Annual IFLC Interfaith Luncheon Provides Opportunity to Celebrate and Share Ideas

IMG_3923Interfaith work is most often done in our congregations and communities. Those are the arenas in which we work to build bridges, create understanding, and learn to work together on our common communal needs. Last week’s IFLC luncheon at St. John’s Armenian church was a chance to gather with our partners in interfaith work, celebrate what we do, and discuss our visions for what needs doing.

IFLC Vice Chairman Greg Geiger started by thanking outgoing board member Chandru Acharya, and welcoming new board members John Silveri, Rabbi Dorit Edut, and David Kurzmann, as well as thanking Raman Singh for her first year as IFLC president.

Singh shared some of IFLC’s successes and how much she enjoyed seeing our hard work come to fruition. Religious Diversity Journeys continues to grow, with 450 participants this year and an expected 600 next year. This year’s inaugural series of Exploring Our Religious Landscapes could not have been more successful, raising the religious literacy of a sell-out crowd of 130 participants. Next year’s fall session is already half-full (so sign up now!).

“More than the numbers and checking off boxes, it tells us that there is a need and an interest and a hunger for programs like this,” said Singh.

Sikhs, says Singh, share a saying about the oneness that pervades God’s creation, “To be able to experience a little bit of that with people who don’t share my faith was more powerful than I expected.”

In addition to the wonderful success of the Religious Diversity Journeys and Exploring Religious Landscapes programs, Singh also spoke of our new health care and community building committees. These were formed to expand the good we can do through the interfaith network that is crystalizing around the work of the IFLC and the community’s other interfaith partners.

One of the goals of the luncheon was to connect with our interfaith friends and partners to garner their ideas and thoughts about the future of interfaith work. Toward that end, there was a card on each table asking key questions about how each participant sees the challenges of interfaith work and how we can meet them. The guests at each table were intentionally mixed to encourage broad discussion.

After the discussion, each table shared the key priorities their group had identified for interfaith work, which included:

         Ratcheting up our efforts with youth to take them from being active to being activists.

         Addressing misinformation.

         Building new skills like mindfulness to assist in the work.

         Expand the influence of programs like RDJ.

         Getting the word out about the good work of interfaith.

         Deepening relationships from “interfaith friends” to true friends.

         Bringing RDJ participants back to discuss impact  once they reach high school and beyond.

         Informing the political process with deeper, more engaged dialogue.

         Addressing media tendency to report the negative by reaching out with positive stories.

         Doing more community service projects.

         Organizing more educational community events.

         Illuminating the differences between religious laws and cultural context.

         Expanding leadership.

IFLC Chairman Robert Bruttell wrapped up the program. He spoke of the imperative of leadership to connect with others, and said that everyone is a leader in some respect.

“People around us don’t agree with the values that we hold dear,” said Bruttell, projecting that the next 50 years were going to be a period of disruption. “What is obvious to me is that there is going to be work that needs to be done.”

Participants digested lunch and ideas with a walk through the Manoogian museum’s collection of historical artifacts dating back to 7 B.C., and religious objects from Armenia.

To get involved with the IFLC’s efforts, please contact Meredith Skowronski at detroitinterfaithcouncil@gmail.com.