Detroit Conference of the United Methodist Church Creating Interfaith Study Guide

Reverend DelPino conducting interviews for interfaith study guide
Reverend DelPino conducting interviews for interfaith study guide

by Interfaith Minister Reverend Laurie DelPino

The Detroit Conference of the United Methodist Church Commission on Christian Unity and Inter-religious Relationships is working on a study guide to sensitize major Christian faith groups (including but not limited to United Methodists) to the communication habits and cultural behaviors of other faith groups with the end goal of

  • increased understanding and awareness of major faith groups
  • developed listening skills to apply to team planning events
  • broadened strategies for social action which include all faith groups

The Conference appointed Rodney Gasaway as the Chairperson, adding layperson Irene Addison, United Methodist elder Rev Dianne VanMarter and Interfaith Minister Reverend Laurie DelPino.

The study guide would be about 4 – 6 weeks in length including a video presentation of particular aspects of a faith presented by a person of that faith group.  Fortunately, chairperson Rodney was able to secure the services of a UMC serving film crew to attend the Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network organized annual Interfaith Picnic at Belle Isle this past August 2nd, 2015.  Reverend Laurie was able to interview about six faith leaders in preparation for editing and using in the study series.  The crew also took shots of various activities such as the Muslim group prayer practice to be shown as a part of the study after editing.

After showing clips of various Faith Leaders, the plan is to provide questions related to the video which include listening strategies for better understanding, small group activities related to the aspect of that faith group that is most needing understanding, and a discussion of a unifying principle that threads the Christian ecumenical movement with other faith groups.  The final week would be a culminating activity with members of the different faith groups presented invited to meet the group over dinner with an informal program and “getting to know you session” and a discussion of strategies for team social action.

The vision and intentional benefit of the study guide is to prepare Christian groups to work with non-Christian groups with “respect” and as “equals” when undertaking broad community projects such as serving the homeless.  Many communities share the burden of attending to the immediate needs of the homeless.  In order to work cooperatively to meet these needs, it is vital that all faith groups communicate with intentional increased understanding, developed listening skills, and broadened strategies that include and respect various faith groups in local projects.

The Commission on Christian Unity and Inter religious Relationships has been in contact with a large publishing house for this study guide.  The National office of our group, the Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships, has agreed to support this initiative and will provide editing services.

The long-term plan is to present the study guide to UMC administration, clergy and laity at the 2016 Annual Conference in Lansing in June.