Thursday, September 29, 2011

Views from the Outside: Getting Involved in the Interfaith World

The corresponding video can be found at:

9/29/2011 12:44 pm (et) Moderator: logs in on 9/29/2011 12:44 pm (et).
9/29/2011 12:52 pm (et) Laura S: private message to Moderator: logs in on 9/29/2011 12:52 pm (et).
9/29/2011 12:54 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: logs in on 9/29/2011 12:54 pm (et).
9/29/2011 12:56 pm (et) Mae: private message to Moderator: logs in on 9/29/2011 12:56 pm (et).
9/29/2011 12:57 pm (et) Susan: private message to Moderator: logs in on 9/29/2011 12:57 pm (et).
9/29/2011 12:59 pm (et) Moderator: Welcome! This is Megan from the InterFaith Conference (IFC) and I will be your moderator, filling in for Rebecca. 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.
9/29/2011 12:59 pm (et) Moderator: Today, our topic is ‘Views from the Outside: Getting Involved in the Interfaith World.’ The reflection is from Rebecca Cohen, IFC Intern.
9/29/2011 1:00 pm (et) gogreen: private message to Moderator: logs in on 9/29/2011 1:00 pm (et).
9/29/2011 1:00 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!
9/29/2011 1:00 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 leads to some issues.
9/29/2011 1:02 pm (et) JoyceD: private message to Moderator: logs in on 9/29/2011 1:02 pm (et).
9/29/2011 1:04 pm (et) sheaya: private message to Moderator: logs in on 9/29/2011 1:04 pm (et).
9/29/2011 1:08 pm (et) Moderator: gogreen said: how did you get involved in interfaith work?
9/29/2011 1:08 pm (et) Moderator: gogreen said: (that was to the others in this forum)
9/29/2011 1:09 pm (et) Moderator: Mae said: well for me, it was almost by accident. I'm here studying Islam & world affairs, and just so happened to learn about the IFC when looking for internships, and TA-DA here I am!
9/29/2011 1:11 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: Mae, what got you involved in Islam? As I mentioned, my interested in interfaith all started with an interest in Judaism that cam from my heritage.
9/29/2011 1:12 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: I got involved when I realized my small congregation and religious association could not affect big issues, like peace in the world, without other religious groups. At that time I was actually working on children's issues.
9/29/2011 1:13 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: Joyce, have you continued to work on other issues? I feel like interfaith can be a bug, once bitten you just keep getting deeper into the world
9/29/2011 1:14 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: And what outlets did you use when you first started?
9/29/2011 1:15 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: I worked with IFCMW & Rev. Clark Lobenstine.
9/29/2011 1:15 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: We did an interfaith Children's Sabbath which had the most faiths ever represented in DC.
9/29/2011 1:15 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: I learned that it's not easy working with religious organizations.
9/29/2011 1:16 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Many religious organizations are top down, whereas mine is bottom up in structure.
9/29/2011 1:16 pm (et) Moderator: Susan said: You mention something about a Families you think working with young people is helpful?
9/29/2011 1:17 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: Yes, in my first attempt at all this which was with the Brandeis Interfaith Leadership Development, there were some challenging issues.
9/29/2011 1:17 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: It can be hard trying to get ministers, rabbis, and other religious leaders time.
9/29/2011 1:18 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: It was right at the time the Mumbai bombings had just taken place, and Brandeis is predominately a Jewish camous, but there were many Muslims in BILD also, so it made it very difficult, especially as someone who is not of either of those faiths
9/29/2011 1:19 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: The service we put together with children's choirs and dancing and many other aspects was very rewarding in the end.
9/29/2011 1:19 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: Working with kids definitely poses an interesting problem. On one hand, are they truly ready to understand all the complexities of religion, but the focus of getting the children to work together is very helpful.
9/29/2011 1:20 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: There is a program called IYAG here in DC that works with high school students and they do a lot of community service around the area
9/29/2011 1:21 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: How does IYAG reach other to the students?
