FAREWELL AND THANK YOU TO LINDA CRAWFORD
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 (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
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.
Leaders 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.
Given 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!
In 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.
Global 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, ICP 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.
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.”