|Calendar for WISDOM and Other Interfaith Events
Sunday August 10th through Wednesday August 13th
NAIN (North American Interfaith Network) Conference
Wayne State University
August 10th through 13th
See Flyer Below
Monday August 18th
6:00 PM – 8:30 PM
Jewish and Chaldeans Coming together
For a Potluck and Social Action
See Flyer Below
Victor and Shahina Begg
are honored for all of their interfaith work!
Shahina, a WISDOM Co-Founder, and her husband Victor are leaving the Detroit Metropolitan area to move to Florida. They will be sorely missed by the interfaith community. We wish Shahina and Victor all the best in their new home!
Trish Harris, Shahina Begg, and Gail Katz – all Co-Founders of WISDOM – are shown having lunch together with WISDOM’s current president, Paula Drewek at Papa Joe’s Bistro on June 9th!!
The Rev. Sandra Kay Gordon,
a WISDOM Sister, Passed Away
on June 4th, 2014
Article from the Detroit News, June 13, 2014
Gordon: Minister had gift for reaching out to people
Whether encouraging other women to pursue the ministry or counseling those who had faced personal struggles, the Rev. Sandra Kay Gordon loved reaching out.
“She helped so many people,” said the Rev. Kenneth J. Flowers, her pastor at Greater New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit. “That was her gift: helping others.”
The Rev. Gordon died Wednesday, June 4, 2014. She was 62. Born Nov. 7, 1951, in Detroit, she long was active in her church, where her father was a deacon. She worked in various jobs before attending Bible school and later becoming ordained. Part of the journey coincided with tragedy. In 1998, her daughter, Nakia, committed suicide at 23. After working with a Christian counselor, the Rev. Gordon turned her grief into action. She co-authored a book, “Nakia’s Gift: A Mother’s Journey from Misery to Ministry,” as well as “ministered to anyone who was going through issues,” Flowers said. “She reached out to people.”
The Rev. Gordon was ordained in 2000 – a time when African-American congregations were re-examining their position on female leadership, said David Crumm, a former print journalist and editor of ReadTheSpirit, a publishing company that specializes in religious and cultural works. Supported by church members and spurred by faith, she decided to help other women in the region who had similar aspirations yet faced challenges. Through Daughters of Deborah, a group the Rev. Gordon launched, “she would spend a lot of time counseling and encouraging women to accept their call to the ministry,” said the Rev. Sharon Buttry, a longtime friend who participated. That included offering opportunities to preach. “I think it was her calling. … She had been given an incredible freedom and opportunity to do that, and she felt that was a gift she could give to others.”
The Rev. Gordon also shared her gifts at church, where she spent more than a decade as Flowers’ assistant. Duties included preaching services while he was away, visiting the sick and leading a prayer group.
“She was loyal, she was faithful, she was committed, she was dedicated, she was honest, dependable, capable, compassionate and loving,” Flowers said. “She was full of joy, peace, contentment. She was one who was always on fire for the Lord.”
The Rev. Gordon also spent years with the Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit, or WISDOM, sharing during panels her experiences with issues such as discrimination, said Gail Katz, the group’s co-founder. “She’s just been an incredible model of a woman who has overcome difficulties and crossed boundaries. … She had a heart that just connected with other people.”
The Rev. Gordon worked with other interfaith efforts and was selected to visit Israel as part of a mission, said her sister, Theresa Doyle. “She really reached out to everyone … .”
Other survivors include her husband, the Rev. Charles Gordon Sr.; four children, Tony Grandberry, Carmen Larkins, Sandra Lynette Gordon and Charles Gordon Jr; a brother, Samuel Vernon; five grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.
