Saturday, October 9, 2010

Learning As We Go



The meeting of the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative on Friday, Sept. 24, may have had the most lively discussion yet. This was our first meeting to have an actual printed agenda and to use the visual aid of major points written on an easel during the discussion. We did not get through the whole agenda, but did discuss several possible short-term events.

The item which seemed to take the most discussion was to have an interfaith Thanksgiving service, which would include some type of interfaith worship element. It became apparent that a wide variety of views existed about this. I may be summarizing this imperfectly, but from our discussion and my discussion later with one or two others, I offer this as a summary of views among those present: 1). The desire for a traditional interfaith service with clergy leading the prayers. 2). The stongly held opinion that Interfaith worship services are awkward and ineffective. 3). The desire to have a Thanksgiving peace service, such as was held locally last year. 4). There were also those present, of which I was one, that felt that interfaith worship services can be effective and were also open to flexibility in the type of event we would hold.

However, on reflection and prayer, and discussion with Al Nelson, I decided that there was too much diversity of opinion, with people not willing to participate in events they weren't enthusiastic about. We also felt that there is not enough time to effectively plan such an event.

On a larger level, our overall discussion, which was frank and enjoyable, makes me think that we should concentrate our efforts for now on Interfaith Action (service) to benefit our community. This doesn’t rule possible interfaith involvement in the annual Martin Luther King observance to remind people of his religious motivation. Al Nelson would also like to discuss whether the overall group would accept interfaith events under our umbrella which would be held by a certain faith — obviously this would apply to ALL the faith groups which have membership in our group. Such events would be held in a certain tradition, but obviously everyone would be welcome.


As for Interfaith interaction on the faith-sharing level — our silent prayer and faith-sharing time at the beginning of our monthly meetings — this seems to be well-received.

Al Nelson handled this very well for our first few meetings. I did the honors at the Sept. 24 meeting, and Sue Walker will lead our faith sharing at our Oct. 15 meeting. (Personally, I put everything I had into my presentation, and enjoyed doing so). I hope that in the months ahead, many more of our members will share from their faith traditions and/or personal convictions.


One of the short-term items we discussed was to directly survey the faith communities in Northern Berskhire and find out and compile what types of services and support for basic human needs they offer. This idea was suggested by Al Bashevkin. Sister Natalie Cain, who was present at the meeting, had conducted such a survey in the past when she worked for the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, and we now have the information she gathered.

In addition to compiling this information for the Coalition to help those who are increasingly coming to its office with immediate needs, reaching out to ALL of our faith communities to complie this information would help make us better known.

This will be an agenda item at our Oct. 15 meeting. It seems a relatively easy way to compile information which potentially would be useful to many in helping those in need.

Compiling this information could be divided among us. Some could just find out about their faith community; others could pick a group of churches/other faith communities or a town. In this way, we could quickly gather the information. I imagine we could come up with a concise form to be used in gathering this information from the faith communities.

Presenting this in-person, if possible, would be a good way to also promote our Interfaith effort as we gather information. We could possibly come up with a one-page explanation what we're about, such as we had at the NA Downtown Celebration and give it out on our visit.

When we do have an up-to-date idea of what our Northern Berkshire faith communities offer for those in need, then we could perhaps send out a press release informing people of all that faith communities do for those in need and perhaps inspire some to help fill in gaps. Again, this would be a good way to make our efforts better-known.


We did not get to discuss the adoption of a community agency at our Sept. 24 meeting, so discussing this will be a priority at our Oct. 15 meeting. Right now, Louison House and the Family Life Support Center are in the mix, as is Big Brothers and Big Sisters. We could provide both fundraising and direct, hands-on support. I’d like to make a decision on this soon, perhaps with an ad hoc committee started to get things going with the chosen organization.

I don't want to short-change other parts of our discussion on Sept. 24. We also discussed the shortage of clergy to make hospital visits and how one faith community will know whether or not someone passing through had already gotten help at another faith community in town. And I may be forgetting something.

I hope to have an agenda for the Oct. 15 meeting ready to give out at the meeting.


I do not want to continuously send things from our Interfaith group to people’s e-mail inboxes so that they either get irritated with us or tune out everything we send. So from now on I will be putting announcements people want to get out there on this blog. Those who want to send announcements directly to those on our e-mail list may go ahead — that’s why I don’t hide recipients when I send out Interfaith e-mails.

Here are some upcoming events:

• The postponed discussion of the “Crucified Stuffed Bunny” painting has been rescheduled to Friday, Oct. 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the gallery just east of the Mohawk Theater.

• A Celebration of Catholic Native America will be held at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass. on Saturday, Oct. 16, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This event is free for the whole family. Eden Hill is a beautiful place with a beautiful shrine.

• Also, this came in from Robin Lehleitner about an interesting event in Williamstown.

This fall the First Congregational Church of Williamstown (906 Main St) will initiate a new Sunday morning pre-service program called “Forum on Contemporary Issues in Religion.” The specific aim of the Forum is to engage a group of Williams faculty in a discussion of the implications of their academic research for the working out of religious thought in their own lives. The program will occur monthly, beginning on October 17th, and be held in the Fellowship Hall starting at 9:30 a.m., with coffee and tea available from 9:15 on. After a period of dialogue between the interviewer and the morning speaker, the discussion will be opened to the audience. Each program will conclude at 10:20 so as not to conflict with the morning service beginning at 10:30.

The first person to be interviewed in this series will be Dr. Magnus Bernhardsson, a member of the History Dept at Williams. The focus of the interview will be around the unfolding encounter of Christianity and Islam in the modern era. Dr. Bernhardsson holds a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern History from Yale University, a Masters of Arts and Religion degree from Yale Divinity School, with a focus on Comparative Religion, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Iceland, with a dual concentration in political science and theology.

Speakers for the following months include Stuart Crampton, Emeritus in Physics, who will speak on “Physics and the Idea of God" on Sunday, Nov. 21st; and Denise Buell, professor of Religion, who on December 12th will speak on “Historical Research and the Identity of Jesus." The interviewer for this series is Dr. Charles Fox, who holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion from Harvard University and is an emeritus professor from Empire State College of the State University of New York in Albany, where he taught in the areas of philosophy and religious studies.

Thanks and God Bless,


As always, feel free to comment. I have a thick hide.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Mark..once again thanks for summarizing a free floating meeting with many different agendas. I'm glad that there will be some sort of review of what is being done by the various churches. The nbCC forum in December will have as its focus the shredding of our safety net and I see this as an opportunity for us all to work together.