Review: Wednesday Webinar Calls Churches to Facilitate Interfaith Connections and Create Unity

November 12, 2020

“Relationships, relationships, relationships—this is all about building connections,” stated Rev. Alan Jones of St. Mark’s UMC and member of the Conference Committee on Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships (CCUIR) speaking at the recent Wednesday Webinar on November 11, 2020 entitled, “How to Make Connections Through Christian Unity and Interfaith Relations.”
 
Four members of the committee were on hand to present their stories and ideas in order to spur local churches to broaden outreach and ministry connections by partnering with ecumenical and interfaith partners.
 
“I’d also say it’s about maturity and integrity in a life of faith,” added Jones describing ways his church currently interfaces with a nearby AME church for a Zoom discussion group. “I think when we isolate ourselves from other faith traditions, we deny ourselves some extraordinary means of grace.”
 
Rev. Akiko Miyake-Stoner, committee chair and senior pastor at Clovis United Japanese Christian, shared Resolution #23 which the committee presented and was adopted at the 2020 Annual Conference Session to encourage interfaith connections:
 
“Be it resolved that every congregation and agency of the California-Nevada Annual Conference make concrete plans to initiate at least one event during the next Conference year designed to enable deeper ecumenical or interreligious interaction. Such events may include:

  1. An online community interfaith Thanksgiving service where representatives of multiple faith traditions are invited to participate and share their personal expressions of thanksgiving.
  2. An invitation to members of other churches and faith traditions to join in a one-time seminar on racial justice or social healing in the face of COVID-19.
  3. An online Bible study with a small group of people from two different churches of different denominational, theological, or ethnic backgrounds.
  4. Inviting a Rabbi or an Imam or a Buddhist/Jain Hindu leader—or clergy of other denominations or other ethnic groups—to lead a video prayer for online worship.
  5. Instead of a sermon, interview a representative of another faith tradition on a shared subject, such as prayer, as part of a recorded worship experience.
  6. Request sharing of music videos with a congregation different culturally and maybe theologically from your own.
  7. Planning an educational series of weekly gatherings during Lent to share differing religious and social experiences.
  8. An online interfaith/ecumenical gathering such as a “Children of Abraham” seminar where Jews, Muslims, and Christians explore shared dimensions of their faith traditions.
  9. Organize a training workshop with other ecumenical and interfaith leaders to develop an action strategy to engage the issues of religious bigotry and prejudice or the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement. “
The resolution invited churches to be in prayer for people of other denominations and religious traditions and be proactive in responding to the evils of religious bigotry and hate crimes. It also encouraged churches to write articles about their experiences for publishing in the Instant Connection or to share directly with the committee at akiko@ujcclife.com.

Miyake-Stoner introduced a new conference CUIR resources webpage. The page includes a list of local ecumenical and interreligious organizations in each district in the conference; a list of online links, books and other resources on ecumenical, interfaith, pluralism, and world religion topics; past interfaith Thanksgiving service drafts; children’s resources with a link to a database of children’s books; and a network of guest speakers. Find the page HERE
 
The panel discussed using zoom to access resources from not only the local area but people and organizations around the world.
 
“Geography doesn’t matter anymore,” stated Jones answering a question about churches located in areas with less diversity. “There are ways to make connections with anyone in the world!”
 
“But start where you are,” stated Tara Macy, pastor at Shasta Lake Community Church. She recalled work with only one other protestant denomination in her small town. Later she became part of a countywide interfaith group. “Then, branch out from there.”
 
“I’ve been enlivened and renewed in my own Christian faith and at the same time, very warmed by the love of God I experience in people of other traditions,” stated Rev. Rebecca Goodwin, a retired pastor. Goodwin summed up the impact of her personal involvement in interfaith relationships including, “… really great friendships with other people.”
 
“My Christian faith been incredibly enriched and stretched into places I didn’t know existed,” stated Rev. Jones.  “… I believe my world has been opened up in the most extraordinary and miraculous ways.”
 
“I think that there is a level of excitement when I get to learn about others,” said Macy referring to her participation in joint events and attending meetings of the Interfaith Community in Shasta County group.  “… the monthly meetings of interconnecting with people that are different and that are excited about community bonding and relationship building is restorative … nourishing to us.”
 
Goodwin has pastored in several small towns, initiated connections and set up interfaith groups. Goodwin showed slides of how interfaith work can go beyond relationships to public events that range from joyous to very serious.
 
“Now, more than ever, in the midst of this pandemic and anxiety and worries near and far, I think people of different faiths have a great opportunity right now,” stated Goodwin. “We can demonstrate together in both joyful ways and serious, urgent ways—we can show our concern for what is not right in our world and we can show our hope in all that is good… I think now more than ever, the world needs interfaith witness to offer hope and healing.”
 
“If you have any resources that have been especially powerful for you,” stated Miyake-Stoner, “please share them with us! Let us cultivate more unity!”
 
Connect with Miyake-Stoner at akiko@ujcclife.com. This webinar and resources can be viewed HERE.
 
Next week’s webinar topic is on the Decriminalization of Children and Youth. Register for the webinar HERE.