Final Goodbyes: Death and Dying
Across the Faith Traditions
Henry Ford Hospital West Bloomfield
On Thursday, June 5th Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield in partnership with the InterFaith Leadership Council held a conference on death and dying across the faith traditions. The panel was moderated by Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, Senior Vice President of Community Health and Equity and Chief Wellness Officer at Henry Ford Health System. The panel consisted of Shama Mehta (Hindu) a chaplain at Oakwood Healthcare in Dearborn, Rev. Dr. John Duckworth (Christian) of Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church in Westland, Imam Abdullah El-Amin (Muslim) of the Muslim Center in Detroit, Raman Singh (Sikh), an active interfaith member of the Gurdwara Sahib Hidden Falls in Plymouth, and (not shown in the photo) David Techner (Jewish), Funeral director of the Ira Kaufman Chapel in Oak Park. Conversation dealt with cultural practices, dealing with sudden loss such as infant death , dealing with suicide, and important information that clinicians need to know to provide care to families facing end of life in a culturally competent manner specific to different faith traditions.
The sold out audience consisted of clinicians, and the conference was a huge success!
Spirited discussion: Religious leaders agree communication is key, but how do you get started?
Detroit Free Press
Religion, like politics, is something polite people aren’t supposed to talk about, particularly at the dinner table. And there’s sound reasoning for this: Passions can flame, voices spike, dissent can explode into disputes long-festering.
But if you never talk about religion, how will you ever learn? And that’s seen as vital now as society is becoming more multicultural, more multidenominational and ever more vocal.
“Over the years, I have noticed several changes,” Vasudha Narayanan, director of the University of Florida’s Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions, wrote in an e-mail. “People are less than shy about talking about religion; in fact, they wear it on their sleeves and also display it through their car bumper stickers.”
Knowledge is a good thing
Narayanan, a religion professor and author or editor of seven books, including “Hinduism” (Oxford University Press), thinks talking about religion is a good thing. What’s important, she stresses, is talking the talk in a nonconfrontational manner.
“The trick to a good religious conversation is humility, humor and sincerity – applied in the right way,” Stephen Asma, a philosophy professor at Columbia College in Chicago and author of “Why I Am a Buddhist: No-Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey” (Hampton Roads) writes in an e-mail from Beijing, where he is teaching on a Fulbright Fellowship. “If you approach a friend or acquaintance with a humble attitude – the opposite of missionary zeal – you’ll start a more honest dialogue. Sprinkle in a little bit of humor about your faith (yes, even serious believers should have a sense of humor) and ask sincere questions.
“Sincerity about your motives is crucial. Many people maintain devotion to their beliefs by harboring secret disdain for every other faith. If you’re just baiting someone in order to roll your eyes later with like-minded friends, then you’re not having a genuine interfaith conversation.”
Jane Larkin of Dallas, who writes about parenting for InterfaithFamily.com and pens the Seesaw column on intermarriage for the Jewish Daily Forward, says she and her husband, an Episcopalian, talk about religion all the time with their 9-year-old son. This is a change for her. Growing up, religion was discussed only by “people who were very observant or crazy,” she said.
Open up to the kids
“We want our son to grow up understanding religion is not a forbidden topic, and he needs to be able to speak about it,” said Larkin, whose book, “From Generation to Generation: A Story of Intermarriage and Jewish Continuity,” will be published in June. “It is very much in your face down here, and you need to be able to talk about it, take a position and support it.”
Why does talk of religion generate so much heat?
“It often comes from a gut place rather than a heart place, and a gut place is more reactive,” said the Rev. Shannon A. White, pastor of the Wilton Presbyterian Church in Connecticut and author of such books as “How Was School Today? Fine” (Integrated Life Enterprises) and “Invisible Conversations with Aging Parents” (Total Publishing & Media).
“When you talk to someone about your religion or religion in general, it’s important to come from the heart place,” she said. “You are not trying to change people. You are interested, curious even, in the other person and what their experience is.”
The surname Singh is so prevalent around the world that Canada used to ban immigrants from keeping it, claiming the name was too common to process quickly. Today it’s a loaded identifier: violence against those who bear the name Singh – adherents of the religion known as Sikhism – has escalated since the attacks of September 11, so much so that the FBI has devoted a branch to investigating such crimes.
