Friday, June 24, 2011

Models of Interreligious Dialogue: The Bookclub

The corresponding video can be viewed at:

6/24/2011 11:44 am (et) Moderator: logs in on 6/24/2011 11:44 am (et).
6/24/2011 11:44 am (et) Mary: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/24/2011 11:44 am (et).
6/24/2011 11:46 am (et) Susan: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/24/2011 11:46 am (et).
6/24/2011 11:49 am (et) Christa: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/24/2011 11:49 am (et).
6/24/2011 11:53 am (et) Laura S: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/24/2011 11:53 am (et).
6/24/2011 11:55 am (et) Carol Flett: logs in on 6/24/2011 11:55 am (et).
6/24/2011 11:55 am (et) Hussong: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/24/2011 11:55 am (et).
6/24/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: Welcome! This is Rebecca from the InterFaith Conference (IFC) and I will be your moderator. As this is still new, let me explain how this will work. On the right, you will see a video playing of our current topic to get the conversation going. If you have a comment and/or question send it along to me, the moderator. As long as I deem it appropriate, the comment will be posted to everyone and the speaker will have the opportunity to answer your question.
6/24/2011 12:00 pm (et) bexgee: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/24/2011 12:00 pm (et).
6/24/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: Today, our topic is ‘Models of Interreligious Dialogue: The Bookclub,’ with Rev. Carol Flett of St. Albans Episcopal Church and IFC Board Member. For more information on the group she talks about, the Daughters of Abraham, visit
6/24/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: As always, I would like to remind you of the rules of our engagement. This is a respectful place where we come together to learn more about the religions of the world. Whether you agree or disagree, we welcome your comments and questions that are posed in a respectful manner. Please no profane or offensive remarks, they will not be posted. Also, this is a place of learning, so please refrain from ‘soapboxing.’ If there are any issues or questions about this, they can be submitted along with the comments pertaining to our topic. I am here to make this a pleasant and educational experience for all, so enjoy and remember there are no stupid questions, just hostile ones!
6/24/2011 12:00 pm (et) Moderator: You can now view the beginning comments on the right. As you listen, please feel free to start sending questions or comments (YES, we want your comments). Also, the video will remain within the sidebar, so feel free to return to it as you wish. Our chat window automatically refreshes to keep the flow going, but if you wish to view the whole of the conversation, just hit the archive button. And lastly, PLEASE do not use double quotes as it led to some issues.
6/24/2011 12:07 pm (et) Moderator: Hussong said: I remember talking to my grandmother's pastor and she also has an interfaith book club with additional activities. I think it's a great idea :]
6/24/2011 12:07 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Do (can) these Interfaith book clubs involve people of religions beyond the Abrahamic faiths?
6/24/2011 12:07 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Do they involve any men as well as women?
6/24/2011 12:07 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: How many people are typically active in any given book group?
6/24/2011 12:07 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Where in the DC area are the two groups meeting? How can we start another one in a different location?
6/24/2011 12:08 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Some years ago Religion & Ethics Newsweekly ran a feature piece on this book group:
6/24/2011 12:08 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: What have been some of your favorite reads in this group? (sorry about all my questions but this is the last one - for now)
6/24/2011 12:08 pm (et) Carol Flett: I have been asked if we would include women from other faith traditions, and we have not because this particular group was founded on the Abrahamic traditions. But another group could begin by including women from other faith traditions.
6/24/2011 12:09 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Why did they begin with just the Abrahamic traditions?
6/24/2011 12:09 pm (et) Carol Flett: I have also been asked if men could join, and we have also said, no, because this particular group is founded by women for women. But another group could form that includes both men and women.
6/24/2011 12:10 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Do feel it is a more open setting because it is just women?
6/24/2011 12:10 pm (et) Carol Flett: Yes, I was part of the video done by Religion and Ethics in 2006 and we were also filmed bv Hallmark network and shown on JetBlue!
6/24/2011 12:11 pm (et) Carol Flett: The question of women only is interesting. It has been my experience that women begin trusting each other sooner than men do, and we develop community more easily than men do.
6/24/2011 12:12 pm (et) Carol Flett: We have several favorite books. The most recent one was "God is not one" by Stephen Prothero, which describes the differences between the 8 religions included in his book.
6/24/2011 12:13 pm (et) Carol Flett: I think it would be interesting to hear how men's book groups work. I have not known many men who participate in book groups.
6/24/2011 12:13 pm (et) micasd: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/24/2011 12:13 pm (et).
