Tuesday, November 26, 2013
By our Resource Development Intern, Kristi Grieder
I am excited to be a Resource Development Intern at Project Interfaith for the same reason I studied religion in college. I am fascinated with people and deeply want to understand what values, beliefs, and passions shape people’s lives. While I enjoyed studying various religious traditions and systems of thought in my degree, I am most interested the complex and nuanced identities of individuals.
What experiences have shaped your beliefs about life? What people or places have profoundly impacted you? What practices are meaningful to you? What excites you? What keeps you up at night?
These are a taste of the questions that surfaced while participating in my first interfaith dialogue group in college. Our group was not interested in comparing and contrasting religions. Instead, we spoke in first person about our beliefs, doubts, struggles, and joys. We wondered out loud about the world. We listened. We did not respond with advice or awkward silence. We did not tune out when confronted with difference. We were taught to be present to one another and ask open and honest questions—questions that continue to challenge and cultivate my spiritual identity even years later.
As our group met over many weeks we also started to see the walls come down. For many, this invisible wall was not intentional or personal. It was not meant to exclude others, but had been built by the fear of being misunderstood. The walls not only blocked a connection with others, but it kept us withdrawn, afraid, and uncomfortable with sharing who we are.
Maybe a brick was laid each time someone made fun of our ideas or beliefs. Maybe a brick was laid with each blank stare. Maybe a brick was laid when someone tried to convert us. Maybe the wall was built by the despair from experiencing or witnessing violence, hate, and religious conflict in the world. Regardless of the cause, it slowly and stealthily walled us in and others out. But the genuine curiosity, rules of respect, and space for reflection that are essential to interfaith dialogue started to knock down the walls. Trust grew and real relationship became possible.
I was reminded of this phenomenon when I most recently interned at Well Within, a nonprofit holistic health resource center in Woodbury, MN. The aim of Well Within is to nurture the mind, body, and spirit of those who enter its doors. Oftentimes, the guests are suffering from mental illness, cancer, grief, or chronic pain. When dealing with severe health issues, it can be easy to focus on the mind and body because these things are demanding the attention of the person. One could show up for a therapy session or yoga class to obtain the free or low-cost service they need. But during my time at Well Within, I sensed a longing for something deeper. I often stopped my tasks for a woman who needed a listening ear. I saw frequent guests return week after week, despite transportation obstacles, to be in a small group. Overall, I observed a deep hunger for a sense of community. Many guests needed a safe place to explore their spiritual identity and process life’s mysteries and challenges. They needed a place where they could be known by name, let down their guard, breathe deeply, and fear no judgment. While this instance is not an explicit interfaith group, this experience reinforced the importance of creating and sustaining places of trust.
This is why I am excited to be part of Project Interfaith. I see the possibility of dialogue and relationship through their programs, products, and services. I am drawn to this place where I am respected as a whole person—mind, body, and spirit. More importantly, I am eager to develop resources to help others create spaces for sharing in their communities. Not only is this task essential to Project Interfaith’s mission, but it also promotes healing in individuals and communities in ways unseen. The invisible walls can be replaced with postures of openness, acceptance, and respect. Without this commitment, how can a person who is diagnosed with cancer navigate treatment when her personal beliefs are not respected by her health care providers? How can a mother who lost her daughter heal without wrestling with her deepest questions about life and death? How can a college student learn to critically examine diverse perspectives when his own point of view is not welcomed? How can co-workers resolve a conflict without learning to listen to the other person’s opinion?
I admire the way Project Interfaith equips communities, workplaces, schools, and healthcare providers with the skills to navigate religious and cultural diversity. It is a great privilege for me to contribute to this organization by developing resources that challenge assumptions and barriers, and instead, grow understanding, respect, and relationship among people of all faith, beliefs, and cultures.
Kristi Grieder is Project Interfaith’s Resource Development Intern. Kristi obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where she explored her spiritual and cultural identity through studies in religion, sociology, and writing.
Kristi is excited to share her longstanding passions for religion, research and justice with Project Interfaith. Her engagement with the interfaith movement began in college as a participant of a dialogue group. In past volunteer and work experiences, Kristi has developed resources on environmental stewardship for diverse faith communities, taught English to refugees in Malta, connected college students to resources as a Resident Assistant, mentored youth, and conducted research and writing on various socio-economic and environmental issues. Most recently, she worked for a non-profit holistic health resource center that serves people in need. Kristi’s long-term plans are to pursue a Masters of Divinity degree. She believes this internship will not only diversify her skill set in the nonprofit sector, but also deepen her capacity as a compassionate and creative leader in an increasingly diverse society.
In her free time, Kristi enjoys board games, reading and writing, being outdoors, and one-to-one conversations. Originally from Minnesota, Kristi is a new resident of Omaha. She looks forward to getting to know the area and empowering others as a Resource Development Intern for Project Interfaith.
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013
You have finally met your Prince Charming and he has finally asked you to marry him. You are both elated and can’t wait to share your news and start the planning process, until you remember one thing – you are from different faiths.
Of course, you both knew that you celebrated different religions when you first started dating, and it was never a big deal to you. However, now that you are getting married, this difference of faith raise some problems. Your difference of faith doesn’t change how much you love one another, but it may have an effect on the way your wedding plays out; especially if you are planning on having a religious ceremonies. You see, different faiths tend to have different traditions when it comes to marriage, and these differences may cause a stir.
