One of the blessings of American life is that our society is structured to promote good relations among people of faith. It was not always thus. There was a time when the various denominations were often in notso- splendid isolation, and even now, some denominations have only limited energy for conversations with “the outside world.” But the norm in America is that, while people may divide along conservative versus liberal lines, they are quick to find common cause with members of other faith communities who share their basic political and social orientations.
For the past half dozen years, along with several neighboring congregations, Christian and Muslim, Temple Israel has co-sponsored an “interfaith academy.” The format is a series of friendly and nonproselytizing evening gatherings, with the sponsoring congregations taking turns as hosts. One or two clergy make opening presentations, and the bulk of each evening is spent in small-group discussion, with selected clergy and religious leaders helping to facilitate these conversations. Before concluding, the group reconvenes and discusses as a whole the most interesting points that have emerged from each of the more intimate conversations.
This year, the series is entitled The Sacred Space of Word, Time and Journey. The topics included in this series are designed to help each person gain an appreciation of the emotional quality of the other’s religious life. What does it feel like to be a Jew, Christian, Muslim, at times of spiritual engagement?
The conversations are free and open to the public. Refreshments are served. Consider attending all four of the conversations, although people are certainly welcome to come to any of them individually. All of the conversations are scheduled for 7:30 pm, concluding by 9pm.
• Monday, June 18 Freemason St. Baptist Church “Pilgrimage”
• Wednesday, June 20 Temple Israel “Sacred Texts—Listening to God”
• Monday, June 25 St. Paul’s Episcopal Church “Sabbath, Lord’s Day, Jumuah”
• Wednesday, June 27 Masjid William Salaam “Prayer Texts—Responding to God”
The partnership has grown over the years. This year, two relatively recent arrivals in the neighborhood will be joining the veteran presenters, Imam Vernon Fareed, Rev. Scott Hennessy, Pastor Steve Jolly, Rev. Fred McCall and Rabbi Michael Panitz: Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz, of Beth El Congregation, and Pastor Aaron Brittain, of Talbot Park Baptist Church.
The Interfaith Academy represents a spiritual avenue to understanding and connecting with neighbors in faith.
by Rabbi Michael Panitz