Waking Up in a New Religious America (Sept-Dec 2004)


Working in collaboration with the Interfaith Center at the Presidio, the Building Bridges program committee prepared for a six-session course in Fall 2004 with a follow-up conference early in 2005, dedicated to building appreciative, grounded interfaith relationships in Marin County. Based on the premise that diversity is wasted when accommodated but not embraced, this program was designed to encourage members of the community to meet their diverse neighbors and discover that knowing your neighbor is infinitely safer and more rewarding than remaining strangers.

Rev. Paul Chaffee, founding executive director of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio, prepared the course curriculum and began each session by sharing from his experience of many years in interfaith work, then encouraged the attendees to meet in pairs todiscuss their own reflections. Each session also featured two or three distinguished guests speakers, leaders in a wide diversity of faith traditions: Sufi, Jewish, Baha‚i, Zen Buddhist, Ohlone Indian, Muslim, Hindu, Brahma Kumaris, Vedanta, and Protestant and Catholic Christian. Many participants reported that this was really their first exposure to a faith tradition other than their own, and they were grateful for the opportunity to learn the similarities and differences in a welcoming environment.

The full-day conference was set two months after the last of the six sessions, to allow the learning and energy of the course to coalesce and lead to sharing at a deeper level, and creation of on-going relationships and projects. Much of the time during the conference was devoted to small group discussions, first in the form of sharing from different faith perspectives, then in workshops convened by a shared interest in a particular topic, such as Islam in Marin County, why interfaith matters in Mairn, interfaith visits to congregations, and youth programs. Each workshop group reported their progress to the entire group; many have created on-going programs based on the day‚s planning.

 

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