Given the visual nature of the Sikh identity, the photo above is a long time coming. It’s part of The Singh Project, a new undertaking by British photographers Naroop Singh Jhooti and Amit Amin. The series features tight-cropped portraits of Sikh men, intended to “highlight the subjects,” according to a video on the project’s Kickstarter page.
The subjects are both diverse and narrowly chosen. Some are young, in leather and jeans. Others look like jolly grandfathers in a Tinkle cartoon. Several, young and old, brandish the traditional Sikh knife, or kirpan.
All though, follow the Sikh tenet forbidding the cutting of hair out of reverence for the body. Accordingly, many Sikh men — and some brave women — tend to sport luxurious facial hair. Their uncut head hair is hidden by a turban. The regal look, often confused by the uninformed for an Islamic one, befits the faith’s commonest name: Singh comes from the Sanskrit word simha, which means lion (think Disney’s “Simba”).
In the Kickstarter video, creators Jhooti and Amin discuss how embarking on the project has changed their view of Sikhism. Both are Sikhs, but neither devout enough to look the part:
“But we felt a sense of pride,” Jhooti says. “It was great to see these men come into our studio. Their pride in their identity was so strong that it reinforced our belief in our religion.”
The project also calls to mind the work of Waris Ahluwalia, a Sikh man-about-town who’s recently stirred up press. Known to his admirers simply as Waris, the designer/model/gadfly made national headlines last year, when a Gap ad he was featured in across the U.S. drew anti-Muslim vandalism.
The Singh Project is poised to pick up where Ahluwalia left off, broadcasting the unique look of Sikh men to the general public, with an exhibit of oversized prints.
“And of course,” Amin adds in the video, “plenty of tea and samosas at the launch party.”
To see the video go to:
The Spirit of Shanti and Salaam:
Transforming Hindu-Muslim Dialogue Into Action
The United States is truly exceptional in the fact that it “peacefully combines a high degree of religious devotion with tremendous religious diversity” (Putnam and Campbell, American Grace). Interfaith understanding is a central part of our nation’s history, from George Washington’s letter to the Newport, Rhode Island synagogue to the first Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893, to the 1960s Civil Rights Movement led by diverse faith leaders.
The challenge for our millennial generation is to continue translating America’s religious diversity into social action. The vast majority of interfaith efforts in the United States currently focus on the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. While such efforts are important, it is also necessary to engage with the growing numbers of Americans who identify with a diversity of other faith and spiritual traditions. In particular, we see great potential for interfaith initiatives between Hindus and Muslims, two groups that share similar experiences in the United States.
For starters, Hindus and Muslims share similar demographics. Each comprise roughly one to two percent of the American population, with large proportions of both communities coming from first or second-generation immigrant families with South Asian heritage. As a result, xenophobia is often a major issue for both communities, with both group facing allegations that they are “not American enough.” At the heart of the interfaith engagement between Hindus and Muslims should be a fundamental acknowledgment that both groups are small minorities in the United States, and that a coalition of voices is the best way to achieve pluralistic outcomes. Such an approach doesn’t mean that we have to gloss over our philosophical differences (or agree on various social, theological, or ethical issues), but instead maximizes our embrace of religious and cultural diversity.
The Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), one of the most well-known interfaith organizations in the United States, advocates for such a model. IFYC and its founding director, Dr. Eboo Patel — who advised President Obama on issues of religion in the United States — believe that interfaith cooperation is achieved through a combination of three factors: Respect for people’s diverse religious and non-religious identities, mutually inspiring relationships between people of different backgrounds, and common action for the common good. IFYC’s Better Together Campaign seeks to promote interfaith action for social justice on college campuses, recognizing that universities are fertile ground for inter-religious dialogue and community service.
