Category Archives: BAIC

BAIC May 2017

Bay Area Interfaith ConnectThe Interfaith Center at the Presidio links the power of interreligious cooperation by welcoming, serving, and celebrating the diverse wisdom and faith traditions of the Bay Area.

IN THIS ISSUE: Farewell to Linda Crawford | Intrafaith Peacebuilding | Girl Scout Sunday | Meet Your Neighbor in SF | NAINConnect 2017 | Around the Bay| GTU Art Exhibit| Know Your Neighbor | The Interfaith Observer | Notes & Quotes | Send Us Your News | Bay Area Interreligious Calendar | Special Opportunities | Subscribe to BAIC


Linda Crawford stepped down as the Executive Director of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio at the end of April. Over the past ten years Linda has helped ICP in supporting interfaith efforts in the Bay Area, and preserving the historic Presidio Chapel. She fostered strong relationships with the Presidio Trust, interfaith councils, and many community organizations to serve the ICP mission. She used her talents and shared her gifts in many ways to the benefit of our interfaith communities and beyond.

Linda Crawford at Peace in the Park

Linda Crawford (l) at Peace in the Park

A few of the highlights include organizing the “Sounds of Peace” concert in celebration of the International Day of Peace in 2013, coordinating the display of McDonald Windows at the Parliament of the World’s Religions 2015 gathering in Salt Lake City, and most recently, playing a pivotal role in the formation of the Interfaith Council of Alameda County.

On behalf of the ICP Board, we thank her for her many years of service, and wish her much success and personal fulfillment in her next endeavors.

Fred Fielding, ICP Board President

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BAIC April 2017

Bay Area Interfaith Connect

The Interfaith Center at the Presidio links the power of interreligious cooperation by welcoming, serving, and celebrating the diverse wisdom and faith traditions of the Bay Area.

IN THIS ISSUE: Changes at ICP | NAINConnect 2017 | Around the Bay| GTU Art Exhibit| Historic Bible Display | The Interfaith Observer | Notes & Quotes | Send Us Your News | Bay Area Interreligious Calendar | Special Opportunities | Subscribe to BAIC

Interfaith Center at the PresidioChanges at the Interfaith Center at the Presidio. As you can see, Bay Area Interfaith Connect has a new look. Our previous publication system was not keeping up with the proliferation of phones, pads, and other screens that required a more flexible layout. We hope that this new format will prove even more useful as we bring the news about interreligious cooperation around the Bay Area and beyond. Be sure to add “.img@.img” to your contact list so that you can enjoy all that the Connect offers.

Linda CrawfordICP Executive Director to step down. Linda Crawford, who has served ICP in several capacities and most recently as Executive Director, has announced her intention to step down in June. Linda began ten years ago leading the Capital Campaign for the Chapel rehabilitation project. She was named Managing Director by the Board in February of 2012 and Executive Director in 2015. Linda says, “After 10 years at the Interfaith Center and with much soul-searching, I have decided that the time has come to move on to the next chapter in my life. It was a very difficult decision to make; I’ve loved what I’ve been doing. Finally, I listened to that “still small voice”. (1 Kings 19:12, Hebrew Bible)”

We are grateful for all Linda has done for ICP during her decade in leadership, and will cherish all the more these last months of working with her.

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BAIC March 2017

Bay Area Interfaith Connect

The Interfaith Center at the Presidio links the power of interreligious cooperation by welcoming, serving, and celebrating the diverse wisdom and faith traditions of the Bay Area.

IN THIS ISSUE: Regional Interfaith Response | Family Fun at ICP | INTRAFaith Book Study | Speaking Up: Rita Semel | East Bay Cooperation | NAINConnect 2017 | The Interfaith Observer | Notes & Quotes | Send Us Your News | Bay Area Interreligious Calendar | Special Opportunities | Subscription Info

Interfaith Center at the PresidioLeaders of Interfaith Councils from Sonoma to San Jose convened at the Presidio on February 6 to consider ways that we might work together in the future to address the rising concerns about governmental policies and public opinion that seem to be creating an environment of hostility and anger directed at religious minorities, immigrant groups, and others. Convened by the Interfaith Center, the meeting was hosted at the United Religions Initiative headquarters to make use of their teleconferencing capabilities, allowing even more people to check in via phone and computer.

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Why Interfaith?

GInterfaith Center at the Presidioiven that this site is devoted to promoting interfaith events in the Bay Area and beyond, it was great to read an article by Joran Slane Oppelt, co-founder of the Integral Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, in which he lays out the “Top 5 Reasons You Should Attend Interfaith Events.” What are those reasons? Resolving conflict; expanding awareness within your community; caring for grassroots work in your community; a chance to meet interesting people and have good conversations; and, it’s becoming popular.

