In this four-Sunday series, we hear directly from area experts and members of the world’s four primary faith traditions outside of Christianity — Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.
JUDAISM with Rabbi Gideon Estes
CANCELLED due to Hurricane Harvey
No better place to begin stepping beyond our ecclesial doors than the somewhat familiar territory of our closest religious neighbor – Judaism. And yet, even though we have much in common with this ancient monotheistic faith, its rich traditions and practices still remain much a mystery for many Christians. Rabbi Gideon Estes paves thepath to better understanding with good stories and good humor. Head rabbi at Congregation Or Ami in Houston, Estes was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, where he served as the coordinator of the Interseminary Dialogue, one of the oldest continuous Christian Jewish Dialogues in the country.
A San Francisco Bay Area native, Estes graduated Cum Laude from UCLA in 2003 with a BA in Jewish Studies with concentration in Jewish History. He also has studied at the Union Theological Seminary in New York, The Hebrew University and the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. Currently, Rabbi Estes is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly and the Houston Rabbinical Association. He serves on the Board of Directors of Houston Hillel and the Board of Representatives of CanCare.
ISLAM with Dr. Mujtaba Ali-Khan
Sunday, September 10
As we learned in our Faithful Neighbors series earlier this year, Islam is among the fastest-growing faith traditions in the Houston area. We welcome again Dr. Mujtaba Ali-Khan of the Woodlands Mosque to provide more information about the Muslim faith and reflect on his community’s growing relationship with St. James. As well, he will have just returned from his first pilgrimage to Mecca and will share his experience.
Ali-Khan is a member and interim leader of the mosque (Masjid Al-Ansaar) just north of FM 1488 near Kuykendahl Road. Through Interfaith Ministries of Houston, Ali-Khan has participated in dinner dialogues, forums and other events geared to bringing together people of different faiths for several years. Recognized as a leader in the field of internal medicine and a champion in the area of patient experience, Ali-Khan has served as Chief Medical Officer of Conroe Regional Medical Center since May 2016. He previously served as vice president of Hospital Docs, a practice offering services to several regional hospitals, and president of Streamlined Medical Solutions, during which he invented and developed software that has reengineered the patient admission process for hundreds of medical facilities.
BUDDHISM with Glen Duval
Sunday, September 17
With 300 million followers around the globe, Buddhism emerged 2,500 years ago as a tolerant belief system more concerned with wisdom and understanding than religious labels. Leading us into the deep waters of this ancient religion is Glen Duval, Head Of Practice at the Houston Zen Center. Along with providing guidance and leadership for the center, Duval teaches the central tenants of Buddhism: The Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eight Fold Path, and The Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts, as well as, important texts for Soto Zen Buddhism.
Growing up in Houston, Duval attended Christian Sunday school and Hebrew school, and was Bar Mitzvah’ed at Temple Emanu El. He received undergraduate and graduate degrees in cognitive psychology from the University of Houston and is retired from a 30-year career at Bechtel Corp. Known by his Dharma name, Kogen, Duval also is a member of Jewish Congregations Emanu El and Sh’ma Koleinu.
HINDUISM with Dr. Deepak Kotecha
Sunday, September 24
Forged from a variety of Indian cultures and traditions over several millennia, Hinduism is considered by many to be the oldest religion in the world. Also known as Sanatana Dharma, or “the eternal way,” cherishes the inseparable marriage of mind, body and spirit through meditation and yoga. Dr. Deepak Kotecha embodies his faith’s holistic approach as not only an expert on Hinduism but also as a medical professional and master in the martial arts as much as he is meditation.
A University of Houston graduate and optometric glaucoma specialist, Kotecha and his wife together have published two books on Hinduism for their children and are working on a new book aimed at a broader audience. In his presentations on Hinduism nationally, Kotecha emphasizes spirituality while attempting to explain in simple terms the ‘why’ rather than the ‘what’ of Hindu beliefs.
Stand Up For Refugees,
with The Rev. Deacon Linda Shelton
Sunday, October 1
Of the more than 65 million forcibly displaced people in the world today – the highest level ever recorded – 21 million are refugees, and more than half of these are children. Texas leads the nation in refugee resettlement, so this global challenge hits close to home. The Rev. Deacon Linda Shelton serves as the Episcopal Diocese of Texas’ Liaison for Refugee Ministry, advocating for greater support of refugees and migrant people through sharing facts and local opportunities to reach out in Christ’s love and welcome.
Episcopal Migration Ministries, The Episcopal Church’s refugee resettlement agency, is dedicated to saving lives and restoring hope for refugees resettled to the United States every year. To learn more about EMM and its Stand to Support Refugees campaign, visit www.episcopalmigrationministries.org.
500 Years of Reformation, Bishop Michael Rinehart
Sunday, October 15
Lutheran Bishop Michael Rinehart joins us to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which divided the Church between Catholics and Protestants and transformed the way millions of people understand their relationship with God. Bishop Rinehart oversees the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a community of more than 100 congregations, campus ministries, retreat centers, and other agencies. Before becoming bishop in 2007, he served 10 years as pastor of Grace Lutheran, Conroe. An accomplished organist as well as published theologian, Bishop Rinehart also will preach at the 10:30 a.m. service. He and his family live in Montgomery.
Helping Where It Hurts, with Dr. Pamela Ferry
Sunday, October 22
If there is a way for St. James parish to connect with the deepest needs of our neighborhoods, the Lone Star Family Health Center could be it. Passionate about providing health care for Texas’ underserved populations, Dr. Pamela Ferry will provide an overview of the center’s services and begin our conversation about potential ways parishioners can help.
A native of Houston and having served on the center’s faculty since 2014, Dr. Ferry graduated from Baylor College of Medicine, where she received the DeBakey Scholar Award and was a Pisacano Leadership Foundation Scholar. Intensely interested in international and community health, she is fluent in Spanish, and participates in a variety of international medical activities, including an annual medical mission trip to Bolivia.
Missional Communities, with Jason Evans
Sunday, November 5
Across the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, there are more than 50 missional communities developing. These communities are what emerge when we participate in God’s mission of reconciliation and friendship beyond the church campus. Jason Evans is the Missioner for Missional Communities for the Diocese and he will join us to discuss what it means to a missional church in Conroe.
Jason has taught and trained in many environments and with a cross section of Christian traditions, in diverse contexts, at establishing missional communities, ministry start-ups, and on the relationship between church and culture. His own work in establishing missional communities over the last 15 years has been profiled in books such as Jim and Casper Go To Church, Street Crossers, Emerging Churchesand Emerging Worship. He studied at Heston College for a Certificate in Urban Ministry and Fuller Theological Seminary for a Masters of Arts in Global Leadership. Jason, his wife, Brooke and their three children are originally from San Diego, CA. Jason comes to the Diocese of Texas after serving as the Diocesan Young Adult Missioner in Washington, DC. They now live in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston.