CUUPS, Interfaith Lessons, and the Parliament of the Worlds Religions

CUUPS, Interfaith Lessons, and the Parliament of the Worlds Religions September 16, 2018

Ambassador Advisory Council for the Parliament of the World Religions
The Ambassador Advisory Council © Kishgraphics (Missing Ahriana Platten & self)

As an Ambassador of the Parliament of the World Religions, I am so excited to travel to Toronto November 1–7, 2018. CUUPS Executive Director David Pollard and myself will be attending this esteemed event. It will be my third time going for CUUPS and Circle Sanctuary. Each time it is life changing and inspiring. The mission as stated on the website is:

“The Parliament of the World’s Religions was created to cultivate harmony among the world’s religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions in order to achieve a just, peaceful and sustainable world.”


Opening Fire Lighting by the First Peoples © Kishgraphics
Opening Fire Lighting by the First Peoples © Kishgraphics

The first time I went was to Parliament 2004 in Barcelona, Spain. I roomed with the late Judy Harrow. She was a funny and feisty Wiccan High Priestess and wise woman from New York City area. I loved our friendship. The event would impact us personally. When we went, we were unclear how it included the landscape of Pagan, and earth/nature centered faith traditions. It was a marvelous surprise.

After that, I attended the Parliament 2015 in Salt Lake City. Proudly my son accompanied me. He learned so much. He met his “s/hero” Jane Goodall. As I meet people, my heart opened more to a sense of the holy, sacred and spiritual in a deep way. Many become dear to me and I love the connections.

It is so much easier to work with others listening and talking. It is not easy working in the land of opinion, judgement, fear and hate. Attending the Parliament, is always a training for being present, listening, being kind, and hearing the truths of others.

Members of the Buddhist Community © Kishgraphics
Hanging out with members of the Buddhist Community © Kishgraphics

The Lessons Learned Volunteering in an Interfaith Setting 

As an Ambassador, I have been volunteering with the organization for almost five years now. I have organized calls for this team to connect with one another. I am working on accessibility concerns and needs with the staff. The biggest thing I have learned is to have more compassion, for others, and myself. The group of people on the Ambassadors Advisory Council, I work with treat one another with such honor and dignity, even when we are frustrated with one another and the worlds around us. We remind each other to walk with integrity, grace, and courage inside of a bigger commitment.

Looking at previous religious traditions I participated with, I am present to how volunteering with this group challenges and calls to my heart. Working as an Ambassador is not a cookie cutter place to be. We are all incredibly different in many ways. The easy place to work and speak from is “being to being.” I do not have to make beliefs, traditions, or anything wrong. I do not feel made wrong. Religious traditions of the world are honored. I love hearing how many of my friends celebrate that which is scared to them.

Kindness, Listening, & Love – Key Learnings for Me from Parliament

At the Parliament, I see the core principles of love everyplace around the event. Love of music, dance, art and most of all caring and working towards a more just and loving planet together. I see the heartfelt commitments of thousands of people from around the world. We work together on social justice issues. Climate change, supporting indigenous people, empowering women and young adults to lead, and how to bring peace to the world.

These are for me, core earth/nature centered principles. Whether one listens and acts from the Unitarian Universalist Principles and Sources, the Ten Commandments, the Wiccan Rede, the Nine Noble Truths of Asatru, the traditions of Hoodoo, Indigenous Peoples, or other practices – the Earth is home for all creatures large and small, seen and unseen. The Earth is our Mother. We must care for her. Care for the lives walking on her skin, swimming in the waters, flying in the skies, and present to the soul of her being. It is present for all human spiritual and religious traditions. Here for one week at the Parliament, we all work to find a way to do this.

When I stop and look, the children around me, remind me how everyone can be friends. It takes practice as an adult. I must work with an open heart. I hold on to the possibility that this can happen for everyone.

The Challenge of Interfaith Work

It is going to take something from all of us to have a safe, loving world. Fear is not going to get us any place as a species. Recently, I went to a class reunion. It was challenging to stand inside of my agreements as an Ambassador and ordained minister/priestess. A classmate asked where I lived immediately after an initial hello. Without missing a beat, I was challenged with labels about my political thinking and more just based on where I live. They talked about stock piling guns to fight Muslims, people of color, and minority religions threatening their family’s safety. It rattled me. In our own country?? I was stunned. I really worked to maintain my respect for them. How could they live in such fear? My mind kept leaping around to find common ground. Flashing through my mind, I envisioned colleagues from many places surrounded by guns. It was frightening.

Music by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir © Kishgraphics
Listening to music of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir © Kishgraphics

There was a deep sadness that arose. I wondered, how do I be in the face of such judgement and get beyond the insults and not react. I do I extend love that is greater than what I think I have? The answer became easy.

I was leading the meal blessing for the evening. Closing my eyes I told myself to take a moment. Breathe in all of the goodness you can see around you. I looked to all that was holy, kind, loving and sacred around me. I stood and opened to all of the people I knew and had met around the Parliament. My Parliament experiences empowered me to lead an interfaith, intercultural, and loving blessing.

It Takes All to Transform the World

For me attending the Parliament of the World Religions, makes transformation available for humanity. It lends a place for us to practice working together for the good of all. It is an opportunity to stretch, and not lock into dogmatic systems of thinking. We get to listen to our heart’s connection to the beat of the earth and walk our talk. The embrace of beloved communities from around the planet interested in making a difference are felt. Being in action with our hands, prayers, questions, and willingness to live into the unknown creating every moment is so present.

The Universal Dance of Peace © Kishgraphics
The Universal Dance of Peace © Kishgraphics

I end with a quote by Andre Gide, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Bringing humanity into balance will require all of us, from every corner to do this. We cannot stand in what we know. We must let go and take the adventure into the world, and have the courage to see things newly. I look forward to that day when we all can do this naturally. Yes, I have hope. It is just who I am.

I look forward to seeing everyone who is going to Parliament! Let me know if you are coming. I would love to see you! Peace.

About J.K. Hildebrand
Rev. Jerrie Hildebrand is President of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, an ordained minister with Circle Sanctuary, as well as an advisor to the Lady Liberty League, member of the Covenant of the Goddess, and president of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. She has been affiliated with nature-centered and Unitarian Universalist organizations since 1986 serving on governing boards with various staff and volunteer assignments. Jerrie participated on panels at the Parliament of World Religions in Barcelona, Spain in 2004 about religions freedom issues in Pagan traditions and in Salt Lake City 2015 about sharing and telling one's own story. She is trained in sacred listening, forgiveness skills, transformational models of thinking, and building co-creative environments that empower communities. Jerrie runs a graphic design and marketing company specializing in tourism and destination marketing. You can read more about the author here.
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