9/29/2011 1:21 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: (sorry, behind a bit) Wow, I wish there had been such opportunity when I was in college and grad school back in the late 70's and 80's. I had to take the initiative to start an interfaith group on my small college campus.
9/29/2011 1:21 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: And even though the students may not apprecitate all the nuance, being presented with what one religion says and what another says, and then being told why there are some differeces does get them to think critically about their beliefs, and question, which I find most important
9/29/2011 1:22 pm (et) Moderator: Mae said: What was that like, Laura? Was it difficult? What complications did you encounter?
9/29/2011 1:22 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: IYAG does some outreach on the internet, they are connected with the 9/11 Unity Walk here in DC
9/29/2011 1:23 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I'll say it was hard after I left college and out in the big world and it was difficult to find others interested in interfaith
9/29/2011 1:23 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: As I said, I even wish there had been some of this when I was a kid, it was difficult growing up being told your grandmother may be going to hell (had some old school teachers)
9/29/2011 1:24 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I got connected through the New Age community and groups
9/29/2011 1:24 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: I agree with Laura that there are not enough people interested in interfaith.
9/29/2011 1:24 pm (et) Moderator: Mae said: Yeah, I feel interfaith isn't very common where I grew up. I didn't even know we had an interfaith group there until I found the one here
9/29/2011 1:24 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: started by finding a weekly radio talk show on NPR ('in the spirit' with Lex Hixon)
9/29/2011 1:25 pm (et) Moderator: gogreen said: and they dont' seem like common orgs on college campuses, even though there are so many faith-based groups
9/29/2011 1:25 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: But it is encouraging to see the number of people interested growing.
9/29/2011 1:26 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: back in college, when I still identified as Jewish, I started with a very negative attitude toward other religions ('they are all wrong')
9/29/2011 1:26 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: by my last semester in college I realized I did not really know much about the other religions to say they are wrong so I took my first course in religion - a Jew taking a course on the New Testament
9/29/2011 1:27 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: As a UU, I was taught that there is some truth in all religions.
9/29/2011 1:28 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I went in looking to learn what exactly was wrong with the teachings but quickly came to realize that other religions have some very interesting things to say and some of it I could actually agree with. Needless to say, with that realization I could no longer say other religions were wrong
9/29/2011 1:29 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: The story of the blind men and the elephant is a good illustration of how none of us has the whole story.
9/29/2011 1:29 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: once I finished that course, despite having finished my college education, I was hungry to know what other religions had to say so I started taking more classes, just for personal interest. eventually that led me to interacting with people of different religions (through the New Age groups) and then on to grad school for religious studies
9/29/2011 1:29 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: Between Laura's story and my own, I think it is clear that college can be a formative time, I mean we are beginning to question our own beliefs and so we look at others? Does that seem fair?
9/29/2011 1:30 pm (et) Moderator: Mae said: Rebecca, I can definitely see that in my own experience
9/29/2011 1:30 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Yes, Rebecca.
9/29/2011 1:30 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: Maybe that is why IFYC and the like are exploding at such a quick rate?
9/29/2011 1:31 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: now I teach college courses on the world's religions and find that for most of my students it is the first time they are really getting exposed to other religions
9/29/2011 1:31 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: And while I have had my fair share of meeting with the older generation, but I see such a refreshing interest in my own generation. there are programs beginning in the university on pluralism and comparative religion and theology and these are thriving.
9/29/2011 1:31 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: but many of them are curious and seeking for something beyond what they were (or were not) exposed to growing up
9/29/2011 1:32 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: My minister taught comparative religion and asked his students to visit 3 other congregations beside their own faith - it was good for them to be more open-minded. Unfortunately, one went to the nearest church of their religion and told them how we are heathens.
9/29/2011 1:32 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: That sounds familiar!
9/29/2011 1:32 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: I was the random Catholic named Rebecca Cohen taking Judaic Studies at Brandeis!
