Religious diversity flourishes at Lake Tahoe
God is not in the thesaurus, but faith itself has many names.
South Shore reflects a variety of religious and spiritual beliefs, proving it’s possible for people of different faiths to co-exist in a small town.
“I think this area is very supportive of religions,” said Charna Silver, a 17 year resident of South Shore, and active member of Temple Bat Yam. “Our temple met for years in the family room at the Presbyterian Church before we had a building of our own and we were always very welcome. Also, the Unitarian Fellowship has been meeting at the Temple on Saturday nights. So I think that kind of interfaith communication and acceptance and support has really been felt here.”
Roger Weightman, an 83-year-old member of Lake Tahoe Christian Fellowship, shared similar sentiments.
“It’s very diverse spiritually, as well as culturally up here,” said Weightman, who believes his faith in God has pulled him through many times of trial. “My faith plays every role in my life. I’ve had several surgeries and I never had any fear in any of them. I’m confident because God is in control and he wants nothing but the best for me. He allows me to go through trials, but it’s only to strengthen me.”
A born again Christian, Bob Daly said it took hitting rock bottom to realize he was destroying his life.
“From the outside I looked like the American dream,” Daly said, reflecting back to 1989. “But on the inside, I was depressed and suicidal. I was imprisoned by drugs and alcohol and even though I tried to quit hundreds of times, it controlled me.”
A series of events led Daly, a 19 year South Shore resident, to a recovery treatment center in Reno and then to Tahoe Community Church, where he said he discovered God’s plan for his life.
“In recovery, I bottomed out,” he said. “With me in charge of my life, I destroyed it. With me in charge, I was no good for my wife, my business, myself. I was calling the shots and I was making all the wrong choices. About five or six months later, I was invited to Tahoe Community Church by Jeff Brunback.
“During the seeking process at Tahoe Community Church, God saved me. God redeemed me and I confessed that my life was a failure and that I’d sinned miserably against God and I needed Him in my life and I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. That’s only the beginning of faith. I was born again in Tahoe.”
Weightman, like Daly, also struggled with alcoholism, but said his faith helped him overcome the temptations.
“Since I’ve discovered Jesus Christ, I’ve been relieved of the desire to drink and the desire to smoke, which I did for about 35 years, so I figure God has a reason for me,” said Weightman who recently had chemotherapy for colon cancer. “I just know that Jesus is looking after me and he wants the best for me. He gave me the strength to continue working (at the church) even when I was going through chemotherapy. We helped God build this church and he was faithful in giving us the strength and energy.”
Scott Nanamura, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, doesn’t claim a particular church or faith, but said he is a spiritual person, nonetheless.
“I really don’t have a faith but I’ve studied a little bit of a lot,” he said. “I’ve probably studied more eastern philosophy but I was brought up with Christianity. For me, I adhere much more to Daoism because you adhere more to the laws of nature. It’s more of a philosophical principle than religious teachings but that basically becomes your religion because it’s something that you practice all of time.”
With more than 15 different denominations and numerous churches, South Shore’s natural beauty inspires worship, Silver said.
“Because of the environment: the nature, the lake, the mountains. It’s definitely God’s country,” she said. “I’m not sure how spiritual it is, but seeing a lot of different religions here for such a small area it attracts a lot of different faiths.”
Lisa Kolstad, an undeclared spiritual being, said she pulls a thread from many teachings.
“What I believe in is all paths are one,” said Kolstad, manager of Mountain Spirit. “They’re all saying to walk in compassion and to walk in one with each other and to love your brother. I pull a thread from all religions and weave a tapestry into a way of living, which is a positive attitude and realizing the oneness that we are all a reflection of the creator. We’re all one being. And we can actually live different religions in the course of a day. Buddhism is compassion. Christianity is love your brother.”
Kolstad uses meditation to maintain her spiritual awareness.
“I meditate to empty my mind, to empty out all of the thoughts and the clutter from the mind,” she said. “It brings you back to the unity state, back into unification with God and all beings.”
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