Friday, December 11, 2009

A Taste of Faith - Comment

Greetings Ben and Bill--

Thank you so much for hosting the AILF "Taste of Faith " this past Sunday. I had a very enriching and positive experience, as I believe the others I encountered did.

The people who attended the event really had interest to grow the Atlanta interfaith community and to accomplish the AILF goal to have Atlanta become a model for an interfaith community. I have attended other events where each person/group had an individual agenda and where the intention of the person/group was not necessarily about cultivating interfaith relationships. It was so refreshing to meet others who really understand the interfaith concept, to have constructive and informative discussions (even with disagreements) and to find a base of people with which to build strong bridges.

I am very excited about the programs list you have created. AIF likes to not only host interfaith events, but also to promote interfaith events in the community. I know there are lots of events going on in the Atlanta area, but I believe it has been somewhat difficult for organizations to share such events with interested communities.

I look forward to future programs hosted by AILF and look forward to strengthening our interfaith community!

Much peace,

Kelly Wentworth
American Islamic Fellowship, Executive Director

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2010 Programs - Atlanta Interfaith Leaders Fellowship

The preliminary program schedule for Atlanta InterFaith Leaders Fellowship events is now complete. Four regular meetings of the Fellowship are planned throughout the year. One or more special events will likely be added as the year progresses.
The presently scheduled events will be on March 21, June 6, September 19 and December 5, 2009.
Two events are scheduled to help members share and understand better lifetime transition events which are common to all. The purpose is to help members become better equipped to relate to those of other faiths during these important life milestones.

On March 21 the Fellowship will meet at the Atlanta Hospice to address issues related to terminal health care and preparation for death as known in this world. Gillian Renault from the Hindu tradition is planning this event. The Hospice will be hosting this event as the Hospice represents one of the oldest institutions in Atlanta which has dealt with the fact that differences in faith traditions lead members to approach this life transition with different expectations and different traditional practices.

In September on the 19th the fellowship will meet to discuss the institution of marriage as it is experienced in differing traditions. The faiths have much in common but also some significant differences in practice. Saeed Raees from the Muslim tradition will be putting together a panel discussion on this topic.

The third event, actually second on the calendar as it is scheduled on the calendar for June 6, is being organized by Bassem Fakhoury. Many in attendance at prior meetings have asked for guidance in identifying opportunities to participate more fully in interfaith work. Bassem, one of the Fellowship’s Muslim members, will be selecting a number of ongoing interfaith efforts in the Atlanta community which need assistance and support. Representatives from these programs will tell their stories. Members with a program which they would like to have featured should contact Bassem, Ben Johnson, or Bill Voss at their convenience.

Bill Voss, a Christian member of the fellowship, will be organizing the fourth event which is planned for December 5. He is preparing for this event a workshop on how to conduct and lead interfaith dialogues. Attendees will focus by hearing and doing on how to better listen to others and talk with them in a non-judgmental fashion about their faiths and practices. All Fellowship members have significant skills in these areas. The Fellowship leadership believes that all can benefit from honing their skills.

Posted By: Bill Voss

A Taste of Faith

Approximately 75 members of the Atlanta InterFaith Leaders Fellowship gathered in Atlanta on Sunday, December 6, 2009 at the Petite Auberge Restaurant to celebrate A Taste of Faith.

Attendees Celebrated:

As Christians: Christmas Day – December 25 - honoring the birth of Jesus
As Hindus: The Holy Mother - Sri Sarada Devi – December 22 - honoring the December 22, 1853 birth of the wife of Ramakrishna
As Jews: Chanukah – December 11-19 – the Eight Day Festival of Lights
As Muslims: Eid al-Adha – November 27 – the Feast of Sacrifice marking the end of Hajj
As Brothers and Sisters – members of a shared humanity: Respect and love for those of all religious faiths and traditions.

Each of the faiths was represented by a table of foods and delicacies for sharing appropriate to the respective traditions. Each of the tables was staffed with persons of the corresponding faith to share in dialogue regarding the basis for their celebration. All in attendance experienced joy-filled dialogue with brothers and sisters of multiple faiths.

Ben Johnson together with Anchor Shepherd and numerous helpers were responsible for planning and implementing this celebratory event marking the first anniversary of the Fellowship’s formation. Ben’s inspirational message emphasizing the recently held Immersion Week interfaith dialogue program was a highlight of the day.

Bill Voss announced plans for Fellowship meetings in the year ahead.

Thanks go out to all who attended and all who participated in making this an immensely successful conclusion to our Fellowship programs for 2009!

