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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.

This article was featured in Channels 60.  Visit the archive, here.


  1. My thesis is that an abstract version of the Trinity could be Christianity’s answer to the world need for a framework of pluralistic theology.

    In a constructive worldview: east, west, and far-east religions present a threefold understanding of One God manifest primarily in Muslim and Hebrew intuition of the Deity Absolute, Christian and Krishnan Hindu conception of the Universe Absolute Supreme Being; and Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist apprehension of the Destroyer (meaning also Consummator), Unconditioned Absolute, or Spirit of All That Is and is not. Together with their variations and combinations in other major religions, these religious ideas reflect and express our collective understanding of God, in an expanded concept of the Holy Trinity.

    The Trinity Absolute is portrayed in the logic of world religions, as follows:

    1. Muslims and Jews may be said to worship only the first person of the Trinity, i.e. the existential Deity Absolute Creator, known as Allah or Yhwh, Abba or Father (as Jesus called him), Brahma, and other names; represented by Gabriel (Executive Archangel), Muhammad and Moses (mighty messenger prophets), and others.

    2. Christians and Krishnan Hindus may be said to worship the first person through a second person, i.e. the experiential Universe or “Universal” Absolute Supreme Being (Allsoul or Supersoul), called Son/Christ or Vishnu/Krishna; represented by Michael (Supreme Archangel), Jesus (teacher and savior of souls), and others. The Allsoul is that gestalt of personal human consciousness, which we expect will be the “body of Christ” (Mahdi, Messiah, Kalki or Maitreya) in the second coming – personified in history by Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha (9th incarnation of Vishnu), and others.

    3. Shaivite Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucian-Taoists seem to venerate the synthesis of the first and second persons in a third person or appearance, ie. the Destiny Consummator of ultimate reality – unqualified Nirvana consciousness – associative Tao of All That Is – the absonite* Unconditioned Absolute Spirit “Synthesis of Source and Synthesis,”** who/which is logically expected to be Allah/Abba/Brahma glorified in and by union with the Supreme Being – represented in religions by Gabriel, Michael, and other Archangels, Mahadevas, Spiritpersons, etc., who may be included within the mysterious Holy Ghost.

    Other strains of religion seem to be psychological variations on the third person, or possibly combinations and permutations of the members of the Trinity – all just different personality perspectives on the Same God. Taken together, the world’s major religions give us at least two insights into the first person of this thrice-personal One God, two perceptions of the second person, and at least three glimpses of the third.

    * The ever-mysterious Holy Ghost or Unconditioned Spirit is neither absolutely infinite, nor absolutely finite, but absonite; meaning neither existential nor experiential, but their ultimate consummation; neither fully ideal nor totally real, but a middle path and grand synthesis of the superconscious and the conscious, in consciousness of the unconscious.

    ** This conception is so strong because somewhat as the Absonite Spirit is a synthesis of the spirit of the Absolute and the spirit of the Supreme, so it would seem that the evolving Supreme Being may himself also be a synthesis or “gestalt” of humanity with itself, in an Almighty Universe Allperson or Supersoul. Thus ultimately, the Absonite is their Unconditioned Absolute Coordinate Identity – the Spirit Synthesis of Source and Synthesis – the metaphysical Destiny Consummator of All That Is.

    After the Hindu and Buddhist conceptions, perhaps the most subtle expression and comprehensive symbol of the 3rd person of the Trinity is the Tao; involving the harmonization of “yin and yang” (great opposing ideas indentified in positive and negative, or otherwise contrasting terms). In the Taoist icon of yin and yang, the s-shaped line separating the black and white spaces may be interpreted as the Unconditioned “Middle Path” between condition and conditioned opposites, while the circle that encompasses them both suggests their synthesis in the Spirit of the “Great Way” or Tao of All That Is.

    If the small black and white circles or “eyes” are taken to represent a nucleus of truth in both yin and yang, then the metaphysics of this symbolism fits nicely with the paradoxical mystery of the Christian Holy Ghost; who is neither the spirit of the one nor the spirit of the other, but the Glorified Spirit proceeding from both, taken altogether – as one entity – personally distinct from his co-equal, co-eternal and fully coordinate co-sponsors, who differentiate from him, as well as mingle and meld in him.

    Samuel Stuart Maynes

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