- Building a Collaborative Interfaith Organization
- Origins of the Listening Project
- Creating a Community Interfaith Workshop
- 21 Listening Skills
- Interfaith Community Program
Building a Collaborative Interfaith Organization
LISTENING AND DIALOGUE are essential skills for building a collaborative interfaith organization. When interfaith teams collaborate on programs and projects, diverse priorities and work styles can be expected. At community meetings, our pluralism sometimes results in communication gaps.
And yet, the rich tapestry of ideas and beliefs are at the core of what interfaith groups are all about and what makes them so interesting.
The MCWRET created the Interfaith Listening Project as a laboratory. It was a place where the Board, our core group of around twenty people, could refine our abilities in listening and dialogue. We wanted to explore together some specific interfaith interests and potentially controversial issues. We wanted an environment where people felt safe to express whatever they needed to say. We wanted to use our new learning and skills to contribute to the larger interfaith community in our county and beyond.
This section of the website provides hands-on professional reference materials that were developed within our interfaith community as part of the Interfaith Listening Project. We are providing these practical illustrative models so that other interfaith and intercultural groups can adapt and use them in their local settings.
Here you will find the story of the Listening Project, some practical meeting ideas and examples for creating a workshop, a checklist of listening skills for pluralistic communities, and a recent exciting community program that combined original performance art with listening and dialogue.
We invite you to adapt and use these ideas in your local group and community.
Origins of the Listening Project
The Journey of an Interfaith Group
Do parts of this story sound familiar?
The MCWRET was in its tenth year of existence; and we were exhausted.
We had begun in 1994 as a dream. We had become a respected and established organization with the inspired leadership of Dr. Roshan Chaddha. The Board, our core group of about twenty volunteers, created well-attended monthly programs for a large interfaith community in one of the most diverse counties in the United States. We had produced almost a hundred community events full of panel discussions, guest speakers, workshops, exhibits of religious art, intercultural dinners and an endowed annual “Shanti (Peace) Lecture”.
The 9/11 tragedy hit Monmouth County strongly and brought a new urgency to our work. Due to its proximity to New York City, the county was directly affected by the disaster. In one town alone, 36 people died in the tragedy. Within days of the disaster, we created an Interfaith Dialogue Meeting in which 250 people from a wide range of local faith communities participated.
After September 11, 2001 there had been tangible fear in some local minority communities like much of the rest of the nation. There were incidents of prejudice. Many residents became fearful of wearing their traditional ethnic clothing, some cancelled travel plans for concern of being profiled, some were physically and verbally accosted. Expressions of prejudice were heard in supermarkets, college campuses and other public places.
At Thanksgiving that Fall we brought together our different religious communities to share the same Thanksgiving programs they had just presented at their own varied places of worship. That program, “United We Sing”, became a large, much anticipated annual event that required detailed and delicate teamwork and cultural sensitivity.
Our momentum had definitely intensified. We were in high gear producing programs from an endless flow of great ideas. But by 2005, the end of our first decade, many of us were beginning to feel overextended and overwhelmed.
Some of us wanted a quieter atmosphere to consider where we’d been and where we wanted to go, individually and as a group. We felt the familiar old conflict between wanting to be active in our communities, and needing more quietness in our personal lives.
We were concerned about losing our focus and momentum. Finally, we decided that we needed to scale back most of our community programs for a while. As wonderful as the community programs were, we found it difficult to have the deeper conversation possible in a smaller group.
The original dream of Rev. Harold Dean, our visionary founder, had been to create “a place of quiet where individuals of all persuasions could come to compose themselves, to meditate, to seek their souls, to pray, to use whatever practice to reaffirm the best they know”. The East Room of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County, where our core group met, had been designed as a quiet place for people of all faiths. In this room we had become a significant activist interfaith group even though the founding images were quieter.
Launching The Interfaith Listening Project
Our core group held a series of agenda-less meetings, just to find out what needed to be said. We wanted more depth, to know where each of us was “coming from”. We wanted to know how each of us was living and practicing our spiritual traditions and paths. We wanted to explore our specific interfaith interests. We wanted to address potentially controversial interfaith issues in a safe environment.
Several Board members were familiar with the MIT Dialogue Project and the Council Process, and had much experience in the methodologies of interfaith dialogue, group process and journal writing. We developed a more structured format, and initiated a series of internal meetings for the Board.
