Thursday, January 29, 2015

Written By Guest Blogger, Katie Gordon - Conversation and transformation

“Listen not for the sake of information, but of transformation.”

Written by guest blogger, Katie Gordon
These words were spoken by Rev. Mihee Kim-Kort, ordained Presbyterian pastor and keynote speaker at the Midwest Regional Gathering for NEXT Church last fall. NEXT Church, a Presbyterian network of leaders who are working toward a future that is more relational, diverse, collaborative, hopeful and agile, met under the theme Embodied Faith, asking what Presbyterian values look like in daily actions.

I was honored to get to present a workshop on “entering faith… into interfaith” where we discussed how to integrate interfaith engagement into individuals’ values and institutions’ missions, but further than that, we modeled interfaith engagement by having a dialogue ourselves.
With a group of 30 Presbyterians – including seminarians, pastors, and community activists – I guided a “Speed Dialogue” – like speed dating, but for new friends instead of romance. Project Interfaith put together this comprehensive facilitation guide for interfaith organizers to use. Similar to the Interfaith Youth Core equivalent of “Talk Better Together” – the premise is simple – using conversation as a way of promoting open, respectful discourse about religion, belief, stereotypes, and identity.

While usually done within more diverse contexts, the opportunity to do this activity within a group of seemingly uniform people allowed for new interfaith lessons to sprout. We saw that interfaith dialogue is a model not only for cross-faith/non-faith conversations, but a way to appreciate the nuances and complexities within one tradition. It was even a perfect gateway into creating intentionally diverse settings in the future, with many church members interested in bringing the model back to their community and getting to know their neighbors through a Speed Faithing Night. Here are just a few lessons from that day:
1.      Commonality between strangers, yet a diversity of pathways
Participants had never crossed paths before, likely will never again, and came to value the commonality they found between their stories. But even in this context within same tradition, there was a varied range of pathways of where people were coming from and where they were going.
2.      Value of one-on-one conversations
Most attendees had participated in large group dialogues – where a delicate balance had to be struck to include all voices equally. With this opportunity for one-on-one conversation, they were able to ask questions, dig deeper, and be more focused with the discussion.
3.      Allows all people to speak and share perspectives.
The conversation is designed to be a give-and-take, with no dominate voice or facilitator, which places value in the voices of all participants – including those often overshadowed or overlooked.
4.      Embraces all aspects of identity.
Faith and beliefs are inseparable from other aspects of identity, like race, sexuality, and gender; Speed-Dialogue allows for an appreciation and respect of the complexity and intersectionality of identity. 

Participants walked away with new friendships, insights, and a program they could implement right away – one that would allow them to fully live out their faiths while engaging with the diversity within their tradition and within the wider community. I walked away with renewed hope in religious life – seeing faith leaders become interfaith leaders. As Kim-Kort said, this brave and courageous engagement creates an expanded vision and experience of God that pushes beyond the walls of the church. By letting differences permeate our experiences, we become more compassionate, pluralist, and ultimately, more human. 

Katie Gordon is the Program Manager of the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and works both in the local community and on the university’s campus to promote interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Katie is a graduate of Alma College, where she studied Religious Studies & Political Science, and is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Interfaith Action at Claremont Lincoln University. She is also on the Interfaith Youth Core Alumni Speaker’s Bureau, where she speaks about promoting interfaith in higher education, social justice & service, and engaging non-religious communities in interfaith work.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Meet New Staff Member, Sean Rose; Learn About Our Goals for 2015; and Read the top 5 posts from last week

Vertical Response Banner 2
New Staff...
Project Interfaith is pleased to introduce our newest staff member.Sean Rose Pic
Seán Rose is Project Interfaith's new Training and Outreach Director. An experienced and award-winning interfaith educator, facilitator,
and trainer, Seán has worked on cross-cultural programs in the United Kingdom,
Europe, and North America.

Seán has engaged hundreds of young adults through service projects and workshops, and
has facilitated United Nations award-winning education workshops in high schools, reaching 5,000+ students.