Every month in the Bay Area Interfaith Connect, we share a wealth of opportunities to join with others in discussions and events that will do all those things. We can develop meaningful relationships with our neighbors, increase our knowledge of one another, and thus build appreciation. According to the Interfaith Youth Core, “knowledge and relationships are the primary drivers of positive attitudes. And people with positive attitudes toward religious diversity will seek more appreciative knowledge and meaningful relationships.”

Unlike the vicious circle of hatred, violence, and revenge, the circle of relationship, knowledge, and appreciation leads us deeper into understanding, respect, and the capacity to care for our whole world. Check out the listings at ICP and take some time to engage and feed your spirit!

Interfaith Center at the Presidio

Pluralism or…

Interfaith Center at the PresidioIn a report about the NAIN Connect gathering in Detroit last August published at State of Formation, Ellie Anders describes a generational difference concerning how people speak about interreligious relationships. She sees it as a difference between “relativism” and “pluralism.” Of the former, she observes, “[o]ver and over again we heard phrases like ‘we all have the same God/gods’ or ‘the same God/gods loves us all.'” Such language has two drawbacks, from her perspective: it excludes those who do not identify themselves in relation to a “god,” such as “theist, humanist, and other non-deist friends,” and further,”it forces our conversations into the shallow end of the pool, conversations that have vast and deep potential for discovery.”

The younger generation, she observes, is more likely to use the language of “pluralism,” as used by Diane Eck and others on the Pluralism Project website. It is not just recognizing diversity, but engaging with it. It moves beyond tolerance to actively seeking to understand the other. Pluralism is the language “‘of dialogue and encounter, give and take, criticism and self-criticism.’”

What words would you use to describe the interfaith/interreligious/multifaith encounter? Do you agree with Ellie Anders? Join the conversation by adding a comment.

Making Statements; Taking Sides

Candle and globeAs the bombings and shellings continue in Israel and the Gaza Strip and the human toll rises every day, those of us who devote ourselves to building peace and relationships of respect and appreciation between religious communities find ourselves faced with a profound crisis. In situations where opposing viewpoints threaten to divide people and communities profoundly, leading even to physical violence far from “ground zero,” what is our role? Where do we stand? What can we say?

In the contemporary world of instant “communication,” the ease of posting one’s opinion, stripped of subtlety by limits of time, text, or twitter, coupled with the anonymity that the net often provides, makes it easy to “weaponize” our words, as Rabbi Joshua Stanton warns at the Huffington Post. He writes, “…to weaponize our words only reinforces the conflicts themselves and increases the harm that they do. Our opinions might rightly be deeply held, but our choice of words can be one of our most important deeds.”

Perhaps more than at any time we are called upon to exercise the skills and attitudes that (one hopes) we have been able to develop in our encounters with one another in less fraught circumstances. We can encounter one another with the intention to learn, not simply make declarations, and work towards trust, not suspicion of one another’s intentions. We measure another’s actions by a self-critical awareness of our own actions, rather than holding them to ideal standards that we ourselves do not observe. We do not assume we know where conflicts or differences exist before listening carefully to one another. And we always make the effort to understand the others’ perspective, never losing sight of our shared humanity.*

When lines get drawn so vividly, it sometimes seems that there is no alternative. You are either for, or you are against; you are either right or you are wrong; you must choose: which side are you on? Perhaps our challenge is both to discover a third way and to lift it up. To stand in the middle and listen to both (all) sides. To live in the tension of unresolved conflict, seeking to live into a new way of being human that encompasses both.

This past week, Rev. Paul Brandeis Rauschenbush, Executive Religion Editor at Huffington Post, and some of his colleagues invited people to share “A Moment for Peace.” He wrote:

“It’s true, A Moment of Peace online may not offer any tangible results. It is foolish in the face of real war and death to expect too much from any initiative, especially an online gathering. But can we suspend our cynicism for just a moment and be a part of something positive? If nothing else, we are inviting you to take your place among those who still believe peace is possible, among those who still have hope.”

Our challenge is to find and defend that human space in the middle of conflict.

*The skills and attitudes are distilled from Leonard Swidler’s Dialogue Decalogue. Although developed in the context of Jewish/Christian dialogue, the principles hold true for dialogue in other contexts, as well.

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ICP banner

Celebrating Global Connections

ICP bannerGlobal Interfaith Made Visible. Last week, the URI (United Religions Initiative) brought its Global Council and Global Staff to the Bay Area for a week-long meeting. They came from over 25 countries representing over 600 Cooperation Circles and hundreds of initiatives – peacebuilding, saving the environment, stopping religiously motivated violence, addressing poverty and women’s issues and so much more. The Interfaith Center was honored to host the welcoming ceremony for the Council in the Presidio Chapel on Sunday, June 22nd. Gathering in this sacred space, the Council members lit candles, prayed, sang, and celebrated the work URI has been doing to bring people around the world together to address local need for peacemaking, environmental action, empowering women and training youth.