A typical session began with a short period of writing or some other introspective method. Then we worked with the interfaith theme that emerged. We all entered into the conversation, even though that was optional. Although the methods of dialogue seemed artificial at times, they slowly became the way we interacted.
In the first session participants were asked to consider what would seem to be the current period in their lives. When did this period begin? Were there important precipitating events?
In the second session, we took more of a life-long approach and considered questions such as: What are some important “treasures” from our past that continue to have some impact on our present spiritual lives? Members brought artifacts that expressed something about their present spiritual lives. One person described songs she sang with her childhood girlfriends; another brought special prayer stones. Another brought a Mongolian painting about friendship. Another described the childhood discovery of silence, and then wrote an article (The Velvet Garden) about it.
In the third session of the Listening Project we looked at our individual “spiritual turning points”. People mentioned becoming a soldier, giving birth to a son, surrendering one’s self to a trusted teacher, dealing with a failed marriage, dealing with a spouse’s death, and realizing one’s independence after feeling dependent.
We used the fourth session to consolidate what we had learned and what it all meant. By turning inward, we had reawakened our energies for the wider interfaith community. We had also regained a balance with the deeper and quieter meaning of it all.
The Interfaith Listening Project was a laboratory where we could learn, firsthand, about interfaith communication. Along the way we began using the term “listening” to be a more accurate term for what we were doing, than “dialogue”. Journal writing became a grounding method for our group. It provided participants with a centering and concrete method that provided some structure where needed, and yet retained some of the potential for the great depth and breadth needed to understand great diversity.
The atmosphere of these sessions continues today, a half-dozen years later. We often briefly review the principles of the Interfaith Listening Project at the beginning of our meetings. We now intersperse “business” and “listening” meetings and seem to need two different “containers” for these different levels of work together. “Business” meetings are more clearly informed by our practice of listening and by awareness of each of our individual spiritual faith journeys. Alternating the meetings has added much depth to all of our meetings and to our interfaith organization as a whole. Listening to each other has become our culture.
Two new projects, Spiritual Journeys and The Solitude Project were born out of the Interfaith Listening Project. This group model provides a natural focus on each of our own religious/spiritual experiences and practices. We hope other interfaith communities will find these ideas and processes useful.
Robert C. Smith, Ph. D., A founding Board Member: August,2011
The materials in the Interfaith Listening Project section of this website, illustrate how our learnings in interfaith dialogue and the Listening Project have informed our work in the larger interfaith community.
Creating a Community Interfaith Workshop
Elements and an Illustrative Model
Creating workshop designs is an important process for group planners and leaders. These strategies help clarify the intended direction of meetings. This is especially important in interfaith groups where there can be such a wide range of expectations.
It is very important to know your audience. Our work has been influenced by the fact that many in our interfaith community were born overseas and have traveled widely; they tend to be highly educated and experienced in intercultural situations. About a hundred people have attended our community interfaith workshops. The materials from these workshops can be adapted for use with other similar groups.
THE FOLLOWING ELEMENTS illustrate our emphasis on interfaith listening. Each element is described following this outline:
1. The Invitation
2. Beginning the Conversation
3. Creating the Atmosphere
4. Questions for Interfaith Dialogue
5. Ground Rules for Religious Dialogue
6. Action Planning for Community Interfaith Understanding
1. The Invitation:
Dialoging Between Faiths and Cultures:
A Workshop for Strengthening our Community
In the years since 9/11 we have continuously seen the importance of strengthening and uniting our community. The need for building understanding, acceptance and trust among our diverse, often competing, and sometimes conflicting faith communities has never been as apparent as now.
A significant way for the Monmouth Center to bring interfaith/intercultural understanding to Monmouth County is to develop skills in dialogue among community members of different faiths. Working with differences and building harmony in our diverse communities requires abilities in dialogue and listening.
During this interactive evening, we will learn more about how to establish an atmosphere where we can non-defensively explore the differences in how we live our lives and practice our faiths. In a safe environment, community members will engage in thoughtful and respectful discussion.
2. Beginning the Interfaith Conversation: A Handout
Tonight is an opportunity to share our interfaith/intercultural experiences through telling and listening to each others’ stories. This experience helps increase understanding and adds to our abilities to live and work harmoniously with our friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues from different faith and cultural backgrounds!
Tonight we will:
● explore the differences in how we live our lives and practice our faiths
● practice skills in listening among community members
● learn to recognize the richness of our differences and similarities
● experience a safe atmosphere for continued dialogue
In some ways, we here today are a MICROCOSM of the whole world.
