How can an interfaith gathering enrich one’s faith tradition and practice? While I’m committed to the merits of interfaith dialogue and work as a volunteer at the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington, it wasn’t until I attended an interfaith potluck celebrating this year’s Day of Unity that I found answers to this and to related questions.
Walking into the beautiful Adams Morgan Community Center where the potluck was being hosted, I was immediately struck by the openness and warmth of the gathering. Mustafa jumped up to open the door and greet me, while others around the table spontaneously introduced themselves and shared how they envisioned structuring our discussion. While we introduced ourselves and our faith traditions (Jewish, Muslim, Baha’i, Christian Scientist and Catholic) I realized that the interfaith nature of our gathering created a unique, safe space for discussing values and relationships with the Divine. There clearly wasn’t a single right way. I felt energized hearing new words and stories told to describe the same values I also hold dear.
Perhaps it was the delicious food we shared that explains the congeniality and substantive richness of our discussion. I also, however, credit our shared belief in the Divine with fostering communication and understanding. In fact the guidelines for interfaith dialogue – provided courtesy of the IFC – weren’t needed to keep our conversation on track and the discussion flowed seamlessly.
Everyone lingered past the time allocated for discussion and we may have continued for another hour if it weren’t for the closing of the venue. We didn’t arrive at earth shattering conclusions, but we certainly touched on interesting topics and questions. What for example, do interfaith groups offer to our communities that differs from what is already being done by individual houses of worship or countless social justice organizations? What difficulties do we at times encounter in communicating our faith values in a secular world and why ? and how do we explain to a young person “Why God would inspire diversity in human faith practice ? “ A beautiful answer shared from the Muslim and Baha’i experience points to different types of love experienced within a family. The love I experience as a son or daughter differs from the love I experience as a parent, spouse or sibling, and one is not superior to another. As a human being I need, benefit from and cherish many types of love …. the same seems to be true of the Divine.
The nuggets of wisdom I gained by attending this interfaith potluck make me eager to seek out similar gatherings in the future. It was clear that despite commitments to our respective faith communities, an interfaith gathering generates a creative energy that isn’t easily found elsewhere.
by Aleksandra Braginski, 2019 IFC Ignatian Volunteer