In April 2012, I (Aamir) started Shanti and Salaam, the first Hindu-Muslim dialogue in Georgetown University’s history. This event brought together Hindu and Muslim students to discuss various social issues as well as their own faith experiences at a Jesuit-Catholic university. Rather than compromising or apologizing for their beliefs, the students actually reported becoming stronger in their faiths by engaging with the religious other. They also saw the similarities between both faiths, particularly in each religion’s emphasis on embracing diversity. For example, the Quran states that among God’s signs is the diversity in languages and colors of mankind, and that God created mankind into various nations and tribes so that we would come to understand one another (Quran 30:22 and 49:13). Hindus emphasize the equality in all and an acceptance of many paths to God, epitomized by the Rig Veda verse: “The Truth is One; The Wise Call It Many Names.”
However, having great discussions is just the beginning — not the end result. Indeed, the goal of these efforts is to understand that Hindus and Muslims can and should be part of the effort to promote religious pluralism in policy, education, and social discourses.
So what are some examples of what these groups can do together?
Hindu-Americans must join with their Muslim-American friends and cohorts to stand up against racial profiling and discrimination, and to ensure that Islamophobia is combated by a united front of diverse faith groups. Likewise, Muslim-Americans can help to fight stereotypes about Hindus that have led to years of misrepresentations about the religion. For both Hindus and Muslims, combatting these prejudices is critical since Hindu and Muslim victims of bullying and hate crimes are often targeted for the way they look, as what happened to Sunando Sen in December 2012. Hindus and Muslims can also work together to fight bullying in the classrooms, while helping teachers develop a constructive understanding of both religions and those who practice them.
In American Grace, Putnam and Campbell also observed that American faith communities provide “social capital” that can be used to address community concerns. As Muslims and Hindus in the United States, it is up to us to leverage our faith identities for social justice, and to create a “more perfect union.”
Building bridges between Judaism and Islam
RRC’s Muslim-Jewish Retreat for Emerging Leaders
Posted on June 15, 2011 by Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer, Ph.D.
2011 Retreat “Alumni Facilitators” Professor Homayra Ziad and Rabbinical Student Diana Miller, pictured at 2009 Retreat.
Several years ago, when I was still in rabbinic school, I participated in the first Retreat for Emerging Jewish and Muslim Religious Leaders, organized by RRC’s (Reconstructionist Rabbinic College) office of multifaith initiatives. I blogged about the experience a bit as it was unfolding, and later wrote the essay Allah is the Light: Prayer in Ramadan / Elul, which was published in Zeek magazine. (Here’s a short outtake from that essay.) Next week I will have the tremendous honor of participating in that retreat again — this time as an alumna facilitator.
This year’s retreat is for women only, which I think will shift the experience in fascinating ways. Our scholars will be Judith Plaskow (author of Standing Again at Sinai) and Aysha Hidayatullah (author of Feminist Edges of the Qur’an), and we will study the Sarah and Hagar story as it appears in our two traditions’ holy texts. I’m responsible for facilitating the storytelling session one evening, and will offer a short workshop in writing spiritual poems / psalms for those who wish to partake.
I am so excited about doing this. Attending the first retreat of this kind back in 2009 was an amazing experience on many axes at once: meeting Jewish student clergy from across the many streams of Judaism, meeting an equally-diverse group of emerging Muslim leaders, studying texts together, breaking bread together, delving into the difficult conversations about what divides us, coming away with a stronger sense of what unites us and how our traditions can inform and enrich each other.
It’s an honor to have the opportunity to help facilitate this experience for the women who will be attending next week’s retreat. (And having read the participant bios, I’m eager to meet everyone who is taking part!) We’ve been asked to eschew our “devices” — phones and computers and tablets — as much as possible so that we can be wholly present to the retreat experience, so I may not be online much during the four days of the retreat program, but I look forward to coming home with stories to share.
In mixed faith marriages,
focus is on ‘values,’ not ‘beliefs’
Kimberly Winston Religion News Service
If interfaith marriages are supposedly doomed, Dale McGowan’s should have been toe-tagged from the start. He’s a committed atheist; his wife comes from a line of Southern Baptist preachers. Yet 23 years and three kids later, they are still happily married. What’s their secret? McGowan, 51, has just written In Faith and In Doubt: How Religious Believers and Nonbelievers Can Create Strong Marriages and Loving Families, to help other couples considering what he calls a “religious/nonreligious mixed marriage” succeed.