Seán has experience facilitating e-learning dialogues and university programs engaging students from different countries, cultures, and ideologies in dialogue
and shared action. He has worked with high schools, educators, colleges, universities, and community groups, and is passionate about education, building religious and cultural literacy, and social justice.

Seán holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Geography and International Development from the University of East Anglia. Sean lives in California where
he heads up Project Interfaith's west coast office.

New Goals...
Along with new staff come new interfaith initiatives in 2015.

Unraveled - Traveling Art Exhibit - VR Image - smallerUNRAVELED: Our Unraveled Traveling Art Exhibit 
will continue its journey across the country in 2015. 
We have a limited number of hosting opportunities still available for 2015, so get in touch if you're interested 
in having your college, university, high school, 
community group, or organization host the exhibit!

Google Hangout RavelUnravel Campaign 2TRAININGS / PRESENTATIONS / CONSULTATION:
In 2015 we will be offering face-to-face and online 
learning opportunities for community members and educators. Our next live, online training in the spring 
will explore using our popular Conversation Kits to 
guide interfaith encounter and dialogue in your own setting. We're also building out trainings and webinars 
to support educators using our RavelUnravel Curriculum. At the end of the month, we will be presenting at the 4th Annual Student Multifaith Leadership Conference, hosted at Occidental College, CA, and in February we'll be at Divinity and Diversity
a regional interfaith conference in Columbus, OH.

RavelUnravel - Curriculum ImageRAVELUNRAVEL CURRICULUM: Speaking of Curriculum, keep your eyes peeled for upcoming 
versions of our RavelUnravel Curriculum designed 
for new audiences in 2015.

Smartphone App Image 2SMARTPHONE APP: Our Religious and Cultural Etiquette Smartphone App is currently in 
development - stay tuned!
Speed Dialogue - Web Page Header 2 2NATIONAL INTERFAITH DIALOGUE NIGHT: Later in the year, we'll be hosting our first National Night of Speed Dialogue and we'd love you to join us. We're in conversation with local and regional partners and supporters to help in organizing this national event. We'll be sharing more details in our newsletters and on social media in the coming months.Project Interfaith website 2
WEBSITE: Technology moves pretty quickly. It's been said that website years are like dog years. To increase the interactivity of our website for our users and to 
make our website more easily accessible on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, we will be 
updating in 2015. We'll keep you posted!

Later in the year, we'll be hosting our first National Night of Speed Dialogue 
and we'd love you to join us. We're in conversation with local and regional 
partners and supporters to help in organizing this national event. We'll be 
sharing more details in our newsletters and on social media in the coming 

Same Drive...
People and initiatives may shift, but our mission is unchanged.
While Project Interfaith may have new staff members and new goals for 2015,
our drive remains the same. As ever, we will continue to dedicate our efforts to combating religious ignorance and discrimination with interfaith education and relationship-building. 

We invite you to join us as we continue to grow and evolve throughout 2015.

Top 5 Articles from Last Week
Every day Project Interfaith scours the internet looking for informative articles
from credible outlets that relate to our mission of growing interfaith
understanding, respect, and relationship. We like to keep you up to date
and in the know by sharing these articles on social media.

Below are the five articles that received the most likes, comments, and shares from the past week.

Guardian LogoThe Guardian
"Cologne Cathedral to Switch Off Lights in Protest at
Anti-Muslim March"
Click here.

Pew LogoPew Research
"Faith on the Hill: The Religious Composition of the
114th Congress"
Click here.

Daily Beaset LogoThe Daily Beast
"ISIS’s Gruesome Muslim Death Toll"
Click here.

Public Religion Research InstitutePublic Religion Research Institute
"Charlie Hebdo and Americans’ Opinions on
Religious Violence"
Click here.

Huffington PostHuffington Post
"The Why and How of Religious Diversity Training"
Click here

Please consider making a donation to Project Interfaith. 

