Over the last few months, we have been asked more frequently about our work in promoting interfaith dialogue. People want to know if there are bridges being built, even as we all see angry protests and rising antisemitism and Islamophobia across the United States. In a fractured world full of anger and hate, we can share with you rays of hope growing out of our programs.
On November 19, 2023, we attended a Friendsgiving at a local Episcopal church with 45 other people. Many attendees had completed our first tri-faith Interfaith Bridges™ program in February 2023, and this was their second “alumni” gathering. Other guests included families from that church’s school. Our Friendsgiving community therefore included Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, secular humanists, and undoubtedly people of other faiths as well.
Together we gave thanks for the opportunity to be in community sharing our different lived experiences. We acknowledged the tensions in the world, while celebrating our chance to be peacemakers. We participated in discussions about cherished childhood Thanksgiving memories and shared memories about neighbors who had been influential in our lives. We came into this space not knowing everyone at our tables, but we had the chance to learn a bit about each other’s lives and perspectives. And we sang beautiful songs together. It was magical, and beyond the delicious potluck meal we shared, this gathering was truly soul food for all of us.
This gathering was a direct result of our recent Interfaith Bridges program, and we rejoiced that this program encouraged green shoots of interfaith relationships to grow and prosper. Imagine if this same experience were being shared in communities across the United States. Imagine if all of us had relationships with people of different faiths and could call each other to check in and offer support when the news is horrifying, and we need solace and hope.
This year our Interfaith Bridges program had a successful “beta” launch, with 20 participants, six dedicated facilitators, and a church, mosque, and synagogue as sponsors. We received helpful feedback from our facilitators and participants and have been busy revising the curriculum to address the many excellent suggestions. As examples, we have shortened the program to five sessions, each two hours in length, and we have implemented professional voice narrations for our video presentations.
We are also excited to report that we are preparing to offer a version of our program, Interfaith Bridges™ - University Edition, as a pilot program with San Francisco State University’s Office of Diversity, Student Equity, and Interfaith Programs in March 2024. We have long dreamed of offering an interfaith dialogue program for college students and are thrilled to be able to partner with SFSU to make our dream a reality.
In August 2023 we attended the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago among more than 7,000 attendees from 95+ countries, representing 250+ different faiths. We appreciated the chance to gather with so many people eager to respect and celebrate our different ways of seeking and worshiping the Presence we all honor. We spoke on three panels offered at the Parliament and networked with many attendees supportive of our work.
In 2024 we plan to offer our Interfaith Bridges program to Abrahamic faith communities, interfaith organizations and colleges and universities across the United States.
How can you help us create more opportunities for bridge building? First, please let us know of churches, mosques or synagogues that might be interested in our program. We’d love introductions, or information about whom we should contact. And we’d love to brainstorm with you about how to introduce our program to anyone who values dialogue, collaboration, and peacemaking.
And if you believe in our work of creating opportunities for interfaith dialogue and peacemaking, please donate through our website, or send a check payable to Building Bridges Together, 405 El Camino Real #433, Menlo Park, CA 94025.*
Your donations will allow us to build more bridges. Thanks for your support this past year – it means the world to us.
*Building Bridges Together TM has received an exemption as a non-profit organization underSection 501©(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, with tax ID # 84-3222344.