Every month or so, a couple of Jehovah's Witness women come to my door to give me materials, chat briefly and go on their way. I used to send Witnesses away promptly, telling them that I'm a UU minister, I have my own theology and don't want to know about theirs. But I changed my approach a few years ago during my Clinical Pastoral Education experience.
I was a chaplain intern, just learning about chaplaincy, when I was summoned to the ICU at the Denver hospital where I was serving. A man in his 60's had been brought in comatose; his wife had found him collapsed and not breathing on the floor of the garage, had called 911, and the paramedics had managed to restart his heart. Now he lay unconscious, supported only by a breathing machine.
The whole family was there in the waiting room when I walked in. I learned that their loved one was a Mormon but that they were all Witnesses; they had been told by the doctors that he would not get better and that turning off the life support was probably the kindest thing to do. They had decided to do so and were waiting for the doctor and nurse to return so that they could inform the staff of their decision.
While they were waiting, they invited me to sit with them in prayer. And as heartfelt prayers rose, asking God to be with us, to be with the dying man, to receive him into the kingdom of heaven, I saw these people in a new light. They did not try to convert me; they welcomed me into their circle. And over the week or more that it took this strong man to let go of life, my respect for them increased as they welcomed me time and again as a friend and pastor.
So yesterday, when Natalie and her companion arrived at my door, I welcomed them into my living room, listened to their witness, and received their materials. Natalie is a charming Frenchwoman in her thirties and her demeanor is courteous and graceful. She does not insist that I believe as she does; she simply offers her message.
I told the two women the story of my experience and we shared the pleasure of the realization that, as our spiritual ancestor Francis David has said, "we need not think alike to love alike." Natalie and her companion said goodbye after a few minutes more and took their leave. I felt I had made new friends.