The Full Story
Inter-Faith Dialogue Circle Initiative
Motivated by our mission to bring people together across divides to experience well-facilitated conversations that invite participants into an understanding of each other’s humanity and personhood toward ongoing relationship, friendship & community collaboration, we sought out Faith leaders from many area perspectives to engage in a listening- circle dialogue.
Our Common Ground Steering Team is comprised of many faith expressions including those who have no identified one, and we have grown into a team that respects, enjoys and works together toward greater Fox Valley relational unity (versus conformity) across a number of divisive issues. We believe this relational work is absolutely foundational to moving toward meaningful community, away from polarizing angst and forward to progress in the many issues that demand our focused attention.
Quite possibly faith, alongside politics, remains the key category to bring people together in ongoing relationship for our Valley’s well-being, since they often are ‘umbrella’ categories for so many other guiding convictions that form how we view our world.
After an initial meeting with members of the Jewish and Muslim faiths, and with all this in mind, we pursued faith leaders representing Buddhist, Muslim, Bahai’, Sikh, Jewish, Unitarian, Protestant, Roman Catholic & Hindu traditions, asking if they would be willing to join a listening-circle dialogue group with the intent of planning together what a community-wide Conversation would look like in the future.
To each of their credit every person approached agreed once they understood our purpose! We met initially on a virtual call, facilitated with communication agreements that insured a safe and welcoming environment for all. As we concluded, all enthusiastically desired to continue forward, in-person, focusing on building relationships with each other prior to considering a plan for a community conversation.
We gathered a second time, with Boldt Co. providing a wonderful, neutral location to convene, and deepened our conversation listening to each other relate personal experiences that illustrated how our faith journey inspired us; how we have been misunderstood by others as well as how we have misunderstood others ourselves. Open conversation followed where members could ask questions about what they had heard; reflect on various themes and explore similarities/differences all with open hearts to both listen and speak, apart from any attempts to compare, sway or demean.
The climax came when each spoke to something they would take away from the experience- all positive! Bridges were being built relationally and all committed not only to meet again but also to join in each other’s typical faith gatherings to enhance mutual understanding!
The intention is to indeed plan for a greater Community Conversation- one founded upon the stories of our own experiences with each other! To that end, a follow up in-person meeting is being scheduled for the second half of August and Native-American and Catholic faith leaders have been identified and invited.
What will eventually come of this is unclear as of today. Experience has shown that when you bring diverse people and traditions together and build relationships, understanding and trust the possibilities are endless.