What we learn will offer some clues about how the world and our community can become a better place.
[We divided into small groups that were as diverse as possible. The group sizes of six to eight people allowed for maximum interaction between individuals. There was an overall workshop leader and several small group facilitators. ]
* * * Your Faith and Culture Background * * *
These questions will guide you in reflecting on your own individual background and experiences in terms of your faith(s) and culture(s). Listening to others helps us appreciate our differences and similarities and helps dispel some assumptions we may hold.
DIRECTIONS: Individually, please jot down your ideas about the following. We invite you to introduce yourself to your small group including any of this information you would like.
1. Your Background: Tell about the faith/culture you grew up in. Then describe some ways that your faith and culture have influenced the way you have lived your life such as: your customs, everyday routines, food, ceremonies, rites of passage, family life, relationships, marriage, being a parent, friendships, career, your values and aspirations, etc.
2. Interactions with others: When you were growing up, what kind of contact did you have with people from other faiths and cultures? When did you first realize there were different cultures and faiths? What messages did you get from home and school about different cultures and faiths? Tell about any insights about yourself or the world that you gained through meeting someone from another religion or culture.
3. Creating an Atmosphere of Listening: A Handout
The information below may be given to participants as a handout for reference during the dialogue.
● SPEAK … from your own experiences.
● LEARN … and grow. Your purpose is to learn from the other participants.
● LISTEN … deeply with suspended judgment and open the door to expanded understanding. Park opinions at the door.
● ASK QUESTIONS … with the intention of gaining additional insight and perspective that lead to new levels of understanding. Questions should not analyze or challenge. Such questions often begin with:
“I wonder.…”. “What does _______mean to you.”
● SLOW … down the process. Hold space for difference.
4. The Dialogue Questions
[In small groups we had a conversation about these questions:]
● How does your religion, religious belief, and spiritual practice manifest in your life?
● How do you nurture your spiritual growth and development?
● What are the spiritual practices that help you stay true to or alter your beliefs?
● To whom do you turn for spiritual/ethical guidance?
● What is a basic belief in your faith, and how do you express that in your life?
● How do you find balance between the ideals of your teachings and what faces you in everyday life?
5. Ground Rules for Religious Dialogue
1. Speak from your own experience.
2. Remember the purpose. Enter into dialogue so that you can learn and grow; not so that you can change the other.
3. Give Space. Be conscious of the need to allow people the space to enter the discussion. Some people are more timid about offering their thoughts, but will be encouraged to do so if more outspoken persons avoid dominating the exchange. Let your questions be extensions, not challenges.
4. Assume honesty. Everyone must be honest and sincere, even if it means revealing discomforts with your own tradition and that of the other. Everyone must assume that everyone else is being equally honest and sincere.
5. Keep your religious identity. Everyone must be permitted to define their own religious experience and identity, and this must be respected by others. Don’t feel that you are the spokesperson for your entire faith tradition or that you ought somehow to know everything there is to know about it. Admit any confusion or uncertainty you might have if a puzzling question arises.
6. Don’t try to convert.
7. Avoid assumptions. Don’t assume in advance where points of agreement or disagreement will exist.
8. Be willing to be self-critical.
9. Shift perspective. All should strive to experience the other’s faith “from within” and be prepared to view themselves differently as a result of an “outside” perspective.
10. Maintain trust. Trust is a must.
( Adapted from Leonard Swidler, “The Dialogue Decalogue”, Journal of Ecumenical Studies 20/1:1:4)
The workshop ended with brief summaries from the facilitator of each dialogue group. The workshop leader summarized suggestions for creating an atmosphere of listening and dialogue.
6. Carry Through to Community Action:
An End-Of-Meeting Handout
Ways to Increase Interfaith/Intercultural Understandings:
(Please write your response below, then tear off and hand in so all responses can be read.)
● What is one thing you can do to improve your interfaith/ intercultural abilities and understandings?
● How might you contribute to interfaith/ intercultural dialogue in Monmouth County?
21 Listening Skills for Pluralistic Communities
A Checklist to Improve Your Abilities
(PDF to Download or Print the 21 Listening Skills)
Your own diverse community can be a practical learning laboratory for developing your listening skills. After you complete this checklist, you can use the results to decide which skills to work on next.
