Rev. Stacy Lee Goforth’s mission is to build bridges of understanding between people of all faiths so they can develop and experience authentic, open and honest relationships with each other. She accomplishes this by educating people to the commonalities of the world’s religions, thereby removing the barriers of misinformation and misconception that are often the source of conflict.
Stacy has been active throughout her life in Christian churches, writing curriculum and teaching Sunday school and adult Christian studies. She became a Certified Lay Speaker in 2002, developed a spiritual gifts program, wrote and self-published the accompanying workbook, The Divine Plan, and has conducted classes and spoken at United Methodist churches throughout New England. She recently worked as the Director of Parish Life Ministries for the Gales Ferry United Methodist Church in Gales Ferry, CT.
Teaching Tolerance in a Post-9/11 World
Newly Ordained Interfaith Minister Hopes For a Better World
Article and Photo By Bill Thorndike
October 17, 2011 Article in http://ledyard.patch.com/
The spiritual path that led Stacey Goforth to become ordained as an interfaith minister began when she was a teenager growing up in a Southern Baptist church in Virginia. And maybe it began long before that.
“There was always something in me that was a little different,” said Goforth, a member of the United Methodist Church in Gales Ferry and church secretary at Ledyard Congregational Church.
Goforth, whose married surname has a wonderfully evangelical ring, recalls as a teen-ager listening to a sermon on the evils of dancing.
“I was a dancer. I had taken ballet since I was a little kid,” she said. “And I was also into gymnastics. I was very physical, very athletic. I loved to move my body any way I could.”
Goforth spoke to her pastor about his sermon. “It was the first time I had ever questioned authority,” she said.
It would not be the last time. There were other sermons and other teachings that she found deeply troubling. Eventually, when she was a in college, Goforth said she stopped going to church. She stayed away for 10 years.
When she finally returned, she was married to her husband, Bob, and they had a 2-year-old son, John. Like many young parents, they wanted to raise their child in the tradition they knew. They joined the Methodist Church.
In 1995, Bob's job at Newport News led the family to Groton. Goforth remembers shopping for a church. On only their second Sunday they attended the United Methodist Church in Gales Ferry. “We walked in, the choir started singing and I said, ‘that’s it, we’re home.’”
The church offered a class called “spiritual gifts,” which Goforth attended and later taught. “But everytime I taught it I felt something was missing,” she said.
Then, in 2002, Goforth had an experience – she describes it as a vision – in which she found herself in a holy place, standing before a “master teacher.”
“I asked him if Jesus was the son of God, and he said yes, but so are we – we all are God’s children,” she said.
Other visions followed in what Goforth called her period of spiritual awakening. “It was as though God turned on a light for me,” she said. “I became opened to such concepts as reincarnation, which is not part of Christian dogma.”
It also was during this time that she got the “seminary bug.”
“Every true religion has at its core a belief in loving God and loving each other, in loving and caring for each other and ourselves. All of it has as its root understanding what all this is,” she said, gesturing to the space around and above her backyard deck.
Goforth enrolled in a two-year ordination program at the New Seminary in New York City. She was ordained as an interfaith minister this past summer.
A new calling
Her hope now is to work in hospitals and other settings where an interfaith chaplain would typically work. She said she hopes to provide counsel and comfort to those in need, and to officiate at weddings and funerals.
Especially weddings, and especially with the increasing popularity of interfaith marriages, she said.
Mostly, Goforth hopes to promote tolerance in a post-9/11 world, teaching others by word and example.
“Where there is fear, there is hatred, and where there is hatred there is war,” she said.
“If there is ever going to be peace, we need to realize that we’re all the same, we all are God’s people and we are all seeking God,” she said. “But now I am referring to inner peace. There will never be world peace until people have peace in their hearts.”
Toward that end she said she can help by educating people about other faiths. For example, the Muslim woman we might encounter in a public place.
“How do I get past this woman I see who is covered from head to foot?” she asked. “I think, ‘she’s a Muslim,’ but do I know that this person gets up every morning an hour before dawn to pray and is so committed to her belief in God?
“And besides,” she added, “she’s a woman and I’m a woman. So there’s another way we can relate.”