The first meeting of the Interfaith Action Initiative for Northern Berkshire County drew 21 people at the First Baptist Church on Friday, May 21.
The next meeting will be held on Friday, June 18, at 10 a.m., again at the First Baptist Church.
People from a variety of Christian denominations, Jewish people, a man from the Sufi branch of Islam and others with no formal relgiious affiliation attended. Two memembers of the clergy attended, Rabbi Jeff Goldwasser and the Rev. Ed King.
There was a powerful feeling of energy in the room as people from the Northern Berkshires discussed the reason or reasons why they came to the meeting.
Some had seen successful ecumenical or interfaith groups work in other areas. One person, for instance, pointed to the success of the interfaith group for the Bennington area in Vermont, with its Food and Fuel Fund and Free Clinic providing medical care to those without insurance. Others spoke of an active group in Pittsfield.
Ideas discussed included working with youth, finding and filling community needs otherwise not being met, working to create jobs, working on the transition towns initiative. The possibility of having a drumming circle and information about the Interfaith Initiative at the North Adams Downtown Celebration in August also was discussed. We also discussed such activities as watchiing a relevant film and inviting speakers from successful interfaith groups.
Al Bashevkin noted the energy in the room and said that those present came because they want to be part of a group of people who want to do things together. As people wrestled with ideas, Al noted the tension that can arise between process and product.
Currently there are two efforts in which people of different faiths and denominations cooperate together in the Northern Berkshires: the annual CROP Walk and the Take and Eat program in which individual congregations fill in some of the gaps in the Meals on Wheels program.
The idea for an Interfaith Action Initiative arose from the April meeting of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition. While clergy in the Northern Berkshires revitalize their association, the idea of laypeople joining together themselves in an active association for community betterment arose.
The Interfaith Action Initiative is open to everyone of all faiths, lay people, clergy and people of goodwill with no formal religious affiliation.
At the June 18 meeting, we will begin to prioritize the needs we can possibily meet, look toward an event we can put together in the near future, discuss the role of prayer and religious sharing within the Intiative and more.
Please attend and invite friends, fellow parishioners or congregations and anyone you know may be interested to attend.
And, as this is a blog, feel free to post ideas.
— Mark Rondeau