6/24/2011 12:13 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Also, you mention women from other countries...those countries are pretty male dominated, so it probably would change the dynamic.
6/24/2011 12:14 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I have heard of that book by Prothero but hesitate to take a look at it as I prefer to focus on similarities than differences. I also think the title is off-putting as well as inaccurate of what we really believe. God is one, it is religions that are not one.
6/24/2011 12:14 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: How did the women in your group respond to the suggestions of that book?
6/24/2011 12:14 pm (et) Carol Flett: It might be interesting to have a couples group. I know that interfaith dinner groups work well with couples.
6/24/2011 12:15 pm (et) Aaron: private message to Moderator: logs in on 6/24/2011 12:15 pm (et).
6/24/2011 12:15 pm (et) Moderator: Hussong said: Have you ever looked just at the separate sacred texts?
6/24/2011 12:15 pm (et) Moderator: Hussong said: To try and find the commonalities of certain messages perhaps?
6/24/2011 12:16 pm (et) Carol Flett: The title is off putting - probably a publisher's idea. It takes a year or so in an interfaith group before participants feel comfortable or confident to discuss the differences between us, or to critique their own faith tradition with others of another faith.
6/24/2011 12:16 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Hussong, seems that such a study/discussion of sacred texts might make these groups more academic than intended. Carol?
6/24/2011 12:17 pm (et) Carol Flett: I am in another interfaith dialogue group, the Abrahamic Roundtable that studies the sacred texts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The book group has done a bit of "show and tell" with our sacred texts, but not a study.
6/24/2011 12:17 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: How about a similar styled MOVIE discussion group? There are many movies with a religious theme
6/24/2011 12:18 pm (et) Carol Flett: Yes, that Abrahamic Roundtable is actually called an "academic" model, and the goal is not community building, but education for use in our teaching.
6/24/2011 12:18 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: The recent PBS play 'God on Trial' (holocaust concentration camp prisoners debate the role of God in the holocaust)
6/24/2011 12:19 pm (et) Moderator: Hussong said: Yes Laura I was asking with more of an academic focus. Most of my questions will always have something to do with academia and research :]
6/24/2011 12:19 pm (et) Carol Flett: I have also organized the model of film dialogues, using films from 20,000 Dialogues by Unity Productions Foundation. They are great films, developed for interfaith dialogue, post screening.
6/24/2011 12:20 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: what was the first meeting like?
6/24/2011 12:20 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: i feel like could have been awkward/hesitant knowing that you were gathering to broach difficult issues...or was it easier because you knew everyone was there intending to do so?
6/24/2011 12:20 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Or did the planning stages break the ice enough?
6/24/2011 12:21 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Yes, how does one get such a group started and then keep it going?
6/24/2011 12:21 pm (et) Carol Flett: The first meeting was awkward, as any first meeting can be. We began with an interfaith book - The Tent of Abraham, so we were all on the same level.nt.
6/24/2011 12:22 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Yea, I mean I can see initial interest, but this can't be easy to keep people coming...
6/24/2011 12:22 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: at least at the beginning
6/24/2011 12:22 pm (et) Carol Flett: We include a bit of food, and that is important. We also meet twice a year for a potluck supper and spend time socializing at the beginning of each year, and at the end.
6/24/2011 12:23 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I have an older women student in my class this summer who does read a lot of interesting religiously themed books. She might like to join your group (or be included in the start of another such group in our area). Who can we contact if we want to join the group?
6/24/2011 12:23 pm (et) Moderator: Mary said: So part of the process in keeping this going is building a community where people feel comfortable
6/24/2011 12:23 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: What was the first difficult topic you discussed (if you can remember) and would you say the friendships came first?
6/24/2011 12:24 pm (et) Carol Flett: Keeping it going is work. It involves staying in touch through emails, reminding members of the date and book being read and discussed. And responding to pastoral issues that may arise. Women want to know that we care about each other.
6/24/2011 12:24 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Does the intimacy developed amongst old timers make it difficult for new women to join an established group?
6/24/2011 12:25 pm (et) Carol Flett: Adding new members is permitted in September and January, so they are not stepping in throughout the year. And they must have read Huston Smith's book before, so they don't enter asking questions that the old-timers have already discussed.
6/24/2011 12:25 pm (et) Moderator: Hussong said: Have there ever been outright arguments or tense moments? I'm sure that could happen..
6/24/2011 12:26 pm (et) Carol Flett: We have agreed NOT to discuss political issues, such as Israel/Palestine, etc.
