Thursday, September 29, 2011

From the Intern Files: I Know What You Did Last Summer

by Project Interfaith Programming Intern, Kaitlyn Hayes

Thankfully, being away from Omaha over the summer didn’t bring my internship with Project Interfaith to a halt. Instead, I took Project Interfaith with me to my hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, conducting outreach work on behalf of the organization. This included networking and sharing Project Interfaith’s mission, as well as exploring what interfaith interactions have been taking place throughout the Lincoln community. After spending my spring semester as a Program Intern for Project Interfaith, I felt not only prepared to discuss interfaith with anyone, but also excited to actually do so. The conversations I experienced this summer reminded me of how much I love interfaith work and how truly important it is to communicate with one another.

Lincoln does not currently have a substantial interfaith presence, at least as far as any formal organization is concerned. An interfaith council was instrumental in past years, but unfortunately no longer exists. I spoke to clergy and many others active in the Lincoln community about the past and about their hopes for interfaith in the near future. All are so passionate about promoting interfaith in Lincoln, but either don’t know where to start an interfaith movement, or have tried but didn’t get the momentum they were aiming for. Project Interfaith wanted to build relationships with the Lincoln community, but we were not sure what that relationship would look like. Once we knew more about the atmosphere in Lincoln, it became clear that those passionate about interfaith will need to interact and communicate more with one another if they are to lead others in interfaith interaction.

I am currently taking a Small Group Communication class at UNO. According to the class textbook, communication is a transaction between two people or a group of people, often working together to achieve a common goal. It seems like a no brainer, but reminders never hurt anyone: communicating with one another is extremely important. If people are to come together to do anything, whether it is to play a game of flag football or to help grow an interfaith movement, they need to communicate. Communication between people has obvious benefits. These benefits are known as synergy, or the positive results of collective discussion and action between people. I personally have truly benefitted from the conversations I’ve had with other people. There is always new information to be learned, new ideas to be shared, and new relationships to be built.

The meetings I had with people in Lincoln this summer were definitely synergetic. Conversations among people who all have the same goal of developing a greater interfaith presence in Lincoln brought new ideas and renewed energy to the movement. What’s next for Lincoln? More conversations. There is even talk of a potential Project Interfaith-facilitated discussion between clergy and other active members of the Lincoln community, to engage one another in conversation about interfaith in Lincoln.

Once we begin communicating with each other, we may begin to truly interact. These interactions, like those I had with people this summer, can provide insights, learning experiences, and shared excitement, and we can begin to really experience what it is like to live respectfully and harmoniously with one another. And that is what interfaith work is all about.

Kaitlyn Hayes is a program intern for Project Interfaith. She is currently studying Sociology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and is also pursuing nonprofit certification through the Nonprofit Leadership Alliance. Kaitlyn is also involved with another nonprofit, Fine Lines, and is an officer for Circle K International (a community service organization). Through her time with Project Interfaith, Kaitlyn hopes to learn as much as she can about the nonprofit sector, as well as the diversity of our community. She enjoys people, learning, traveling (when she can), writing, and reading.

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