Interfaith Leadership A Primer
By Eboo Patel, Eboo Patel
A guide for students, groups, and organizations seeking to foster interfaith dialogue and promote understanding across religious lines...
Have you seen the Android commercial where the rock, paper, and scissors become friends? It’s the latest using the tag line, “Be Together. Not the Same.”
I admit to loving these ads. My life has been full of experiences of being together with people in groups where I am different from the majority. I get “being together, not the same.” It is a crucial concept for us as Unitarian Universalists doing interfaith work.
This year, I started to make good on a commitment I had made as director of the UUA Faith Development Office: to reach out to peers who serve other faiths and find ways to support one another and work together for the greater good.
I started with telephone conversations. Then, in January, I took a bigger leap, along with Gail Forsyth-Vail and Pat Kahn, to attend the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators (APCE) conference in Chicago. The APCE is one of the largestecumenical gatherings of Christian religious educators in the country. Booking plane tickets for Chicago in January is a leap of faith; hoping that we would feel welcome was another. I am glad I took these leaps.
Groundwork was laid by contacting staff of APCE and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Their emails were warm and inviting. We were welcome to attend the conference, and they hoped to find time to meet with us.
The conference had 750 attendees and offered a plethora of workshops. I attended a well planned, interactive workshop on how to help people decide to embrace change and a workshop I felt less enthusiastic about, on race. In between, there was worship with great preaching by the Reverend Otis Moss III of the United Church of Christ, keynote speeches, and yes, even time to meet with a few Presbyterian Church staffers who discussed their work’s growing edges (which sounded strikingly familiar to me). I believe our conversations left us feeling as if we were in this work together, as liberal religious leaders doing our best to help ourselves and others make meaning of our complicated lives.
Our differences called for some translating, on my part. It felt disingenuous of me to sing some of the hymns, so I skipped some. I did not take communion, but I did accept an anointed blessing. Being together did not mean we were the same, and I felt no pressure to pretend or to disguise myself. One of the organizers of the conference invited us to attend in Denver next year and offered to provide a pre-conference gathering for any UUs in attendance.
Yes, Android has it right (no offense to Apple fans!) You can watch the “Be together. Not the same” Android ads on their YouTube channel.
One reason we, as Unitarian Universalists, may feel welcome in a mixed-faith environment could be the often multi-faith nature of UU congregations. Does your congregation offer the new pamphlet, Home for Multifaith People and Families?
The APCE website includes information on their 2017 conference.