6/24/2011 12:26 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: My earlier question about the LOCATION of the DC groups remains unanswered? Again, if we want to get involved, how do we connect with these existing groups (or start our own)?
6/24/2011 12:26 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: and how large is a typcial group (how many women attend)
6/24/2011 12:27 pm (et) Carol Flett: The differences between us that have been highlighted are more between Christians and Muslims than between Jews and Muslims.
6/24/2011 12:27 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Hussong - arguments? not amongst women ;-)
6/24/2011 12:27 pm (et) Carol Flett: Please contact my email to inquire about joining. - it's hard to keep up with the questions.
6/24/2011 12:28 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Carol, interesting (the highlighted differences) - is that simply because there might be fewer Jews involved?
6/24/2011 12:28 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Or maybe it is just the historical circumstances...
6/24/2011 12:28 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: or geographic?
6/24/2011 12:29 pm (et) Carol Flett: We have a ground rule that if someone says something offensive, they can say Ouch. And explain why what was said is inaccurate or offensive. We all have experienced the use of names or pronunciations that are hurtful, and done unwittingly.
6/24/2011 12:29 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I do seem to hear more about Christian-Muslim dialogue than Jewish-Muslim, at least in America
6/24/2011 12:29 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: what about differences between Jews and Christians? I imagine that is a more familar/common issue (but maybe not?)
6/24/2011 12:30 pm (et) Carol Flett: There are an equal number of Jewish and Christian women, and fewer Muslim women.
6/24/2011 12:30 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Do you think there is a reason for the demographics?
6/24/2011 12:31 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Why do you think the Jews and Muslims have less of an issue with each other than the Christians and Muslims?
6/24/2011 12:31 pm (et) Carol Flett: Christians have the Trinity and use images of God, and don't have any dietary restrictions. Jews and Muslims have many things in common, even the root of some of their languages.
6/24/2011 12:31 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Laura, I did not mean it in that way, only that it is taking part in a predominately Christian country, and also there are a lot of issues that stem from the succession of religious movements.
6/24/2011 12:32 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Right, so why don't the Jews and Christians have the same sort of issues that the Muslims and Christians seem to have?
6/24/2011 12:32 pm (et) Carol Flett: The demographics of the area of the book group will be a factor in the membership of the group. I am hoping to start a group in Alexandria, VA, where there are many more Muslims than in northwest DC.
6/24/2011 12:32 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I'm pretty sure they least nominally.
6/24/2011 12:34 pm (et) Carol Flett: There are differences between each of the Abrahamic faiths, and we discuss them and learn to appreciate why these differences are important to each of us.
6/24/2011 12:34 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: How long did it take to be able to delve in?
6/24/2011 12:35 pm (et) Carol Flett: About a year.
6/24/2011 12:35 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Is it mainly novels/fiction you read?
6/24/2011 12:35 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Oh, wait, you earlier did mention Prothro's book, which is non-fiction
6/24/2011 12:36 pm (et) Carol Flett: No. This year we have been reading more non-fiction - about the religious landscape of America. In addition to God is not one, we just finished, Journey into America, by Akbar Ahmed.
6/24/2011 12:37 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: you basically read one book a month or do some books take several months to get through?
6/24/2011 12:37 pm (et) Carol Flett: Next we are reading, The Dignity of Difference, by Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the UK
6/24/2011 12:37 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: What did you talk about during that year it took to get comfortable? I guess I just mean how were the friendships that allowed you to delve develop?
6/24/2011 12:38 pm (et) Moderator: Mary said: Would you say that non-fiction is better suited for the purposes of the group?
6/24/2011 12:38 pm (et) Carol Flett: Most of the books we read in one month, but Prothero's book and Ahmed's book we took two months each to read and discuss.
6/24/2011 12:40 pm (et) Carol Flett: It depends on the make-up of the group. The DC group is reading more non-fiction than the Massachusetts groups. DC seems more highly educated and likes non-fiction more than fiction. But we have some months when we have a topic and members of the group present - Dying and Death from each tradition.
6/24/2011 12:41 pm (et) Moderator: Hussong said: Did you read "The Faith Club"? It seemed like that book got a lot of attention and brought the idea of interfaith book clubs to light. It might be interesting to hear what kind of common ground is being shared and/or discovered in other small clubs around the country.
6/24/2011 12:41 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Over the years, is there much turnover of membership? Are there the same women at each monthly meeting or do quite a few skip months?
6/24/2011 12:41 pm (et) Carol Flett: We did not read the Faith Club, though I did. It was OK. But it was only from the perspective on one women from each tradition. The gift of the D of Abr groups is we hear from a variety of traditions within each faith. Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism for example, Shia and Sunni Muslim. RC and Episcopalian.