“The key is to talk about your values,” McGowan said from his home in Atlanta. “A lot of time we mix up the words ‘values’ and ‘beliefs.’ Beliefs are what you think is true about the universe. Is there a God? Where do we go when we die? But values are what you believe are important and good. When you get couples talking about values they find out they share a tremendous amount, even if they don’t share beliefs.”
That’s what McGowan and his wife, Becca, did. While she believed in one God, she did not believe salvation could be had only through belief in Jesus. And he agreed that he could go to church with her — and did, for many years, with their children.
“This isn’t about the way I see the world — it’s about whether I can be in a loving, enduring relationship with someone who sees it differently,” McGowan writes in the book. “And when the question is framed in that way, the ‘big’ theological questions are actually smaller and less important than the social values questions. On those, this atheist and his Evangelical wife had a solid match.”
In their book American Grace: How Religion Divides and United Us, social scientists Robert D. Putnam of Harvard and David E. Campbell of the University of Notre Dame show that in 1950, about 20 percent of all U.S. marriages were interfaith. Today, that number is 45 percent. Nearly one in six (59 percent) of the religiously unaffiliated say they have spouses who are religious. Susan Katz Miller, author of Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family, said her work among couples of different faiths shows there is a need for more information for couples where only one partner is religious.
“I think religious/nonreligious couples face the same issues as interfaith couples — namely, respecting each other and supporting each other without having to agree on a set of beliefs or practices,” she said. “We need to hear more stories from these families and the variations we will hear in the stories of humanist/Muslim, atheist/Christian, agnostic/pagan couples, etc., will be an important part of this new narrative.”
McGowan, too, saw a need for a book on religious/nonreligious unions in his work with parents raising children outside a faith tradition. He is the author of two books on parenting without belief and writes a blog on the same subject.
“It was an absolute drumbeat throughout the parenting work I was doing,” he said. “People would ask me for a resource and there wasn’t any. It became overwhelming at a certain point, and I knew this book had to be written.”
Yet there was precious little data on marriages between religious and nonreligious couples when McGowan sat down to write. So he commissioned a study with demographer Mary Ellen Sikes at American Secular Census to paint a portrait of such unions.
The sample was small — just under 1,000 respondents from around the world — but the results are intriguing:
- Two-thirds of religious/nonreligious couples were aware of their difference before they married, but 29 percent did not know of the difference until after the union.
- About half of all respondents expressed negative emotions about the difference, while 34 percent said they were “indifferent.”
- In cases where the couple was unaware of the difference before marriage, 22 percent said it was because one partner experienced a religious conversion — or deconversion — after the marriage.
In those cases, the difference can sometimes be insurmountable, or nearly so. McGowan writes of one couple, Hope and David, parents of five who were both born, raised and married as conservative Baptists. David had been headed for ministry when he lost his faith entirely. After much unhappiness, unsuccessful counseling and lots of discussion, the pair decided to stick it out. “I wish I could say it was easy to make up my mind to love David and then move forward with that decision, but it was not,” Hope says in the book. “I realized that we weren’t likely to end our marriage in a peaceful or friendly way, in part because of David’s traumatic childhood, so I decided to stay. Five years later, I’m really glad I did.”
McGowan’s own wife, Becca, experienced a change of faith in their marriage — she now considers herself a secular humanist, a migration she says her husband had little to do with. And while McGowan said he laments the loss of a second worldview for his children’s upbringing, he remains optimistic about the benefits of marriage between people who do and don’t believe in a god.
“We have these black and white views of each other, the religious and nonreligious,” he said. “But the common ground is extraordinary between the two, and the fact that this is overlooked is something I really wanted to look at. You don’t have to go searching as far or hard for the common ground.”