THE Rev. Rob Craig chose a passage from Romans 14 as a central theme for a sermon he delivered before the congregation of First Presbyterian Church in Columbus more than a year ago.
He had elected to address the 10th anniversary observance of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on this country and the still simmering anger so many Americans had for those they deemed responsible.
The passage was short and simple — “Don’t pass judgment on the servants of another. It is before their own lord that they stand or fall.”
In one sense the local pastor was speaking to those who blamed the religion of Islam for the attacks. In other ways, that passage can be viewed as a reflection of his personal beliefs in respecting the beliefs of others.
Last week, Rev. Craig delivered his final sermon as First Presbyterian’s pastor. He is retiring to devote full time to his battle against a form of breast cancer which was diagnosed earlier this year.
Rev. Craig has been First Presbyterian’s pastor since 2007. In that relatively short period of time, he became a unifying force, not only in his own congregation but in the community.
The passage he used to reflect on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 is reflective of that philosophy of understanding and respecting the beliefs of others.
Over the past two years he has been one of the participants in a monthly meeting with other clergy in the community. Members of the group call themselves the Different Ministers group. It is an informal and eclectic collection of representatives from divergent faiths. Participants included representatives of Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, independent and other denominations.
Their intent was not to convert but to broaden one another’s views.
It was not that long ago in this and other communities that such a gathering would have been unimaginable. There were real barriers encircling individual denominations, prohibiting members from exploring the tenets of another religion. For many of these believers, anyone who did not embrace their views was an infidel.
Most religions have evolved beyond those narrow confines, but it is primarily through the gentle wisdom of individuals like the Rev. Rob Craig that this spirit of understanding has been sustained.