● Please write in the name of a diverse community or situation you are associated with: ________________________________________
● Please check the most important items below that you would like to work on:
1. SHIFTING PERSPECTIVE
Work on the ability to “step into the shoes” of the other person in order
to see things from his/her perspective.
Learn to accept ambiguity. It helps! Communication is rarely crystal clear. Switching gears from the values of one faith or culture to another can be confusing.
Learn to recognize the ways that people from different faith and cultural backgrounds
may inadvertently be insulting to each other. What one faith or culture considers as appropriate another may experience as insulting.
4. LANGUAGE GAPS
When there is a language gap:
a. Learn to recognize the fact that the other person may feel frustrated in making him/herself understood.
b. Learn to realize that listening to a foreign language is easier than speaking it.
c. Realize how to frequently and respectfully check out whether you are being understood or are using unfamiliar words, idiomatic expressions, words with unfamiliar connotations, an unfamiliar accent. Are you talking too fast?
d. Learn to make an effort to learn a few words and phrases in the other person’s language.
5. EVERYONE’S CONCERN
Learn how to make accommodations to another faith or culture. Change is a concern for all and not only the “other’s” concern.
6. STRENGTH IN DIVERSITY
Learn to build on the strengths within a diverse group.
Learn how to look for commonalities, shared concerns and shared hopes. There are often similarities in age, family and interests that transcend religious or ethnic cultural differences.
Learn to recognize the personal, professional and business benefit to becoming more skilled in improving interfaith and intercultural communication. This improved communication is the road to world peace.
9. DEVOTING ENERGY
Consider how spending some extra time and effort with a person(s) from a faith or cultural background that differs from your own could be beneficial and fun. Could you share a meal? Visit each other’s place of worship?
Learn to focus on the individual and don’t expect him/her to be just one of “them”. Use your knowledge about a person’s faith or cultural background as an initial way to know him/her better as an individual. Again, expect to give up many of your preconceptions.
Develop some genuine interests and learn about the different faith and cultural backgrounds (food, art, philosophy, history, sports, etc.) of your clients, colleagues, neighbors and community.
Learn to recognize how your generalizations become stereotypes. Be ready to change your preconceptions.
Realize how your own background influences how you think, feel, and behave just as others’ backgrounds influence them. You could work to:
a. Discover how your own background may be subtly influencing the way you think, feel, and behave.
b. Become aware of the attitudes and “messages” you receive from your background. Decide which attitudes to keep and which to reconsider.
c. Realize that everyone has their own value priorities and that yours are not necessarily better than “others”.
Learn to recognize what you are not paying attention to and what you are “reading into” a situation. Everyone interprets, screens out and distorts much information from their experiences.
Learn to recognize when you may be expecting others to act like those of your own faith or culture. When others don’t act as we expect them to, we sometimes blame them and may attribute their behavior to an “inferior” background.
16. HIDDEN MESSAGES
Recognize how you are communicating rather than just focusing on the content of what you are saying. Pay attention to the various “hidden messages” you are, perhaps inadvertently, sending out to others.
17. BODY LANGUAGE
Learn to “listen between the lines” by paying close attention to yours and the other person’s gestures, intonations, body language, etc. Learn to recognize cultural differences in body language.
Good natured humor can go a long way, but be cautious of jokes – they are easily misunderstood and can cause confusion.
Learn to correctly pronounce a person’s unfamiliar sounding name. Ask about the origin and meaning of the name. Find out how that person would prefer to be addressed. A small gesture such as this can mean a lot.
These differences are often found among people from different faith and cultural backgrounds. Which ones would you like to become better at responding to?
a. pace of life
c. respect and politeness
d. emotional expressiveness
e. freedom, privacy, individualism, self reliance, self-directed behavior
f. informality, neatness
g. superior vs. subordinate relationships
Which of these ways of bridging faith and cultural differences would you like to improve upon?
a. really listening
b. checking out your perceptions
c. seeking feedback
d. resisting rigid judgments
e. being willing to take risks
f. cultivating your own self-awareness
Learning and Practicing These Listening Skills:
1. Please place an asterisk – * – beside the 3 or so items above that you are ready to begin working on.
2. In what diverse groups or situations could you work on learning and
practicing these skills?____________________________
3. Please list some of the next steps you could take to work on these abilities:
Robert C. Smith, Ph. D., Board Member: August,2011
An Interfaith Community Program of Listening and Art
This community event was a recent outgrowth of the Interfaith Listening Project. Its purpose was to integrate art with interfaith dialogue. A newspaper reporter describes the results.
