Day 21: Dialogue (Intercultural/Interfaith)

December 18, 2021

Interfaith Gathering and Iftar, May 2018

Day 21: Dialogue (Intercultural/Interfaith)

The suburb where the church I serve is located happens to be one of the most diverse, multicultural, multi-ethnic areas of the Chicago suburbs. The two high schools that serve that suburb are among the most diverse – in terms of languages spoken, countries of origin and ethnicities – in the country.

All that is to say that the place where I serve is a marvelous place and space for intercultural and interfaith dialogue. And, I’ve done my best to reach out to diverse friends, neighbors and community members in the years I have been pastor at St. Luke’s Church in Morton Grove.

In November 2016, I was invited to be a panel discussant at an interfaith discussion on Empowering Diverse Voices at the Muslim Community Center in Morton Grove. This was shortly after the national election of 2016, and many people in our area were very shaken by the heightened rhetoric and attitudes of different groups, nationwide. At that panel, I offered an opportunity for interfaith friends to come together in what I called a monthly gathering for prayer and mutual support.

I was so humbled and gratified to have a diverse group of between 12 and 16 people gather for the next 12 months at the church for these Interfaith Gatherings. These were folks from different groups, diverse faith communities (and a few with no faith affiliation), and of multiple cultures. They gathered to talk, to listen, to support each other, and to pray. For some meetings, we had a definite focus. For others, merely an opportunity for warm fellowship and sharing.

Since I had previously served as a chaplain at a busy urban hospital in Chicago (which was also in quite a diverse, multicultural area), I felt comfortable in such a setting. I suspect my comfort and less-anxious presence aided the open sharing and caring that quickly developed in this Interfaith Gathering group.

Several positive outcomes developed from this Gathering. St. Luke’s Church hosted two community Iftars: one in June 2017, seven months after the beginning of the monthly Gathering, and another in May 2018, several months after the Gatherings concluded. These Iftars were opportunities for the wider community to come together, to learn together, and to enjoy breaking bread with a diverse group of people. I made some lasting friendships from those many months of coming together! And, I was honored to serve as host and facilitator for not only the Interfaith Gatherings, but also the Community Iftars and Outreach Programs in both 2017 and 2018.   

I’ve done a number of interfaith events before and since. I do not know what or how God will direct me in the future. I am saying, “Here I am. I am available.” And, I really mean that.

O Holy One, thank You for Your marvelous diversity in this wonderful world. Thank You for bringing these diverse cultures and ethnicities together in such places like urban settings. But, wherever it is, wherever different people encounter each other, bring forth a comfort level and less-anxious presence. Thank You for open sharing and caring among different people. And, thank You for Your creative diversity, within all You have created here on earth. Thank You for everything.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )

Day 17: Vigils and Marches

December 14, 2021

Peace crane, Family Peace Fest 2017. Photo credit: Karen Kring

Day 17: Vigils and Marches

When I started thinking about this entry on the Tree of Contemplative Practices, what immediately came to mind was the Morton Grove Interfaith Walk in September 2016. The UCC church I pastor is located in Morton Grove, which is a multicultural, multi-ethnic, interfaith community in the suburbs of Chicago. Yes, I was an organizer (and walker!) in this Interfaith Walk through parts of Morton Grove.

This interfaith walk was a tremendous opportunity for different cultures, different faith traditions and different ethnicities to come together, learn about each other, and walk together on this Saturday morning. We centered it around three representative houses of faith, and in cooperation with the village of Morton Grove, walked from one to the next and the next. Fifty to sixty people of all ages participated, and had a wonderful opportunity to show the community that diversity matters. We rejoice in our diversity, and each individual is important and worthwhile.

The success of this interfaith walk continued a desire in me for work in the community. I began organizing and coordinating the Family Peace Fest for Hope and Harmony, which ran for four successive years, in cooperation with the Morton Grove Farmers’ Market and the Morton Grove Chamber of Commerce. The Family Peace Fest started in 2016, and the final year was 2019. (Sadly, we all know that the pandemic intervened, and a lot of worthwhile events did not happen in 2020.)

I had a vision for the inclusion for so many diverse cultures, ethnicities, and faith traditions in the wider community. And, it came to pass! We had the support of the Village of Morton Grove and the Morton Grove Library, too, with a special selection of children’s books on peace and diversity at the farmers’ market that day. Arts and crafts booths, activity booths, and the market, too! Many people were so pleased with the event. It was a lot of work! And yes, I am so happy it happened for four years.

What next, you may ask? I do not know. God willing, I am open to whatever God leads me to do for the community where I serve.

Writing on the Peace mural from St. Paul’s UCC, Downers Grove. Photo credit: Janyce Boss.

Dear God, thank You for the Interfaith Walk and the Family Peace Fests. Thank You for the witness we all gave to the greater community and the Village of Morton Grove. Thank You for so many people who participated, who came and learned more, and who had their eyes and hearts opened more. Thank You for the many things I learned, too. Please continue to come alongside all of our neighbors and friends who were involved. Bless them, Lord! And, may Your name continue to be lifted up. Amen.

@chaplaineliza

Thanks to the website www.contemplativemind.org for their excellent image the Tree of Contemplative Practices.

(Suggestion: visit me at my other blogs: www.pastorpreacherprayer.com, matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers. and  A Year of Being Kind . Thanks! )