Rev. Amy Morgan: First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham Pastor Works to Create Transformative Interfaith Experiences

Amy Morgan.jAfter the Presbyterian Church’s General Assembly voted to divest from three multinational companies they felt were supporting unjust Israeli policies against Palestinians, it was, says Rev. Amy Morgan, a “particularly hairy time.” Rev. Morgan says she was glad to be involved in interfaith work and able to reach out to her Jewish friends from WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in Metro Detroit) to discuss their feelings about it.

A pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Morgan says she stumbled into interfaith work as so many in our community have, through meeting tireless local interfaith activist Gail Katz.

She had heard Katz speak at an Interfaith Thanksgiving. And Morgan’s youth group was participating in the Face to Faith teen interfaith program, which was then sponsored by WISDOM. Morgan approached Katz to suggest that a program that consisted of having leaders of religious communities “talk at the kids” wasn’t great.

“I said ‘we can do better,’” said Rev. Morgan. “So, Gail said ‘Fine,’ you’re on the committee.”

Becoming part of an interfaith organization “was a surprise to me,” says Rev. Morgan, who grew up in Austin, Texas, a community she describes as homogeneous.

“I was Presbyterian from the cradle,” says Rev. Morgan. “You were weird if you weren’t Christian.”

She left Austin for New York University and a chance to branch out a little. “There you encounter the whole world. That was really eye opening and helped me step out of the bubble I grew up in,” says Morgan.

But her “aha” moment came later, after a Face to Faith program, when she went out for coffee with a Jewish participant.

“For two hours we asked all of our stupid questions about each other’s faiths,” says Morgan. “As a Christian, you have this assumption that because you’re the majority, people know all about Christianity. It was transformative that others were as curious about my faith as I was about theirs.”

She has been deeply involved in helping to create that kind of transformative experience for as many people in as many different ways as possible ever since.

She served on the WISDOM board for several years, and has worked within her congregation and with interfaith partners including the IFLC on programs to increase religious literacy and bring people of different faiths together. And she worked with Katz to make Face to Faith a more dialogue-based experience where students had the opportunity to explain their beliefs and ask questions of other students.

She has played host to Religious Diversity Journeys, and Five Women Five Journeys, a WISDOM interfaith program, and is now teaching a class to follow up that experience, providing participants the opportunity to delve more deeply into other faith traditions. She is also helping to create interfaith “Faith 101” gatherings at people’s homes. “Tupperware parties for faith,” she calls them.

For Morgan, it comes down to valuing social justice, an interest that she ascribes to growing up as a middle child, and one which led her into work in the Presbyterian church which she describes as being historically on the leading edge of social justice.

“Interfaith is important because there are social justice ramifications that are massively important,” says Morgan. “I want to make sure there are open lines of communication.”

“I feel very, very privileged to have gained the friendship of the people that I have through the interfaith community. If there’s an issue I need to address with wisdom and care and compassion, I know where to go.”