On Valentine’s Day 2008, The Center For Interfaith Relations (CIR) in Louisville, KY brought together over 100 ordained faith leaders for a day of interfaith inquiry and conversation. The focus of the day was the role of faith leaders in creating a better future for the city of Louisville and the people who live there. It was a very lively day, filled with both challenge and promise. The resulting conversations were enriched by the contributions from leaders of the Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Islam, Jewish and Mormon faiths.
Jan Arnow, the Executive Director of CIR, Mark Steiner, the Director of Programming and myself spent many hours over the course of several months in the design phase. This was a challenging design and it was critical to flesh out our context by exploring questions like – what does CIR want to achieve as the host and convener? What is possible in a single day among people who do not know each other? What will best serve the community? – to name only a few.
We knew we had to create the conditions for people to feel safe enough to speak authentically to questions that were both personally meaningful as well as relevant to their congregations. We knew we had a limited amount of time and that there were a lot of gaps that needed bridging. Ultimately we wanted to be raising questions that have to power to bring the gifts of each faith into the center of the community. We were aiming to create relationships that will serve as bridges of hope and understanding. Jan and I did the actual hosting of the gathering.
Eventually we settled upon an opening question that allowed us to build several more layers upon it. Our day began with:
What would it mean for me to see myself not just as a faith leader, but as an interfaith leader?
As the video below shows, the day was successful in many ways.