Steven Greenebaum talks about his new book, One Family: Indivisible at Third Eye Books in Lake Forest Park on October 1, 2019. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Steven Greenebaum talks about his new book, One Family: Indivisible at Third Eye Books in Lake Forest Park on October 1, 2019. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

This Lynnwood man walked the path to a faith of inclusiveness

Steven Greenebaum, former minister at Living Interfaith Church, writes about his life journey in a new memoir.

There’s a verse in the Koran that illustrates how Steven Greenebaum, a lifelong Jew, sees the world.

“We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another,” it reads.

Breaking down denominational lines is Greenebaum’s life work. He’s the founder of Living Interfaith Church in Lynnwood, which embraces all religions and focuses on secular ethical teachings that unite all faiths: love, compassion and harmony.

“This is one of the things I love about interfaith: I can sit down as a Jew with someone who is Christian and someone who is Buddhist,” he said. “It’s not that we won’t get mad at each other occasionally and storm out of the room in disgust. At the end of the day, we’re still family, whether we’re white, black, brown, yellow, red, Jews, Muslim, Baha’i or whatever.”

Greenebaum, 71, of Lynnwood, is the author of three books on interfaith. His latest, “One Family: Indivisible,” out this month, is a spiritual memoir about how significant events in his life led him down his spiritual path.

He was minister of Living Interfaith Church for about a decade until stepping down this summer. He wore vestments with the symbols of nearly a dozen religions, advocated for social and environmental justice, human rights and mutual respect between faiths, and invited congregations to talk about their respective religions.

Greenebaum began writing his memoir five years ago, but he felt a sense of urgency to finish it because of political strife under the Trump administration — especially the president’s stance on immigration and Muslims.

He hopes readers will be encouraged to celebrate the differences between religions, cultures and ideologies, rather than fear them.

“We are constantly being encouraged to fear each other,” he said. “I just don’t see it that way.”

Greenebaum’s brand of interfaith, which has spread as far as Australia and Great Britain, provokes reactions that range from mild confusion to incredulity, said Marie Preftes Arenz, who took over minister duties at Living Interfaith Church in July.

“It’s that feeling of all or nothing,” she said.

Arenz, 50, of Marysville, was raised Roman Catholic but now is a practicing Lutheran. Living Interfaith Church meets on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, enabling her to attend her Lutheran church Sundays.

That she goes to two churches is odd to some, but she doesn’t see it as a negative.

“I like to learn about different spiritual paths,” Arenz said. “It’s really about what makes a difference in my life. If anything, I feel like I’m a stronger Christian because of what I learn from other interfaith people.”

Greenebaum is much the same. He spent most of his career as a choral director at religious institutions, including Methodist and Unitarian churches. He earned a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Seattle University, a Jesuit institution.

“The question is not what spiritual path do you walk, it’s how do you walk your path,” Greenebaum said. “If you’re a loving human being, then your spiritual path is working for you.”

Greenebaum’s worldview was shaped early on growing up in suburban Los Angeles. He was 7 years old when he learned about the Holocaust.

The violence against innocent Jews — who were practicing his religion — seemed utterly senseless. Also during his chilhood, at a time when Jim Crow laws were still in effect, someone pointed out that an African-American child was different from him. That didn’t make sense, either.

A pivotal experience came in his 20s when the woman he planned to marry was killed in a crash. She was Catholic and he was Jewish, but they had made a pact never to convert each other out of respect for their faiths. It wasn’t until much later that he realized they were practicing interfaith.

Even though the loss sent Greenebaum into a tailspin for the next 30 years, the memory of their inclusiveness made a profound impact on him.

“It was brief, but it showed me our differences can be beautiful,” he said. “They don’t have to be threatening.”

Greenebaum, who never married, moved to Edmonds in 1989. He was later ordained as an interfaith minister and worked at a church in Seattle’s Ballard, but the church only spoke about interfaith in dialogue, and not as a faith.

His search for a spiritual community that didn’t judge different beliefs as right or wrong, but celebrated them, ended when he founded Living Interfaith Church in 2010.

Greenebaum explains the depths of his inclusive religion in his books “The Interfaith Alternative” (2012) and “Practical Interfaith” (2014). He realizes that interfaith can be a hard concept to grasp for some, so he keeps things simple whenever he can.

“When I introduce myself, I say my faith is interfaith, my spiritual path is Judaism and my tribe is humanity.”

“One Family: Indivisible”

By Steven Greenebaum

MSI Press. 260 pages. $19.95.

Talk to us

More in Life

The all-new Kia Sportage X-Pro model comes standard with all-terrain tires and 17-inch matte black off-road wheels. (Kia)
2023 Kia Sportage has two new models aimed at the outdoorsy

The X-Pro and X-Pro Prestige have all-terrain tires, all-wheel drive, and all kinds of ground clearance.

Women came from all over the Pacific Northwest to “glamp” and raise money to send girls to Girl Scout Camp from Sept. 16-18. The next opportunity to glamp at Camp River Ranch will be Sept. 8-10, 2023. (Jennifer Bardsley)
Women’s glamping retreat raises money to send local girls to camp

I’ve been the camper, the counselor, the Girl Scout leader and the mom. Now, I was the glamper.

People stroll along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, one of Europe’s most interesting historic walks, as Edinburgh Castle looms in the distance. (Rick Steves' Europe)
Edinburgh, the cultural heart of Scotland, packs a cultural punch

Once a medieval powerhouse, it is today one of Europe’s most lively and festive cities.

Dan Neumeyer peers out the window of his Hummingbird Yurt. (David Welton)
Otherworldly structures constructed on Whidbey Island

The small buildings — yurts, with a Western twist — were built by Earth dweller Dan Neumeyer.

All ears: Mukilteo couple provides surgery for kids born without ears

Dr. Prabhat and Trish Bhama are part of a HUGS volunteer team providing treatment for microtia in Guatemala.

Planting containers in the shoulder season

September and October can be tricky times of the year when it… Continue reading

MyMyToyStore.com owner Tom Harrison at his brick and mortar storefront on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Near-death experience planted seeds for downtown Everett toy store

Former attorney Tom Harrison survived 9/11. It caused him to ask what’s important in life. Today, he runs MyMyToyStore.

2021 Dodge Ram 1500 TRX (Dodge)
2021 Dodge Ram 1500 TRX

The latest salvo is the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX Crew Cab 4x4 pickup.

Mazda CX-30 Crossover (Mazda)
2021 Mazda CX-30 Premium Plus

The crossover seats five adults and delivers the freedom to match active lifestyles.

2022 Kia Sportage Hybride SX Prestige

The 2022 Kia Sportage is marketed as the “ultimate urban SUV.”

Presented by the Edmonds Driftwood Players, Agatha Christie’s “The Mousetrap” — a murder-mystery that is the world’s longest-running play — will run through Oct. 2 at Wade James Theatre in Edmonds. (Photo courtesy Dale Sutton)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

MUSIC Mill Creek Summer Concert Series: The music concludes with Big Dog… Continue reading

2022 BMW X3 M40i (BMW)
2022 BMW X3 M40i

BMW is probably the best at naming cars with letters and numbers.