A tale of two faiths: Professor Ann Redding shares her unique fusion of Christianity and Islam
It started with a song. “My mother would sing us to sleep when we were really little,” Ann Redding said.
Those songs, spiritual in nature, had a fundamental impact on Redding’s life. Redding, a former Episcopal priest and current adjunct instructor for Puget Sound’s religious studies department, has always had a relationship with God. At first, this relationship was through the Christian faith, but it grew to involve Islam. Nowadays, Redding identifies as both a Muslim and a Christian.
Redding didn’t always intend to be a professor, but that changed during seminary. Seminary is an institution that teaches theology, and those who attend are typically training to be ordained as part of the clergy.
It was at seminary where Redding fell in love with a New Testament Greek course required by her diocese.
“We were bringing what we learned to bear on reading the New Testament,” Redding said. “I got so excited I started bouncing up and down in my seat.”
After seeing Redding’s reaction to reading, the professor told her she should go to graduate school for theology.
Before, during her time in school and as a priest, Redding had encountered Islam. It was not until she found herself in need of spiritual guidance years later, however, that the religion spoke to her personally.
“It came about as a result of an experience I had where I was needing help,” Redding said.
Redding had learned some Muslim prayers and when she sat down to pray, she used the words of those prayers. After saying these powerful prayers, she surrendered.
“That’s what Islam is all about,” she said.
It was this moment of surrender that changed Redding’s life forever. Although she views the faiths as intertwined, the Seattle church she presided over at that time did not. When Redding announced that she practiced Islam alongside Christianity, she was defrocked, meaning she was no longer recognized as a priest. Redding was shocked and hurt by her church’s harsh decision.
“I was heartbroken by my church, but not by the sacred path of Christianity,” Redding said.
Despite this heartache, her belief in Christianity still remained. Her faith in God was strengthened by the two religions she embraced. Islam and Christianity have served her well since embracing both.
Redding is glad to be a part of two faiths, even though some argue that she does not belong to either. Redding described her unique religious outlook as “getting to be the home for an ongoing conversation about Christianity and Islam.”
This ongoing conversation encourages listening and understanding.
Redding uses her faith as a way to navigate a world full of polarization. “Love your enemy, not to mention your neighbor,” she said.
Through following the Bible and the Qur’an, Redding has learned to embrace the differences in people.
Although much of Redding’s life is grounded in faith, including her classes at Puget Sound, she enjoys many things. She likes to dance, sing, and spend time with her godson. It is through him that she says she is able to see the world through fresh eyes.
“He is always helping me remember how mysterious this world is,” Redding said.
Similarly, Redding’s view on Islam and Christianity provides a fresh look at the world.