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Campus Connection: The Importance of Interfaith Dialogue at The Evergreen State College
Part I – Reflections on Interfaith Ministry | By Joe Briggs
In reflecting on what interfaith ministry means to me, I think of these words from poet William Stafford:
If you don’t know the kind of person I am
and I don’t know the kind of person you are
a pattern that others made may prevail in the world
and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.
Reading the first few lines of this poem has always forced me to think more deeply about the great friction and divide that has been created around religion and cultural misconceptions. With this realization I become ever mindful that in order to sow seeds of hope, understanding and peace, we must begin at the grassroots level through meaningful dialogue, listening and mutual understanding.
During my time as the student leader of Common Bread, an intrinsic aspect of our work has been the promotion of discourse between world religions and spiritual faiths in order to gain wisdom. This practice allows for our group members to grow in a renewed sense of gratitude and respect for the spiritual beliefs, practices, and traditions of themselves and others.
When I arrived at Common Bread, I had always associated interfaith dialogue with talking – a forum of meaningful discussion. With time, Common Bread has begun to redefine this understanding, allowing me to see that the success of interfaith dialogue does not rely so much on talking but rather the act of listening. The importance of listening was solidified for me during an event in which Common Bread invited the local Muslim community to come share with us their religion, culture and customs in addition to the many challenges they have faced in being Muslim in the post 9/11 U.S. This event humanized the Muslim faith and its followers, revealing the common values that bridge our traditions, beliefs and practices, such as tolerance, love, forgiveness, peace, brotherhood, sisterhood, human rights and respect. Such values rapidly begin to overshadow the many stereotypes that have permeated this religion and its people for centuries.
In witnessing the ways that otherness has been exploited, I become evermore mindful that interfaith dialogue is a must in today’s world. Through the process of learning from our shared histories and giving precedence to common values over those that seek to divide us, I firmly believe that together we can create a vehicle for change and peace, through the practice of interfaith dialogue.
Joe Briggs serves as a Common Bread Student Leader at The Evergreen State College
Part II – Common Bread: Meeting at the Crossroad | By Fred LaMotte
I believe that interfaith ministry is ministry at the crossroad, where paths meet. That space is a sacred space, of vulnerability and transformation. If one truly opens to the dialogue, a strange sacrament happens: one is forever changed, and yet one’s own faith becomes stronger. As a sword becomes stronger when tested in the forge, molded, dross of fear and prejudice burnt off the blade. The sword of faith becomes a scimitar, in fact, as it passes through the crossroad, because it is refracted by other faiths. Yet it emerges on the other side a widened, sharpened, more powerful instrument. The center of the crossroad is the center of the cross.
That is the secret of interfaith ministry for me: this meeting and honoring other faiths, and listening to their heart, is the work of Christ in this age. For the love that emerges from our fellow faiths is also Christ.
At Common Bread, we gather to sing songs and chants from Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Earth Centered religions. We welcome the Goddess faith as well as the God faith. And after our circle of singing and listening to one another share our paths, we sink into deep silence together, the silence of worship. Then we make candle offerings of prayer and hope.
At Common Bread’s interfaith circle, we move beyond tolerance for one another, into worship with one another. This is a blessing. I am so grateful, and so grateful for the open hearts of BHECM and the Methodist vision, for supporting our ministry. In our circle there’s a place for You!
Visit the Common Bread Blog, here.
Fred LaMotte is a Quaker, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, and a college instructor in World Religions. LaMotte serves as the Common Bread Chaplain at The Evergreen State College.
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