BEFORE THE PERFORMANCE date a group of experienced facilitators met. They reviewed guidelines and questions, given below, to be used in their small groups after the performance.
You will also find here a perceptive newspaper reporter’s description of the event.
A similar program, co-sponsored by a grant from the Monmouth County Arts Council, was presented several months later as a follow-up.
This performance was designed to evoke feeling and stimulate thought and then dialogue.
Guidelines for Facilitators
A moderator will introduce the dialogue with guidelines about listening and about expressing individual experiences.
There is no need to discuss all questions. Consider the list below as a menu from which to select. You may skip specific questions. Choose/navigate through questions as seems appropriate.
• The key objective is to get people to open up and share in order to increase empathy and motivate involvement/commitment/action.
• Before starting the dialogue, emphasize that this is a sharing/listening experience; the goal is not to reach agreement and certainly not to generate debate.
• Participants should answer these questions from their own faith and cultural background and remember that there is more than one way to answer these questions.
• At the end of the dialogue, the facilitator will be asked to put a ”stone of hope” into a collective basket. You are encouraged to share a hope or idea expressed at your table, or you may simply say, “This stone is a symbol of the shared hope from our table” (or similar). You may of course choose to be silent.
Questions for Dialogue
1. Transition from Performance:
What resonated with you during the performance? Were there any moments that touched a “personal chord”? (This is not an analysis or evaluation; it is a personal response)
2. Personal Reflections:
a. When you were growing up, what kind of contact did you have with people from other faiths, cultures, races, or faiths?
b. Was there a point at which you first noticed yourself responding to people from other faiths and cultures in a new way, different from how you had responded in the past? Please explain.
c. What attitudes did you learn from home, school, community, about other faiths/races/cultures?
d. What have been some occasions when you have felt puzzled by the behavior of a person whose “culture” is different from your own? What happened? What were some of your thoughts?
3. Moving forward:
a. How would you like to improve your interfaith/intercultural skills?
b. What might you do to move your community (home, faith, workplace, neighborhood, etc.) toward greater understanding?
Giving Meaning to Justice – Afternoon of Discussion, Performances Promotes Interfaith Listening
By Jennifer Lieberman, courtesy of The Two River Times, March 5, 2010
L I N C R O F T – The Monmouth Center for World Religions and Ethical Thought hosted a roundtable discussion and afternoon of the arts at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County on Saturday, Feb. 14.
The event, titled “Justice is Love in Action,” featured numerous speakers on the topic of social justice and equality. Inspired by the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it was co-sponsored by the social action committee of the UU congregation.
“Today we will give meaning to justice, today is Valentine’s Day,” said Reverend Gilbert Caldwell. Caldwell, a retired Methodist Minister was one of the speakers at the event, as well as MCWRET Board member Dr. Stevi Lischin. “The goal of the Monmouth Center is to encourage interfaith listening and understanding. Today is an opportunity for that,” said Lischin.
Reverend Virginia Jarocha- Ernst, Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation also spoke and welcomed audience members prior to the performances. Jarocha-Ernst has been the UUCMC minister since August of 2009.
Although the performances were focused on African American history in observance of Black History month, they were designed to evoke the interfaith dialogue that followed.
The performances included the debut of “Roots and Wings,” a West African drum ensemble lead by Skip Leib, who is a member of UUCMC. The ensemble consists of members of UUCMC and friends.
Also performing was the Al Wright Jazz Trio which performed such songs as “Come Sunday” by Duke Ellington. Dr. Carol Penn who was the creative director for the program, as well as a former Alvin Ailey Dancer, explained in an interview with The Two River Times™, that she chose “Come Sunday” and other arrangements by asking herself “which songs you love?” “Come Sunday” is one of her favorite compositions by Duke Ellington.
“Spirituality and faith are universal,” said Penn. Penn also felt that universality was what this day was about which was why “Amazing Grace” was one of the songs she chose. “All cultures have their own version of “Amazing Grace,” this song is about, “personal redemption, there is the universality,” she said.
Core of Fire Interfaith Dance Ministry of which Penn is director and co-founder, performed a dance ensemble of “Amazing Grace.” Actor and singer Lorraine Stone introduced the piece by telling the story of former slaver John Newton who wrote the song, and “gave up his livelihood as a slaveship captain.” This song was his way of expressing to God his realization of the “awfulness that he created,” she explained.
