Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blending In, Standing Out

Two weeks ago I attended a the 6th Annual Marin Leadership Luncheon sponsored by the Marin Leadership Foundation. Marin Interfaith Council had sponsored two tables they sought to fill, so I signed up. Having gotten a bit lost on the way there, I arrived about 15 minutes late and entered a crowded ballroom. I was grateful to see Fu Schroeder from Green Gulch Zen Center wave at me from one of the tables. I was assigned to the other, with Carol Hovis, Chris Highland* and Nafisa Haji.

Usually I do a bit more research before attending an event that I understand to be interfaith in nature. This time I didn't. Imagine my surprise when I heard readings from the Bible and Christian prayers. Had I done my homework, I'd have known this was a Christian, although ecumenical, group.

I must admit I was impressed by the singer, Ken Medema, not that I liked his style so much as I admired his ability to be in the moment and to capture that moment right there as he sang extemporaneously. As a priestess, I have sought to cultivate this is a skill (not necessarily in song).

Jim Wallis, an "author, public theologian, speaker, and international commentator on ethics and public life," addressed the gathering with a talk entitled "Don't Hold on to Your Lunch." He works with a group out of Washington, D.C. called Sojourners, which claims to focus on faith, politics and culture. The best I can say for his talk is that he spoke in support of public health care as a moral issue, which to me it is. Most of what he had to say had little relevance to my life as a Pagan.

I'm not sure how comfortable Nafisa (Sufi) Chris (Nature chaplain), and Fu, (Zen Buddhist) were with the emphasis. At one point Carol thought I was going to get up and walk out, but I was only retrieving my purse from where it had fallen by my chair. If I've been invited somewhere and I've accepted the invitation, I'm not so rude as to leave before it's over. There would have to be some sort of personal attack for me to do that. Mom done brung me up better than that. I tried to blend in.

On the feedback forms, however, I commented that I found the event "uncomfortably Christian-centric." Cheeky of me, perhaps. Of course it would be Christian-centric if its mission is to be a Christian organization, but since this was billed as being interfaith I guess I expected a little more pluralism.

That evening at dinner I ran into Father Paul Rossi, another MIC colleague from St. Rafael's Church at Theresa & Johnny's Night Kitchen.** Paul laughed and said he'd been at the breakfast sponsored by the same group (MLF) -- evidently this was a day-long event -- and could have told me how strongly Christian-centered MLF is. Corby and I dined at T&J's because the proceeds of that evening's meals was earmarked for the Marin Interfaith Street Chaplaincy.

* * * * *

Thursday night my friend Patrick McCollum and I will be driving to Santa Clara to attend The 3rd Annual Dialogue and Friendship Dinner sponsored by the Pacifica Institute. This group, although they claim to be interfaith, limits itself to the big three Abrahamic religious traditions. It promotes the work of the Gülen movement, founded by a Turkish-American Sunni/Hanafi Muslim named Mehmet Fethullah Gülen. Patrick and I may be the first two Pagans to have been invited. The invitation, quite formal in its extension, is the work of my UU sister, Catherine, who's known this group for a few years. This past May Catherine and her husband Anthony spent about two weeks touring Turkey under the sponsorship of the Pacifica Institute. All they had to pay was their airfare.

Will we stand out?

* Carol and Chris are the couple at whose wedding I led a dance.
** Theresa & Johnny's only serves breakfast and lunch, except for one night a month when the serve dinner and give the proceeds to a specified charity.


A.C. Fisher Aldag said...

Hee hee, of COURSE it was billed as "interfaith", that is why they invited the token Pagan Priestess, Buddhist, Sufi and Nature chaplain. Give 'em credit for trying... and for free food.

Heather said...

..."Will we stand out?"

Hmmmmm....could be! :)

I go to interfaith gatherings to help them actually be interfaith and not just "inter-sects."

Broomstick Chronicles said...

Thanks for the notion of 'inter-sects,' Heather.

I'm working on a report of the Dialogue and Friendship Dinner. With the exception of car problems getting there, I can tell you it went very well indeed. At least, both Patrick and I felt that way. More soon.