9/29/2011 1:32 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: I think more of the younger generation is more open-minded.
9/29/2011 1:33 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: with a name like Rebecca Cohen I'll bet they would just assume you were Jewish!
9/29/2011 1:33 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: Haha, yes try convincing some of them otherwise
9/29/2011 1:34 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I have an assignment where I require my students to do field research by visiting a religion they are not familar with AND talking with people of other faiths
9/29/2011 1:34 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: But what I have found most helpful is finding the right people to get you involved. I am not sure if we have any young people on here, but for those who are already in the interfaith to reach out to others.
9/29/2011 1:34 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I find that I have learned more about the world's religions, not through studies in the classroom but through personal encounters with people of various faiths
9/29/2011 1:34 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: - through interfaith relations
9/29/2011 1:35 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: for me, the attraction is more on the theological dialogue rather than the joint service projects
9/29/2011 1:35 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Bravo, Laura, for that requirement.
9/29/2011 1:35 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: The world of interfaith can be intimidating, I mean there are customs completely new, it is helpful to have a guide.
9/29/2011 1:36 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Some people need a encouragement to open up their minds to different ideas.
9/29/2011 1:37 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I encourage my students to get extra credit by attending Interfaith events (like the recent Unity Walk or the upcoming Interfaith Concert)
9/29/2011 1:37 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: In fact, if IFC had some brochures on their work (like they used to have) I would hand those out in class to my students
9/29/2011 1:37 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: We are getting a new batch out
9/29/2011 1:37 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: An intern this summer was working on them
9/29/2011 1:38 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: Maybe I'll even see if I can get an IFYC started at the college I now teach at
9/29/2011 1:39 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: IFYC has soem great programs and they are both action driven and dialogue driven
9/29/2011 1:39 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: I think the work you're doing is great! I hate hate and am intolerant of intolerance. I think interfaith helps with tolerance and an end to hate among those who can be open to it.
9/29/2011 1:41 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I see a formula: ignorance leads to fear which leads to hate which leads to violence. So I focus on eliminating ignorance by teaching young (and not so young) people about the different religions with a real focus on similarities more so than on differences.
9/29/2011 1:41 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: Yes, I think the issue is finding ways for the interfaith world to expand. Letting people know it is out there and inviting them in
9/29/2011 1:41 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: when we see how we are all not that different from each other we can come together as one
9/29/2011 1:41 pm (et) Moderator: gogreen said: I think the interfaith community could also work toward reducing intolerance to people of no faith
9/29/2011 1:42 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Agreed, gogreen!
9/29/2011 1:42 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: it is hard to get people involved in interfaith work. I find that the majority who get involved are there because they are already involved. we end up 'preaching to the chior'
9/29/2011 1:43 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: and for a religious organization to find a way to reach out to the non-religious would be even harder!
9/29/2011 1:43 pm (et) Moderator: Mae said: I think that's very true, Laura
9/29/2011 1:43 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: Definitely, I am sure that even here we get a mix of people who are already interested, but I think there are also a lot of people out there who don't know how to get involved
9/29/2011 1:43 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: There are atheists and agnostics in UU.
9/29/2011 1:44 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: We open our programs to everyone and have had some great discussions.
9/29/2011 1:44 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: that's why I find my college classroom the ideal place to introduce these ideas as I have a captive audience and not all of them are religious. they take these classes as part of their program requirements or just for a general humanities elective. But this is typically the first if not only place they would even get exposed to other religions
9/29/2011 1:45 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Do your classes include UU?
9/29/2011 1:45 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: The classroom can be helpful, but even after deciding I was interested in interfaith, it took a professor taking me out to lunch so outside of the classroom and really laying down what I could and should do
9/29/2011 1:46 pm (et) Moderator: gogreen said: Joyce, I don't know much about UU. Can you briefly describe it?
9/29/2011 1:46 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Does that mean focusing on major religions only?
