Interfaith got you curious? Feel like moving from the wading pool to the deep end of the pool? So what do you do next?
- Look for an existing interfaith group in your area. You’d be surprised how many groups are already out there. Sometimes they are languishing, needing new energy such as yours. And then again, some groups call themselves interfaith, but are really a consortium of inter-denominational Christian ministers (more properly called ecumenical), or an alliance of Jews, Christians and Muslims. But interfaith has flowered in places you may not expect, like Lexington, Kentucky, which hosted the Dalai Lama last year in its humongous annual city-wide event. Even here in South Carolina, Christians, Pagans, Sikhs, Muslims and many more are forming clusters around the state. You might also try contacting the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) to ask for their help. Note that in some cities women have taken the initiative, so you may discover women-only interfaith gatherings. In my city, we are called Women of Many Faiths. The group doesn’t advertise, so you only learn about it by word of mouth. Poke around, and if you can’t find anything, email me to see if I can smoke out some contacts for you through my channels.
- If there is a local function happening, go to it. Introduce yourself to everyone that you can. Take cards to give them with your name and contact information, and be sure to get the same from those you meet. When you go home, write them to say how much you enjoyed it, and ask when is the next event. Ask how you can help.
- If nothing seems to be happening, identify one or two individuals who seem to have been key to past efforts. Contact them and ask to have coffee. Tell them you really want to learn more.
- Still no luck? Time to start something yourself! Here are a few ideas:
- Invite a handful of friends to your home to discuss a book you’ve all read. Suggestions: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong, or The Writing On My Forehead by Nafisa Haji (only $1.99 on Kindle, and Amazon has 70 used copies for a penny today as I write).
- Do your own community scan. Identify every major religious group that you can (minor ones, too!). Pick the leader of one and call to ask if she or he can introduce you to others who may be interested in interfaith activities. If the ball gets rolling, then reserve a room at the public library and invite people to come to a meeting to plan a film or book and discussion series. It really does not have to be complicated. Last year Osireion hosted an interfaith covered dish picnic at a local park shelter where we do public rituals. We provided the ice, cups, plates and napkins and everyone brought a dish to share.
- The arts carry the day with interfaith work. Everyone loves to see Hindu dance, gospel singing, Native American music and dance and crafts, etc. About 400 people turned out last year to see an afternoon of such presentations in Newberry, South Carolina. Try inviting folks to an interfaith drum circle or singalong. The folks here in South Carolina have come to love the spiral dance, and we do it to a Michael Stillwater song with universal appeal (“One by One”).
Note: avoid holding these meetings at the place of worship of any of your groups, if possible, to avoid the appearance of that religion dominating the group. Go out of your way to create a safe, respectful space for every participant. Here are some “Tips For Success.” More in my next post!