Penn also did a solo dance performance of “Take Me to the water.” Prior to the dance she explained that the song was a way of expressing the feeling of being, “otherized,” or “left out.” Water also represented “safety,” she explained later.
Perhaps one of the most powerful performances was “Strange Fruit,” in which the Core of Fire dancers assumed the appearance of poplar trees. This song was written by Abel Meeropol, (under the pseudonym of Lewis Allan) a Jewish school teacher from the Bronx, and was most notably performed by Billie Holiday. Stone explained that performers such as Holiday and others who performed on what was known as the Theatre Owners Booking Association (T.O.B.A) circuit could not eat at the restaurants nor sleep in the hotels in which they performed. When he learned of this, and of the lynching of African Americans in the south, this, “influenced Meeropol to write the song,” she said.
Following “Strange Fruit,” Reverend Caldwell spoke, recalling his own experiences with segregation when he worked in Atlantic City and was not allowed to sleep in the hotels or eat in the restaurants where he worked. “Some don’t like reminders,” he said, but without such reminders we can not know where we are today, he explained.
He also said that art helps us do that, “art makes us free to become involved.”
Caldwell also referred to the earthquake in Haiti and said that, “we of the first world,” are responsible for the third world. “Haiti provides us with an opportunity to engage in the, love that is justice,” he said.
There was also an offering for Save the Children for the Haiti relief fund in which $621 was raised.
In an interview with The Two River Times™, Caldwell discussed a speech by Martin Luther King titled “Beyond Vietnam,” and how this speech and King’s teachings were related to “Justice is Love in Action.” He explained that he felt Martin Luther King was about, transforming love, “to the larger society, changing the structure of society.”
“We should never be satisfied or seduced by progress, that’s what I think yesterday was about,” he said.
Caldwell and Martin Luther King are both graduates of Boston University School of Theology, where they met in the Spring of 1958.
The last performance was “We who believe in Freedom,” (Ella’s Song) sung by Bernice Johnson-Reagon, and written by Ella Josephine Baker who helped found the civil rights movement. The dancers engaged the audience in a short lesson in sign language saying the words, “We who believe in Freedom Cannot Rest,” as they danced the audience into the next room for the dialogue with a facilitator at each table. “This is a rare opportunity not just to listen, but to be heard,” said Lischin.
Donna Renfro, one of the facilitators asked attendants, “What resonated with you during the performance?”
Reverend Virginia Jarocha- Ernst replied that, “the music got me out of my verbal head, the words were beautiful.”
Jack Ives, a member of “Roots and Wings,” said the performances made him feel that we are, “more and more alike, no matter what our ethnic background.”
Renfro also asked, “When is a time in your life that you felt like a stranger in a strange land?”
Joanne Stankievich recalled that when she was living in Munich, Germany and did not speak the language, the older Germans knew she was American and when they looked at her their faces, “would turn to stone,” she explained.
Ives, who went to grade school in Harlem, remembered that he was, “one of three whites,” but that he did, “did not know what minority meant.”
“I didn’t see color, I was a minority but I didn’t feel it,” he said.
ClaraGee Stamaty Ziment who is Jewish was, “very aware of being the other,” she said.
As a child walking in her neighborhood she recalled that she was careful about what route she took and that kids would throw stones at her. She also explained that as a Jew she was, “always asked to explain what various things meant.”
She added that she is, “glad for all the experiences I’ve had in life.”
Stone responded to the question as well as she described the, “strange,” transition from a segregated childhood to middle school when integration began.
As an adult, Stone also experienced feeling like the, “other” when she got a job as the first black reporter at a local newspaper. The, “newsroom did not know what to do with that,” she said.
As the discussion came to a close there was a general feeling of needing time for more dialogue, but Core of Fire did a final dance followed by closing comments.
Renfro addressed the audience, and said, “The group was hopeful for how far we’ve come.”
After the event Reverend Jarocha-Ernst said in an interview with The Two River Times™, that the, “the most important part is the dialogue, we need more time for the dialogue.”
“Interfaith dialogue is what we use to get to the next level,” she said.
She also described what justice means to her as a Unitarian Minister and explained that historically the viewpoint of Unitarian Universalists is to be, “on the front edge of abolition, Unitarian Universalists see injustice and try to change it.”
Ernst explained the importance of Unitarian, “theology and how we see the world, how goodness works in the universe.”
“Justice is intertwined with love,” she said.
The organizations plan to host another ‘invitation to dialogue’ in early May.