9/29/2011 1:47 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: that's why I like to introduce my students to the ongoing work of the IFC so they can continue to deepen their exposure and involvement when they leave my classroom
9/29/2011 1:47 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Rebecca, would explaining UU be appropriate in this conversation?
9/29/2011 1:47 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: Go ahead, we are all here to learn!
9/29/2011 1:48 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Unitarian Universalism is an evolving religion with no creed - just 7 principles.
9/29/2011 1:49 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: The inherent worth and dignity of every person; Justice, equity and compassion in human relations; Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; A free and responsible search for truth and meaning; The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
9/29/2011 1:49 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I can't teach every religion in a single course so I tend to focus on the major religions. I do introduce them to many others if only by name through an assignment I call the 'religious scavenger hunt' - I give them a list of religions (including UU) and ask them to find out where the closest one to them is. They always comment how they had never even heard of many of the religions on the list, including many of the Christian denominations (or UU) and some even go beyond the task to learn some basics by exploring on the web
9/29/2011 1:49 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources: Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life; Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love; Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life; Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves; Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit; Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
9/29/2011 1:50 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: And, Laura, yes pointing people to already established group is helpful, but I honestly don't know where I would be if it wasn't for a specific mentor. I guess what I am trying to say is even if we younger generations are interested, lookinh in from the outside (title of the chat), is just that, we need to be guided inside
9/29/2011 1:50 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Laura, that sounds like a good process.
9/29/2011 1:51 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I was involved in UU churches for about 10 years. I found it to be the closest one could get to being an interfaith religion
9/29/2011 1:52 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Even within UU, we have problems, because diversity = differences (in every way).
9/29/2011 1:53 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: but I became frustrated with the lack of conviction regarding God or Higher Power. So I eventually moved on. I came to the conclusion that for some, UU becomes a spiritual home but for others it is just a temporary transition place until they find what they are seeking
9/29/2011 1:54 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Yes, and many UUs acknowledge that we're a place of transition.
9/29/2011 1:54 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: But I do believe, without UU, many of the people involved in a UU church would be unchurched
9/29/2011 1:55 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: In fact, as I learn about the personal spiritual/religious leanings of my students, I am sometimes able to direct them to UU (or other religions) they'd never heard about and they find a home there
9/29/2011 1:55 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: This is a problem, because we do a lot of social justice work and we don't have the numbers to make it work as well as we'd like.
9/29/2011 1:56 pm (et) Moderator: Hey all, we're almost done here, so finish up any lingering thoughts! =)
9/29/2011 1:57 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I know that many neighborhood communities have interfaith groups for CLERGY but these clergy should then expand their activities to have interfaith activities where their congregents can come together for service work, dialogue and even interfaith worship
9/29/2011 1:58 pm (et) Moderator: JoyceD said: Thanks for the opportunity to come together here.
9/29/2011 1:58 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I've been involved with local lay led interfaith groups but they tend to fizzel out due to lack of clergy support and encouragment
9/29/2011 1:59 pm (et) Rebecca Cohen: Thanks everyone for being here, and I would just say if there is someone interested see how you can guide them and if you are looking to get involved find a group.person who can mentor you.
9/29/2011 1:59 pm (et) Moderator: Laura S said: I guess most clergy are just too overworked with their own congregations to concern themselves about being involved beyond the walls of their own church
9/29/2011 1:59 pm (et) Moderator: Thank you for your participation today. Next week our chat is ‘Interreligious Prayer’ with Fr. James Gardiner of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement and coordinator of DC’s celebration commemorating the 25th Anniversary of the Assisi Interreligious Day of Prayer for Peace. We hope to see you there! If you would like to contact our guest, please contact Rebecca at
9/29/2011 2:00 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
9/29/2011 2:00 pm (et) Moderator: This moderated chat room is just one example of the many programs which the InterFaith Conference is doing. If you are able and willing to financially support the InterFaith Conference’s vital year-round work, please donate now using the donate button on our website – You can also find out more about us and sign up for our bi-monthly newsletter.

No comments:

Post a Comment