ICP and the URI have worked closely together over the years. Many of the early organizational meetings for URI were held at ICP and 9 members of ICP’s Board have served on the URI Global Council, more than from any other organization. Don Frew, ICP Treasurer, currently serves as a URI Council member. The next evening, Welcoming Ceremony for URI at the Presidio ChapelICP Managing Director Linda Crawford and Board Members Rita Semel and Andrew Kille joined Don, the other Council members, Global staff, and local friends for the opening banquet, held in the Mission Gardens at Santa Clara University.

Sitting in the shadow of the adobe buildings and wall that were built in 1822, one could not help wondering what those early missionaries would have made of this gathering of friends and co-workers from around the world, committed to working across boundaries of religion, culture, and geography to make this world a better place for all.

Don Frew has chronicled the events of the week at the COG Interfaith Reports blog; it’s well worth checking out. You can also find photos of the welcoming ceremony on the ICP website.

chapel entrance

From Diversity to Pluralism

Last month, Eboo Patel, founder and director of Interfaith Youth Core based in Chicago made a visit to Santa Clara University as part of the President’s Speakers Series. “Diversity is stunningly challenging,” Patel declared, suggesting that often we take it too much for granted. He pointed out that the United States was the first experiment in democracy that did not involve a homogeneous population, and that we struggle with diversity every day. In a land of many cultures, each individual’s culture becomes not a matter of fate, but a matter of choice.

Great for individuals; but not so great for communities. Diversity can be hard on social cohesion and “social capital,” the “glue” that holds a society together. Religious diversity in particular has the potential to spark conflict, as it implies deep differences around fundamental values. Any day in the world news, we hear about religious conflicts that have exploded into hostility and violence.

In this context of diversity, Patel called for a new generation of leaders who recognize that pluralism–  mutual respect and positive relationships among people who differ, and a commitment to the common good—is an achievement, not a given. Bridges between diverse groups “don’t drop from the sky,” he said. They are built by people trained, skilled, and committed to moving diversity towards pluralism.

“Always look for the resonances,” Patel challenged the audience. The greatest challenge is to identify that person or group with which you most profoundly disagree, and then look for something you can admire about them. “Diversity is holy,” he said, “and it is amazing what we can do together.”

InterFaith Tour Pays a Visit

Interfaith Center at the Presidio“Is interfaith cooperation a means or an end?” “Is there a difference between tolerance, coexistence, cooperation, and appreciation?” and “What message would you give to young people about getting involved in interfaith work?” Those were just a few of the questions local interfaith leaders were asked recently by three French students who have been traveling around the world to explore and document interfaith cooperation.

Victor Grezes, Josselin Rieth, and Ismaël Medjdoub are part of a five-person world tour sponsored by Coexister, the Youth Interfaith Movement in France and SparkNews, an organization encouraging the sharing of inspiring stories. All students in their 20’s, an Atheist, an Agnostic, and a Muslim, they have been traveling with two others, a Christian and a Jew, on the InterFaith Tour. Since July of 2013 they have met more than 470 activists in more than 45 countries. They had a private audience with Pope Francis, met the Great Imam of Al-Azhar in Egypt, the Maronite Patriarch in Lebanon, and many local activists. Continue reading

Does Dialogue Work?

Interfaith Center at the PresidioDOES DIALOGUE WORK? was the question for the Public Square conversation at last month. Writers were invited to respond to the following questions “What does interfaith dialogue accomplish? Does it have any measurable impact? Does it help reduce violence or solve any real-world problems?” Responses come from across the spectrum, often challenging what the writers perceive as a kind of “tea party conversation” (“old-fashioned kind, not political”), yet often pointing out the vital role that dialogue has in our pluralistic world.

A few thoughts from the contributors: “We’re in the middle of the process, so unless forecasters share their direct-line to All That Is, Goddess, God, gods, what have you, we’ll never be able say with certainty that the impact of what we’re doing will have any beneficial resolve. We can only make a guess, based upon our hope that the community building we’re focused on will indeed help to create a world where all people’s faiths and traditions are accepted — not just tolerated, but acknowledged as an authentic way of being.” (Drea Parker).

“Engaging with others who think differently and holding a genuine conversation with them is much harder than constructing a straw man and then promptly burning it. It is also much more rewarding and interesting than the way the secular mafia wants us to interact…” (Adrian Warnock)

“My conclusion is that, while interfaith dialogue does not really hurt, it doesn’t really do all that much either to the people who really need to have their minds opened. The ones who go to events are probably already tolerant and willing to learn. Or,  they into these things with their own preconceived notions and set worldviews, and most aren’t looking for their minds to be changed. So I say, keep on talking. Hopefully, the end result will at least be mutual respect.” (Lynn Swayze Wilson)

What do you think? What impact has interfaith dialogue made on your own life or your community? We invite you to share your thoughts on the ICP Facebook page, or add a comment below.