I’m not especially religious, but I fancy myself spiritual. And most definitely curious about religions of which I know little.
So it was without hesitation that I accepted the recommendation of a friend to read Ekpedeme “Pamay” Bassey’s book, “My 52 Weeks of Worship: Lessons from a Global, Spiritual, Interfaith Journey.” The premise itself is both simple and intriguing—take on a new church every week for a year, thereby exposing one’s self to different religions and/or styles or worship.
Pamay’s journey is not an easy one to read, in that readers become as emotionally invested in her journey as she is. The decision to take on this project came from a place of pain for her—the loss of her grandmother, her father and at the time, the love of her life—all within a span of just a few months. Feeling bereft and determined to ground herself in her faith, Pamay starts the project at her home church, the now-famous Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where President Obama attended and the home of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Understandable, to be sure—why not start where you feel most comfortable?
Each chapter is a different visit to a new church, a new religion … and while not the in-depth primer some may crave, I appreciated the almost anecdotal style in her travels—from the Bahai Temple, not far from my own home (I wished she had gone a little more in depth here—it’s actually a fairly interesting religion, but loses me on its stance on homosexuality and the imbibing of alcohol) to Wiccans in Illinois and Hare Krishnas in California. Pamay ventures into a Scientology service (if you could call it that), hangs with Quakers and Catholics, Buddhists and the Muslims. Following along on her weekly journey was a treat.
And it’s relatable, regardless of religion. There came one point where Pamay felt as if she was being called out on her project—as if she wasn’t committing herself to God. I tensed up, wondering how she would respond, because I often find myself feeling as if I need to explain my lack of commitment to organized religion.
“She spoke about how people were abandoning religion to focus on spirituality. She mentioned an acronym: Spiritual, but Not Religious (SBNR), and expressed her opinion that this was not a preferable way to live, that choosing a “have it your way” or “do it your way” brand of worship would only lead to confusion, and that the one true way was to choose Jesus.
Now, I’m a Christian, and was sitting in a Christian church. This sermon didn’t surprise me.
However, given my current journey, it seemed she was telling me that I was wasting my time …Both the speaker and my friend thought that perhaps I was looking for God in all the wrong places. I disagree. I was looking for and finding God everywhere.”
I’m not sure I’ve read anything from someone so committed to her faith, and in that passage, found validation.
From the story perspective though, I feel like I’ve been left hanging. As interesting as the journey was, I kept rooting for the author to find the peace she was craving. And I’m still not sure if she’s found it. I sure hope so.