There were three workshops -- in reality they were panels -- preceding the main gathering. The first session addressed the question: "What Has Caused Abandonment of the Center in Faith Traditions?"
The format was to have two chairs and 12 speakers on each topic, each speaker being given three minutes. Need I say that this didn't turn out to be a very workable format? First of all, the questions each panelist was asked to address were too complex to even begin to answer in only three minutes. Second, academics are accustomed to loquaciousness. So, of course, some of the speakers had to be asked to conclude their remarks before they were done, while those who were succinct seemed to have to rush to say all they wanted to say. A shame, really, because most of them had lots of thought-provoking and inspiring things to say. Ah, well.
Don took copious notes so I know he'll be writing up a more detailed synopsis than I. We'll compare our notes and probably fill in some gaps before final publication in CoG's interfaith report -- Don is the official interfaith representative from the Covenant of the Goddess -- but in the meantime I'll be recreating some of what I took away from the presentations, some of the thoughts their words generated in my mind, but mostly impressions. This isn't intended to be a detailed report.
Most of the panelists were Buddhists and Muslims, and, as you might imagine, most were male. All were stunningly knowledgeable and accomplished. There were a few Jews and Christians, one Native American and one Hindu nun from the Vedanta Society. They came from all over the world, with a concentration drawn from California. The majority seemed to be on the Abrahamic religions, not surprising, since most Westerners follow one of the three big Abrahamic paths. I imagine there were fewer Christians because this was taking place on Good Friday.
Interestingly, and not surprisingly, the American-born or -reared speakers spoke in much louder voices than those from other countries. Two in particular wouldn't have needed a mike, except that the talks were being filmed and recorded, and one, the amazing Huston Smith, could have filled an auditorium with his voice.
Now that I've explained the general set-up and personnel, I'll return another time to speak in greater detail about what they had to say.