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February 2024 Member Update

History: Common Ground grew out of a 2001 discussion of the Community Health Action Team (CHAT) sponsored by ThedaCare. Dr. John Mielke and Paula Morgen from ThedaCare worked with the Rabbi of the Appleton Synagogue, Pastor Will Bloedow of First English Lutheran Church, Pastor Roger Bertschausen of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and Pastor Dennis Episcopo of Appleton Alliance Church to form a leadership group.

Mission and Purpose: Common Ground is a bridge connecting leaders of the faith community with leaders of the secular community with a focus on improving the health and wholeness of the Fox Cities. The “Golden Rule,” common to virtually every faith tradition, provides further guidance for our thoughts and behaviors.

Vision: In this time of great division, our goal is to move the needle of our society and touch the hearts of our humanity  – away from polarization and demonization of the Other, and toward authentic relationships that celebrate differences while working towards community.

Plans for 2024: Our current focus is to “create dialogue, trust and positive relationships during a time of differences by living the Golden Rule”. As a result, we have three areas of work.

1.      The Inter-faith Community: Since early 2023, Common Ground has sought to enlarge the number of faith traditions we work with. We started by asking leaders of the Wisconsin Islamic Society (Fox Cities) and Moses Montefiore Synagogue to coffee. It was pleasing to see that they “hit it off” and began a new and positive relationship. During the Summer, the group continually expanded and now includes leaders of nine faith traditions: Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Islam, Jewish, Protestant Christian, Roman Catholic, Sikh, and Unitarian Universalist. After two or three face-to-face meetings they decided to expand to a larger group. That meeting of fifty people was held on November 9th at the Neenah Public Library and those attending were extremely positive and expressed a desire to continue the dialogue. Faith leaders are now mulling over a number of options including joint service projects and plan to make decisions soon. Dennis Episcopo, a founding member of Common Ground and the retired Senior Pastor of Appleton Alliance Church has commented that in his entire ministry he has never experienced something as profound as this! Click the button to view a video of various faith leaders that participated.

2.      The Unhoused (or “homeless”): The City of Appleton held a Summit on Homelessness in May of 2023 and expected forty people to attend. The interest was overwhelming with over two hundred people present! Over the next several months, Common Ground and Celebrate Diversity Fox Cities were chosen to lead efforts to gather data by hosting dialogue sessions. We anticipate holding 4-8 sessions in the coming months after which the City of Appleton will distill the data and create a plan.

3.      Golden Rule Workshops – Political Edition: Building on our past offerings in 2020-2023, Common Ground is considering offering Zoom based workshops, open to the public, addressing the “elephant in the room” about the growing division in our country. We hope to have specifics available (including dates and times) by April.

We look forward to your feedback about our efforts and plans including whether you find this update of interest.


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