Posted by: Bill Voss

Friday, January 23, 2009

Examples of Peace Tyyibah Taylor

Examples of Peace
Tayyibah Taylor

When thinking about the future of interfaith leadership, I realize we, as people of faith, have a wonderful opportunity to be powerful examples of love, understanding and peace. We can listen to the stories of others and share our own, and we can also acknowledge the highest goals of all our rituals and faith traditions.

While we all want to see a better world and a peaceful world, we may also want to hold on to our prejudices and to our narrow definitions. We may be more committed to our judgments about others than we are to creating peace.

Perhaps when we learn to see each person as a spiritual being on their path back to the Almighty, we can exemplify compassion. Seeing each other as a human soul is quite easy when we are around people who look like us, speak like us and worship like us. It takes some effort when a person is markedly different, because we often get trapped by the exterior and become unable to transcend the physical. With practice, we may realize that our differences are positives, for it is through them we learn more about each other, more about our own selves, more about humanity and more about the Creator.

The more we practice and cultivate the ability to see others as spiritual beings journeying back to God, the more we will be examples of peace. It won’t be just at special interfaith events or at peace conferences that we demonstrate our understanding, but in every interaction, every day. If this example doesn’t come from us, the people who profess to worship the Source of Peace, then from whom?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Principles of InterFaith Leaders' Fellowship from Bob Smithers

Principles of Interfaith Leaders Fellowship

1. The only requirement for membership is the desire and intent to work at developing interfaith understanding in Atlanta.

2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority – a loving God as He may express himself to our group conscience.

3. The fellowship has but one primary purpose – to provide a gathering place where members can share ideas and experiences.

4. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Guiding Principles

Principles of the Interfaith Leaders Fellowship
1. The sole purpose of the Fellowship is to provide a gathering place where persons engaged in interfaith work can share ideas and experiences for the purposes of support and inspiration.
2. Members will exchange their experiences of what has worked for them.
3. Members will listen respectfully to the experiences and beliefs of others. Members will refrain from efforts to persuade others to accept their religious beliefs.
4. Non-members will attend meetings by invitation for the purpose of advancing the purpose of the Fellowship. Guests will be expected to conform to our principles.
5. Membership will grow primarily by invitation as members share one-on-one or in small groups how the Fellowship helps them do their interfaith work.
6. Qualification for membership is simply the desire and intent to work at developing interfaith understanding in Atlanta.
7. Leaders in the fellowship lead but do not govern; leadership rotates; and those serving seek feed back from the group.
8. The Fellowship is self-supporting through voluntary contributions. However, some events may require sharing expenses.

(Developed after the meeting on December 7, 2008)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bill Voss Response to Hakim Yamini

In thinking about the Revised Vision for Atlanta, I feel prompted to ask myself about the purpose of creating a Vision Statement. Hakim Yamini's statement as an idealized vision of the direction towards which we are endeavoring to move over time is very powerful. I wonder if something that better reflects what we see as feasible to accomplish in the near term might be more appropriate. Or perhaps both are needed: 1. a generalized statement which inspires and 2. a statement of goals for the next 10 years against which progress might be measured and which focuses the near term actions. There is no right answer to which is preferable. As an inspirational statement Yamini's vision statement works provided the date references are removed. As a working vision statement to guide near term action something specific might be more helpful.

If your preference in a vision statement is to make it something that primarily inspires as opposed to providing any detailed guidance, I would try for something as brief as possible.... perhaps something along the following lines:
"We envision Atlanta becoming a community in which the historic barriers between persons and communities of differing religious faiths have been destroyed. Differences in faith traditions will be respected rather than being criticized. Knowledge and understanding will have replaced ignorance and fear. Cooperation will have replaced conflict and competition. Care and justice for minorities and the less fortunate will have replaced marginalization and oppression.
We believe the new Atlanta is possible, if people of every faith truly live out the principles of love and acceptance of others which are shared among all major religious traditions."

Regarding the meeting closing card which we discussed, I would offer the following as a possible suggestion:

"Interfaith Leaders Fellowship Meeting
December 7, 2008

Would you be interested in attending future meetings to share regarding interfaith work in the Greater Atlanta area? Yes No (circle one)

How frequently do you think such meetings would be desirable? (check one)
______Once a year.
______Twice a year.
______Three times a year
______More than three times a year.

___________________________ ___________________________
Name Preferred contact (Phone # or e-mail address)

Comments or suggestions, if any, please write on back of card."

Bill Voss