Course: Interfaith Dialogue and Collaboration (2021)
Faculty Mentor: Ted Brownstein
Editor’s Note: Tim Griffin’s comments below were submitted on April 2, 2021. We hope the National Day of Prayer event on May 6 is a success in all respects. Please help us support Tim’s efforts with a prayer as the date approaches.
When I began the Interfaith Dialogue and Collaboration course, my hope was to engage with the other members of the Lewiston-Auburn (L-A) Multifaith (Clergy) Association. I have been a member of the group for more than three decades. When I joined the group in the late ‘80s, the attendees were mostly male clergy, including a Catholic priest, and a rabbi. Over the years, the membership has changed for many reasons. More recently, the association membership includes representation from the Christian Scientist community, Native Americans, and hospital and college chaplains. I have met and exceeded my goals with the help of the course, and I am working to engage the L-A Multifaith Association with renewed vigor and insight.
Through studying the course materials, I learned two important points:
* To engage people of faith I meet with greater respect for their faiths, and not assume they are “Bahá’ís in waiting.”
* That most, if not all, religions are engaging in interfaith dialogue and collaboration on the national and global stage.
Although I’ve been involved in the L-A Multifaith Association for many years, my eyes have been opened to possibilities that I didn’t know existed. In talking to friends, I found an unexpected level of interest and increased capacity on my part to articulate my experience in the course and my hopes to pursue further interfaith dialogue and collaboration. Learning the language of interfaith dialogue remains one of my biggest challenges.
Now, I am working with the Lewiston-Auburn Multifaith Association toward two goals:
An immediate, short-term goal to have the L-A Multifaith Association host an event focused on the National Day of Prayer on May 6. This would give the association a chance to work together in an outward looking orientation. I envision this event as a portal to increased interfaith activities within the multifaith association and with the community at large.
A long-term goal to encourage L-A Multifaith Association members and wider community members to engage in interfaith dialogue and collaboration through prayer, public dialogue events, and social action projects. Obviously, this goal is far more daunting and will require actively engaged collaborators from other faith traditions.
To start the process, I recently met with two Christian Scientists, who are members of the Association–a woman who attends the Unitarian-Universalist and Episcopalian churches, and another Baha’i–to inform them about the project and engage them in organizing a National Day of Prayer event. The idea was to start with a few people to see if there was interest and support for the event. We talked about a virtual program modeled somewhat on the Thanksgiving services hosted by the multifaith association, of an hour with 6-10 readers/speakers from various traditions such as Christian Scientist, Catholic, Jewish, Muslin, Native American, Evangelical, Unitarian Universalist, and Bahá’í. We will include two musical interludes. Of course, this is all subject to revision as needed, with another organizational meeting on April 9.
I have emailed the two chaplains who serve as conveners of the Multifaith association, and will be meeting with at least one of them to ask for their support for the Multifaith Association sponsoring the National Day of Prayer 2021 event. I anticipate a good response but we will see.
Overall, the course has given me courage and increased my understanding to encourage interfaith dialogue and collaboration. I created my plans with guidance from my mentor and with a greater realization that others throughout many faith traditions all over the globe are undertaking interfaith activities and perhaps I could too. I plan to share some of the material from the Wilmette Institute course with the followers of other faith traditions. I have wanted to do something like this for a long time but didn’t know how. I still have much to learn and need much support, but I have waited thirty years; how can I wait any longer?