A little over a year ago, Dearborn’s long-time ministerial organization decided it was time for a change.
The group, which normally took a summer hiatus, met in the warm months to discuss its future and focus.
“We needed to reinvent ourselves,” says Fran Hayes, pastor of Littlefield Presbyterian Church and moderator of the group. “We wanted to be more intentionally interfaith in how we defined our purpose and our identity.”
They emerged with a new name and a new mission. The name was Dearborn Area Interfaith Network (DAIN), and their mission is “building bridges for the sake of loving neighbors.”
Currently, according to Hayes, the expression of that mission largely involves bringing together members of the different faith communities to start creating a network, with the intention of putting it to work on issues like health care, warmth, housing, literacy and hunger.
“It’s religious and spiritual, but it’s also a civic involvement as well,” says Hayes.
So far, the group has drawn in a broad cross-section of Dearborn’s faith communities, including representatives of many Abrahamic and animist traditions.
The challenge, says Hayes, is to get members of the faith communities to overcome the barriers of their own communities to connect.
That, says Hayes, is “the building bridges part, growing in trust, building relationships.”
In addition to the clergy and religious lay leaders that are involved, DAIN has participation from the school district and the police department, and Hayes says that Dearborn’s Mayor O’Reilly has been very supportive.
In their first year, they gathered the community for a 9/11 observance and an interfaith service for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Prior to the DAIN’s program, the city had not had a religious or spiritual MLK observance, says Hayes. “That was a new thing for Dearborn.”
The goal was “to bring the community together and renew the dream of beloved community and justice.”
Rashida Tlaib, who is the first Muslim American woman to serve in the Michigan state legislature, was the key note speaker at the event.
“The Middle Eastern community feels an affinity for the message,” says Hayes. “There has been Muslim participation all along, but it’s never been in a mosque.” Until now.
This year, the DAIN MLK Day event will be hosted by Dearborn’s Islamic House of Wisdom on Sunday, January 18 at 3:00 pm.
Visit the DAIN Facebook page for more information, upcoming programs and to get involved.