Take a deep breath and rest easy knowing that it is possible to successfully have an interfaith wedding and marriage. Here’s a statistic that will help you feel better about your situation: Back in the 1950s, only 20 percent of married couples within the US were of different faiths. Today, that statistic has risen to 45 percent. That rise in numbers says something, and it says something good.
But, that statistic aside, you still wonder how you and your fiancé are going to successfully meld your religions. After all, you are a real couple, not a number. With some careful planning, understanding and compassion from both sides, an interfaith wedding – and marriage – can be done. Here are some things to consider that will help you in your endeavor.
Talk About Your Faiths
The best way to start is by having a conversation about your faiths. If you are both very committed to your religion, you probably already know this about one another; but if you aren’t, it may not be clear how important traditions are. For example, if one of you celebrates your faith, but the other one doesn’t – and it’s not a big deal – you might consider leaning more toward the faith of the person who honors his or her religion.
A Family Affair
Typically, religion is about more than just you and your fiancé; it is about your families, as well. If you are marrying someone of a different faith, both of your families may have reservations. Your parents and grandparents may be concerned about whether or not you share the same morals and how you are going to carry on your traditions, for example. Hear your family’s concerns and try to accommodate them; however, remember that at the end of the day, you aren’t getting married for your family, you are getting married for the two of you. Your happiness is what matters the most.
Honoring Your Faiths
Once you know how important faith is to one another, start figuring out a way to honor each one. For example, try to incorporate traditions from each religion into your wedding ceremony and reception, and into your married lives together. For instance, a Catholic and Jewish couple may have both a Priest and a Rabi perform the ceremony and may celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.
An interfaith wedding can be a delicate situation, but with openness, honesty, care, and compassion, you can successfully make a union between people of different faiths work.
Uma Campbell is a freelance writer from Southern California. She loves writing about weddings and believes that anyone planning an interfaith wedding can make it successful. She contributes beauty and health content to the Bellezza Spa blog, where you can read more of her work.
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Thursday, November 7, 2013
I am excited to intern at Project Interfaith. I was impressed by the organization when I learned about it through Clarkson College. Project Interfaith aims to reach all people regardless of their beliefs. Project Interfaith serves those who believe in one God, no God, multiple God forms or are unsure about their spiritual or religious identity. Project Interfaith serves people by hosting interfaith programs and providing resources so that people may engage outside of these programs in dialogue that promotes respect, tolerance and understanding among people of different beliefs. I think working to increase these attributes of our social world is critical. I like that Project Interfaith is totally inclusive because our world is totally diverse, and so requires this approach.
I care that people are able to live and express themselves freely. The work of Project Interfaith is important to me because I see that it creates and strengthens safe spaces for such expression. In a book once I read a passage where a lawyer described the function of laws as clearing a path for people to walk through the woods. He described laws as creating space for justice in society. I believe the work of Project Interfaith is similar in function. Work that promotes tolerance, understanding and respect is very important to the world now and forever. People are and always will be different and need to understand and respect one another to go forward in their lives and this space that is shared.
Throughout history and in current global events, there are far too many realities where individuals’ lives are limited in a number of ways and even ended by discriminatory policies, violence or prejudice based on their beliefs. These limits exist when people’s lives are organized by direct discrimination and also when they change how individuals consider themselves and their own potential and worth. Volunteering for Memory of a Nation, I read witness accounts of individual’s lives during times in which totalitarian governments ruled. The extreme measures taken both by regimes, to usurp individual rights, and by people, to protect their own freedoms, made me see more clearly the integral role of protecting individual freedoms, like freedom to worship. Martin Luther King Jr. famously said, “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be.”He was speaking about the inescapable interconnectedness of humanity that makes the work for justice so critical. By working for tolerance and understanding Project Interfaith expands areas of security in which people are able to grow, realize, and express themselves freely.
Running, being in nature, drawing, writing and listening to stories in the many ways they are told are some ways that I feel connected spiritually. These are parts of my life I really value and I feel richer by them. I like listening to musicians talk about music and what it is like for them to make it. I think there are shared experiences that lie underneath us all and that all people are connected in spirituality. I think religion and spirituality must be protected in society so that people can live to be free. I care that people can have healthy lives and grow to self actualize. In hearing stories others tell in their music, words and art I learn about diversity in the world and experience and also about who I am. I was impressed by Ravel Unravel and to the mosaic approach it takes in describing Omaha’s religious and spiritual community because it takes experiences and beliefs of individuals and presents them as a part of the whole that they are. The history and identity of the many religious and spiritual traditions in the world is as deep as the seas. I think there is a lot of beauty and truth to be discovered there and that the exploration makes our communities stronger.
Michaela Wolf is the program intern at Project Interfaith. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies with a focus in Biology and a minor in Sociology from the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. She currently attends Clarkson College, pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. Her interests include reading, writing, running, the outdoors and art.
She is excited to work for Project Interfaith because she thinks strong communities need the understanding and respect the Project Interfaith works to achieve. When she volunteered for the Memory of a Nation project, a compilation of interviews with witnesses to totalitarian government in Europe, she came to see in a different way how each individual has a unique experience in the world that is vital for them to express in some way. Respect and tolerance provide the space for such an opportunity. She does not know what job she would like to hold in her life exactly, but knows that she would like to advocate in some way for people to have the freedom to share their stories, whatever they may be. She is a reader for Radio Talking Book Services. Reading has been a life- long love; she loves hearing stories whether by picture, novel, song, newspaper or any other form telling.
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