6/24/2011 12:42 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Interesting format. As a college professor, I'm thinking this is something you should get college credit for! Perhaps an idea for a special course we can do at a college
6/24/2011 12:43 pm (et) Carol Flett: There are women who have participated for four years and some for 2-3 and some new. People have moved, had personal changes, or have gotten what they wanted from the experience and left the group.
6/24/2011 12:43 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: And approximately how many attend any given meeting?
6/24/2011 12:44 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: IOW, what is a good size for such a discussion group?
6/24/2011 12:44 pm (et) Carol Flett: About 12-15 attend each group each month, but who comes varies depending on their schedule. There are 25 in each group.
6/24/2011 12:45 pm (et) Moderator: Hussong said: I have not read but a few pages of the book, it didn't grab my attention much either. Perhaps your club should write a book about your experiences!
6/24/2011 12:45 pm (et) Carol Flett: 12 is probably ideal. But then there are illnesses, vacations, professional or family commitments, and so I like to have 25 belong, so that there are 12-15 who attend each month.
6/24/2011 12:45 pm (et) Moderator: Mary said: or a blog!
6/24/2011 12:45 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: You mentioned you participate in other dialogue fomrats, what would you say is different/special about the book club experience?
6/24/2011 12:46 pm (et) Carol Flett: I have been tempted to write a book about this and other dialogue experiences. I also have an interfaith family.
6/24/2011 12:47 pm (et) Carol Flett: The book group involves the laity - grass roots. There are a few women who are also clergy, but we don't use that role in the group. It is all volunteer.
6/24/2011 12:49 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: So I'm guessing the focus is somewhat different? Not as focused on pastoral issues
6/24/2011 12:49 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: But maybe on home life and things like that?
6/24/2011 12:50 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Has your group read the Red Tent?
6/24/2011 12:50 pm (et) Carol Flett: It has been great to learn how each of the Abrahamic traditions regard marriage, divorce, death and other moments like these.sages
6/24/2011 12:51 pm (et) Carol Flett: We have not read the Red Tent, but a few of the other groups in Mass. have. All the books read by all the groups are found on the website under book list.
6/24/2011 12:52 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: So the planning is done by the groups themselves?
6/24/2011 12:53 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: I guess that wouldwork out for the best, who knows what interests the group has better than the group.
6/24/2011 12:53 pm (et) Carol Flett: Yes, good point I forgot to mention. I have invited 2 Jewish, 2 Christian and 2 Muslim women to meet with me as a leadership team to discuss book selection and any other issues that have arisen in the groups.
6/24/2011 12:54 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: So like a steering committee?
6/24/2011 12:56 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: How is it chosen and do people like the way it is set up with equal representation of the faiths?
6/24/2011 12:56 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: Or as you said, there are the different divisions within the faith so how are they dealt with?
6/24/2011 12:56 pm (et) Carol Flett: We also have a groundrule that we will speak up if we find ourselves in a situation outside the group where we hear misinformation about Jews, Christians or Musims. We will not perpetuation misinformation and politely inform others of our experience with the discussions.
6/24/2011 12:57 pm (et) Carol Flett: The leadership team has included 1 Sunni, 1 Shia; 1 Orthodox Jew, 1 Reform Jew; 1 Lutheran 1 Episcopalian
6/24/2011 12:58 pm (et) Carol Flett: The leadership team are those willing and available to meet with me. It has changed over the years as circumstances change within the group.
6/24/2011 12:58 pm (et) Moderator: So it is again that time where we must be finishing up. Rev. Flett, would you like to say any final words?
6/24/2011 12:59 pm (et) Carol Flett: Thank you to all who watched and listened and asked questions. I hope you will contact me if you have further questions. Peace, Salaam, Shalom
6/24/2011 12:59 pm (et) Moderator: Thank you for your participation today. If you would like to reach our speaker please contact her at Next week we will be taking a break (sorry for all these breaks, but summer is a hectic time!). The following week we will return to hear from Michael Turner on IFC’s Values Supplement to the Teaching About Religion notebook project.
6/24/2011 12:59 pm (et) Moderator: Also, this is a new effort on our part so we welcome your feedback! Any comments will be helpful. If you have any suggestion please feel free to email me at
6/24/2011 1:00 pm (et) Moderator: If you are interested in finding out more about our organization please feel free to browse our website: and sign up for our bi-monthly e-newsletter by emailing me, again the address is

No comments:

Post a Comment