Not only is it 100% tax-deductible, but you’ll feel great knowing you are supporting Project Interfaith’s mission of growing understanding, respect,   & relationships among people of all faiths, beliefs, & cultures! 

Thank you so much for your continued partnership & support,

The Project Interfaith Team

Project Interfaith grows understanding, respect and relationships among people of all faiths, beliefs and cultures. We offer innovative, community-building programs that educate and engage audiences on issues of faith, religion, identity and interfaith relations. For more information:




Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Lebanon Valley College of Annville, PA takes advantage of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Lebanon Valley College of Annville, PA takes advantage of Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day), an American national holiday, is to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. He was a man that fought for non-violence, specifically protesting racial discrimination, during the civil rights movement in the United States. Martin Luther King Jr. was so influential that soon after his assassination, a few men got together and created a campaign to have a new holiday for the socially confident man. It took many years, but in 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed a law for the holiday. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated on the 3rd Monday of every January. At first some states in the United States did not want to celebrate this day due to it being aimed at an individual rather than the movement as a whole. The year 2000 was the first year that all states finally agreed to celebrating the holiday.

MLK Day provides an opportunity to go out and learn something new about those surrounding you and help someone or volunteer somewhere. There are many schools and organizations that do not operate on MLK Day. People are encouraged to go out and help someone else. Lebanon Valley College is a small Liberal Arts College in Annville, PA. A few years ago, Lebanon Valley College teamed up with local organizations and offered to have some students volunteer to go and help out for a day. If a student is not able to go out and help locally, the student is encouraged to go to an educational session held on campus. These sessions are on different topics, which help students gain an understanding of a cultural group other than their own. The sessions are usually discussion and activity based in structure.

I got the opportunity to sit in on a session titled “Intercultural Sensitivity and International Students”. Throughout the session we discussed different things. We discussed things that we observe about other cultures and even observed our own culture here in the United States. We also learned about characteristics of low and high context cultures. The difference of context cultures depends on a culture’s communication style. A high-context culture would be a country such as Nepal (a country in Asia). They react differently to interactions with friends and strangers. They tend to use more hand signals and sometimes have a special language indigenous to the area. People from Nepal interpret the word “no” as a rude phrase. Usually when trying to say no (or the idea of no), they beat around the bush and say something like “I will see how I am feeling, then maybe I will go”. An example of a low-context culture would be the United States. Americans tend to be very outspoken and voice our opinions explicitly. We interact with everyone in our comfort circle the same way. We may interact with strangers differently than those who are in our own comfort circle. In this session, we also talked about Geert Hofstede’s Dimensions. These dimensions help one to understand other cultures.

As we were talking about these topics during the session, I thought there had to be a way that this relates to religion. After some thought, I realized there was an obvious connection between culture and religion. Religion is imbedded into culture. All around the world you will find that different countries have different ways of going about their daily routine or of interacting with one another. For example, someone in the Islamic culture would say, “assalamu alikum”, as a greeting. This is used to bring Muslims together and makes the bonds between them greater.

There is a lot to learn about religions that are not the same as your own. There are many good sources to help you understand other practices. Share what you learn about religions with others!
Links to learn more about:
Project Interfaith Conversation Kits to help you talk about religion and other topics!

Elizabeth Zeiner is a new member to the Project Interfaith team. She is one of two Communications Interns.  She is currently attending Lebanon Valley College, located in Annville, Pennsylvania, where she is a Religion Major with a Sociology Minor. She is a senior and will be graduating in May 2015.
Elizabeth has been involved with communities aside of her own and has traveled to various countries, such as Ecuador, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Switzerland, Hungary, France, and Italy. Traveling to all these places and gathering information from Lebanon Valley’s religion classes have helped her gain greater knowledge of the religious and cultural traditions throughout the world. Elizabeth has also attained an Interfaith Certification through Lebanon Valley College.
Elizabeth hopes that the experience of working with Project Interfaith will help her learn more about the world of religions surrounding her as well as gain more knowledge about non-profit organizations.