Bahai News - Finding common ground
News from Costa Mesa, Newport Beach in the Times Community Newspapers
Finding common ground
Newport-Mesa Irvine Interfaith Council, which recently named its new
president, brings faiths together every month
Geeta Sacred Song, an international peace shaman, shared stories about how
she came to have her faith and chanted songs. She sang a Cherokee blessing
that translated into "beautiful day, what a beautiful day."
Pastor Dennis Short of Harbor Christian Church in Newport Beach nodded in
agreement. Newport resident Susan Gilman of the Bahai faith smiled quietly.
Jaimie Day, from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, listened.
For participants at Wednesday's Newport-Mesa Irvine Interfaith Council
meeting, this moment was what it was all about -- finding common ground
between different religions. After all, a beautiful day for a Roman Catholic
is still a beautiful day for a shaman.
"We thought it would be different from the verbal, intellectual sharing that
we do," said Short about Sacred Song's presentation.
The group, which has existed for more than 25 years, works to understand
different faiths and respect them. Their purpose is not to convert or judge
each other, but to learn.
"The key that separates people is ignorance," said Greg Kelley, who stepped
down as president last month after four years of service. "There's a distrust
of that which we don't know."
The council recently appointed Don Oliver, a Presbyterian chaplain at Hoag
Hospital, as its next president. He was out of town and did not attend the
Valentine's Day luncheon.
The meeting was attended by about 45 people, including clergy and laypeople.
Introductions included each attendee's name and the religious group he or
she belongs to. Christian Scientists sat among Sikhs who sat among Roman
When Gilman rose to introduce herself, she said, "I'm a Bahai who believes it
is vitally important for Americans to embrace shamanism."
When a public prayer was said by Eugene O'Toole, a council director from St.
John Neumann Catholic Church in Irvine where the meeting was held, he spoke
of God in generalities so that everyone could participate.
Day, who is vice president of membership for the group, said finding common
ground helps members to grow closer together instead of further apart.
"It does not make us divided by our beliefs," she said.
Jim de Boom, secretary and executive director for the Interfaith Council and
a Daily Pilot columnist, said it is important to understand people of all
faiths and backgrounds when trying to do a common good, such as community
The council, which holds eight luncheon meetings a year, has organized
home-building events for Habitat for Humanity, service fairs and National
Prayer Day events in past years.
"When we don't understand, we tend not to tolerate," he said. "We end up
hating. When we hate, we have fear and we have war."
The next interfaith council meeting will be held at noon March 14 at
Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, 2850 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. For
more information, call (949) 660-8665.
©Copyright 2001, Los Angeles Time
Page last updated/revised 021701
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