Bahai News -- The Olympian - What would Grandma say? Circles encourage talking about religion The Olympian, Olympia Washington
Saturday, January 18, 2003


What would Grandma say? Circles encourage talking about religion

Leslie Edwards-Hill

You are invited to participate in a groundbreaking, cutting-edge, grass-roots event --interfaith dialogue. It's coming soon to a location near you

What is it? Why would you want to participate? Read on.

When I was growing up, my grandmother, a wise woman who was the wife of an Episcopal minister, gave me sage advice: Never talk about religion or politics. Naturally, I did exactly the opposite, and spent many happy hours discussing the relative merits of Catholic dogma and the Episcopal viewpoint with the neighborhood kids. I won't elaborate on not bringing up the topic of politics, guidance I also ignored.

In retrospect, I think my grandmother was right in many things she taught me, but I still differ with her admonition not to discuss religion.

In fact, I cannot think of a topic more important or pressing in these troubled times. Religion has been and continues to be the cause of many wars and much human suffering. I have never been able to believe that God (or whatever you choose to call the divine force) really wants us to kill one another because of our religious beliefs.

A common theme in all religions is "Love one another." We cannot love one another unless we get to know one another. Frequently, our religious views are walls, not windows. Interfaith dialogue enables us to explore our commonalities and respectfully discuss our differences.

This is an invitation to you to engage in interfaith dialogue with people whose beliefs are different from yours. They may not be extremely different; in a Study Circle for Interfaith Dialogue, a Presbyterian may be discussing and sharing his belief system with a Methodist, but may also be sharing it with a Buddhist, a Jew, a Baha'i, a Catholic or a Unitarian.

Members of Associated Ministries have pioneered a Study Circle for Interfaith Dialogue and are now welcoming the public to participate.

It's free -- and it's a commitment of two hours a week for five weeks, weeks in which you can explore your spiritual beliefs in an atmosphere of confidentiality and mutual respect.

The following are quotes from participants in recent study circles:

"We couched our circles not as discussions among representatives of different faiths, but as dialogues between seekers who happen to come from different traditions, and bring to the table a desire to learn from others more than just to explain themselves." --Scott Stevens

"Everyone in the group listened to the others in such a respectful way. People spoke from their own experience, and no one tried to convert anyone. I appreciated that, and it made me want to delve deeper into others' faiths." --Barbara Gibson

"I enjoyed the sharing of our different beliefs in a nonthreatening manner. By focusing on specific issues and questions, we were able to get to the core values of our faith, where all religions share common ground, without dwelling on the details of dogma." -- Nancy Mackin

"I feel very blessed to have been a participant in the Study Circles for Interfaith Dialogue. What a wonderful opportunity it was (and is) to deeply experience the unity that unites and bonds us all as truly loving and spiritual beings." -- Judith Bouffiou

All study circles will be led by trained facilitators, and the kick-off informational meeting will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Olympia Library. There will also be informational flyers at the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on Monday.

For more information, call the Associated Ministries office at 360-357-7224.

Leslie Edwards-Hill is chairperson of the Olympia Baha'i Community. Perspective is coordinated by Associated Ministries in cooperation with The Olympian. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Associated Ministries or The Olympian.

©Copyright 2003, The Olympian (Olympia Washington, USA)

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