preach that faith in Christ is what transforms us, but I now also believe the Jesus way is not the way of one church. I preach in churches of all denominations and temples of all faiths. As a therapist, I teach the way of peace and love that welcomes all.

A quarter of a century ago I ran my first New York City marathon. On Sunday, I will be walking more than running my 25th. Each year, I've led a group of runners in Christian worship, sometimes preaching to a thousand worshipers. Early Sunday morning, 10 years after the destruction that created ground zero and two hours before the race, there will be four stations for Christians who want to receive communion. There will also be a community of faiths service for people of all faith traditions to affirm their belief in love and peace toward all.

At a peace pole placed on a table between the tents for the Christian service and a Jewish minyan, people will be invited to write their name, their country and their faith group on a piece of paper and place it inside a cylinder. We will sing "Imagine" and other songs about a time when a community of faiths can gather in peace to appreciate our differences and embrace our common faith.

Don Paine, who lives in West Stockbridge, Mass., is founder Parakalein Counseling and Consultation Services in Albany. His website is .

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