I attended an Interfaith event last evening as I’ve done many times. I know a number of the participants from my years of chaplaincy and nonprofit work in the county. And (disclaimer) the director is my wife! The event honored her 10 years with the council and the 30 years this group has been a major nonprofit hub of education and action in Marin.
I sat with a nice couple I’ve known for years. She is a retired nurse who now works to bring together nonprofits all over the county. He is a retired physician with a wise and gentle nature. Both are Presbyterians. I also sat with a woman from the Church of the Brethren. Mingling around and sharing a meal, I spoke with a seminary professor, a therapist, several Dominican sisters (I always have to kiss Sister Marion), a Brahma Kumari sister, a tattooed Street Chaplain and his wife, and others I didn’t know anything about but their name. During part of the presentation I stood by a Gay Police Chaplain who is a Presbyterian Pastor and by a Wiccan Witch in the Pagan community. We heard young adults from Christian and Unity churches speak about why they are attracted to interfaith work. Sufi and Catholic women spoke about world needs. Money was raised for the good work of the council and the next generation of leadership.
As I helped distribute sparkling juice for a toast, I felt comfortable in this crowd of good people who happen to be people of faith. Some of them know I am a Freethinker and some of them say they are Freethinkers too. Reflecting once again about the divisive past of Religion, the present potential of Interfaith work and the future of Seculars and Spirituals, I continue to ask hard questions, as we must. I wonder where this will go in a world still so fractured and fearful with faith. I wonder sometimes if seculars can, in some way, offer some “salvation,” some healing, for spirituals. A world beyond faith. We can certainly learn from each other, identifying what needs to be done in our communities.
It may simply be that, step by step, relationship by relationship, name by name, meal by meal and common action by common action, People simply become People, faith or no faith, regardless of race or nationality or gender or anything. And there’s a lot, so much, to be done together.
I’m not an idealist (though it may sound like it). I’m actually a radical pragmatist who has seen what works and what doesn’t. And I carry some hope. . .realistic hope. Hope can be wise, since, think about it, what’s the alternative if you have no hope? Wisdom comes through experience, open reflection and active hope. The wise way forward seems to have something to do with what was evident last night. I hope so.
What is the future of Interfaith? I’m thinking maybe it’s Inter-connection. “Faith” will take a back seat. . .or at least not be driving! That’s what I saw last evening. That’s what I was toasting. And I have a sense everyone there, faith or no faith, was toasting pretty much the same thing.
Let’s see what we can create.