On March 23, the IFLC board and several invitees gathered to consider the direction and purpose of the organization. International peacemaker and IFLC Secretary Rev. Dr. Dan Buttry facilitated the all-day retreat, leading a thoughtful and in-depth discussion of the IFLC’s goals, strengths, successes, and needs.
According to IFLC President, Raman Singh, a recent revision of the IFLC by-laws occasioned some changes on the board and a desire to step back for a moment and take a look at how and how well we were pursuing our mission of interfaith education, conciliation, and connection.
The day was an engaging and exciting opportunity for our leadership to put ideas forth about how we can best serve our community, and take the time to develop those ideas.
Rev. Buttry started with a few moments of meditative silence so participants could get focused. Participants were invited to share their thoughts and to share the stories of how they came to the interfaith table.
From there, the group evaluated the progress of the last several years, and broke into groups to discuss different topic areas such as leadership, communication, and literacy. The day concluded with a group share-out of all the ideas presented in the smaller group discussions.
Although there are areas where there is still much work to be done, in conciliation particularly, the feeling was, according to Singh, “We have way over-achieved in education. Religious Diversity Journeys are a resounding success. The first session of Exploring Our Religious Landscapes was a great success, so we expect this to have legs also, and the educational panels have been well-attended and meaningful. It is an area that people are attracted to and which fulfills a need in our community.”
And through the literacy outreach, the goal of building connections is, quite naturally, being realized through connections with many of our area’s houses of worship and school communities.
It was gratifying to see such a long list of strength and successes, alongside future objectives. In addition to our education and outreach efforts, the list included:
- Responses to Islamophobia
- Partnership with Healthcare
- MSU using our network for their book publications
- North American Interfaith Network conference
- Adult Religious Literacy- Exploring Our Religious Landscapes
- Expansion of grants
- Religious Leaders Forum
Much of the conversation was around how to achieve operational objectives to support the mission. “The question on the table was, do we have additional staffing needs, and board and how do those two things connect. What activities are the board going to take on? Do we need to change our media presence? Those are all big questions that can’t be answered in a board meeting. And it’s a good way to see where everyone stands philosophically,” said Raman Singh.
One area of consideration was membership in the IFLC. What does it mean and how does one find their way into the organization?
After a day of discussing big picture questions, philosophy, and concrete steps to move forward, the group largely concluded that the organization’s direction is sound, that we have been true to our purpose, and that the goal for the immediate future is to deepen commitment to and build greater organizational strength around our most successful initiatives.
Rev. Dr. Dan Buttry, Communications committee member David Crumm, IFLC Chairman Robert Bruttell shared their thoughts about the retreat and the IFLC:
“We’ve come such a long way in the last five years–I’m so grateful to God and to my colleagues on the IFLC board and all who work with us. We look forward to more effective and profound partnerships in the years ahead. We are aiming not just for interfaith relationships but for interfaith excellence!” – Dan Buttry
Five years ago we set some important and big goals for ourselves after a retreat. I wondered – worried actually – how we might meet those expectations. We wanted to create a high quality newsletter. We wanted to educate our community on the value of the many religious communities we interact with daily and we wanted to hold a significant event each year that would bring together all those who work to forge bonds of friendship. Due to the outpouring of support IFLC received we have gained the resources to accomplish those goals.
At our recent retreat I learned in concert with the whole board that no one wants to stand pat. We agreed that more than ever IFLC needs to widely influence the public understanding by adults of religious traditions – especially those eastern traditions that are largely misunderstood. Somehow we need to greatly expand and make effective our fledgling adult religious literacy programming.
I have often heard it said that we are video culture. Truth is that we are a culture whose old and new media takes many forms. During the past few years we have amassed lots of great recorded video. We know how to gather it. Now we have to figure out the best ways to disseminate it. One way may be strictly as video broadcasting on the World Wide Web. But another may be to connect a print magazine and video offered on a number of platforms.
Our conciliation mission has been active in what we consider a minimal way. There are so many conflicts in our community, many of them with a religious identity, that require intelligent work aimed at transforming the conflict in a positive or constructive manner. The people trained in conflict transformation are far fewer in number than needed. How can we begin to train many more dedicated people of good will in conflict transformation methods?
The trouble with getting so many creative people in one space is that those goals are not all even though those already constitute a big vision. It is going to be another interesting and challenging five years. Make sure you have your seat belts securely fastened.
“This network of friends and colleagues from many faith traditions has been producing important, innovative events and programs in recent years. But, what struck me vividly in this retreat is how we all are standing on shoulders of courageous men and women who began this kind of work as early as the 1950s and 1960s. Their work was in response to tragedies, including the Holocaust and the unrest in 1967, and it means that Detroit has been an international center for interfaith healing for more than 60 years. The current leadership council, the IFLC, largely was shaped by events on 9/11/2001. But, I was reminded at the retreat that this entire region has been shaped through immigration, industry and cross-cultural friction as a global example of what is possible when men and women of good heart come together to build a better community. What we do here is an example to the world.”
— David Crumm, editor of ReadTheSpirit.com online magazine