Tag Archives: multifaith

Help Me Create a Christian Float for an INTRAfaith Parade

macy_s_thanksgiving_marching_band_-_vertOur diverse religious environment can be disconcerting for many people. Author Kenneth J. Gergen once described the disorienting effects of pluralism as that of a “relentless parade.”

But another author, Theodore Brelsford turns the negative-sounding observation into an opportunity for imagination and creativity:

It occurs to me that one way to respond to a parade which seems relentless is to build a float and join in.

So OK, let’s do it! Let’s say we’re building our float. In the festive context of the celebration of diversity, what should our Christian float look like? What symbolic images might we in63c6ac4ee1a4cedb05b14099ed8a44fcclude, and what is it that those symbols symbolize?”

I tried this out at my workshop at the Parliament of the World’s Religions last October. After an hour of telling stories and surfacing issues and questions, we began putting symbols for our float up on newsprint. It was a lively, fun exercise. Not everyone agreed on each symbol – not even a cross. Someone wondered if we might have to have more than one float. Unfortunately, time ran out. These conversations do take time. But I discovered that Brelsford’s metaphorical float idea is a good one.

rmt16773So what’s your symbol? Let me know what image conveys to you the heart of the Christian message. Maybe it’s a traditional church-y one. Or maybe it’s something no one would ever expect to see in a  stained glass window.

Attach a picture if you have one – and a little explanation of why this symbol is meaningful to you. If I get enough, maybe I can create an intrafaith parade right here on this blog!

To get us started, here’s one of my favorites. One of the gospel of John’s “I am” sayings, has Jesus s2492729_origaying “I am the vine; you are the branches.” Of course, in these “I am” passages, John wants to connect Jesus to the great “I AM” of Exodus.

I don’t want to get into christological matters right now (happy to at other times, though!); I don’t have to believe in the formulations of the Nicene Creed  in order to appreciate the metaphor. What I see in the vine imagery is that we are all connected to the Source of Life – and we are all interconnected with one another.  So a vine goes onto the float.

Now – what say you?

 

 

 

 

 

Gergen, Kenneth J., The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life (NY: Basic Books, 1991), quoted in Theodore Brelsford, “Christological Tensions in a Pluralistic Environment: Managing the Challenges of Fostering and Sustaining Both Identity and Openness,” Religious Education, (Spring 1995): 176.

Brelsford, Theodor, “Christological Tensions in a Pluralistic Environment: Managing the Challenges of Fostering and Sustaining Both Identity and Openness.” Religious Education, 90, no2 (Spring 1995): 174-189, 188.

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

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The Reviews Are in!

she likes it

I am happy to report that, so far, The INTRAfaith Conversation has a 5-star rating on Amazon. Below are the five reviews (in reverse chronological order) that have been submitted. And yes, I would love more! If you’ve read the book, please let me know what you think. After all, it’s supposed to be a conversation.


5.0 out of 5 stars
 
Giving Peace a Chance
By June on September 16, 2016

This is an important book for our times. It will be essential reading for all people of faith and those in our country who experience spirituality outside the faiths. Strouse explores what it means for Christians to dialogue together with the beliefs of other world religions, with other denominations and within one’s church. This book ushers us step by step into a process towards unity of love and respect that enables us to discover how to live the love in which we believe as well as to evolve from a rote worshipper to a discerning believer. She shows how Christians can accept and respect beliefs of others, find common ground and evolve in our own faith expression to prevent exclusionary or irrelevant evangelism.  It reads fluidly, is serious yet entertaining, logical in light of the history presented, compassionate, educational and inspiring. Strouse has addressed something so timely, necessary (in light of world terrorism), and helpful in understanding what is happening in our declining mainline churches. For the future of the Gospel and the survival of the world, this should be read in our churches for breathing life into our faith, in homes for raising generations of tolerant and inclusive people, and in seminaries as required reading to prepare pastors for encounters / interactions of cultures they will face in their neighborhoods as well as to assist them in utilizing the processes presented.  Whereas missionary work historically meant traveling to convert indigenous peoples, in America today we live amongst a multitude of spiritual / religious faiths which is now our fertile field for outreach, not necessarily for conversion but for establishing and nurturing peace. If this is a time in our world for the church to evolve, let us start with ourselves, those in our faith and others of all faiths to develop and share understandings. The world awaits a revolution of joy and open hearts.

From The Rev. Barbara Peronteau, M.Div.
Interfaith Chaplain Resident   August 28, 2016

5.0 out of 5 starsas Christians can better understand our own faith
This book was written so that in this pluralistic world in which we now live, we, as Christians can better understand our own faith, and the issues involved with interfaith dialogue, so that we might be more comfortable being in conversation with our neighbors who are not Christian. While this book was written to the larger interfaith dialogue within the broader culture, I find the insights in this book to be very applicable in the clinical pastoral care setting in which I minister. I hope the saying is true that we are judged by the company we keep so by keeping company with this book I might be somewhat smarter than before I read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading “The INTRAfaith Conversation”. Susan’s writing style is engaging, easy, and conversational, yet theologically intelligent.

5.0 out of 5 starsFive Stars bRussell H. Miller  June 22, 2016
Expertly laid out providing a roadmap for a much needed dialogue.

5.0 out of 5 starsCrisp and cogent treatment . . . bRichard G. Eddy  June 29, 2016
This crisp and cogent book by the Rev. Dr. Strouse is published at a time when both interfaith and intrafaith dialogue are critical to the vitality of spiritual life in our nation. As a parish pastor in a small, struggling congregation I have become increasingly aware of the insularity and isolation of many of our parishioners. This seems less the result of inadequate parish education as it is the byproduct of too many people getting their information from biased TV networks, so-called social media or word-of-mouth. We parish pastors need to examine our internal (intra-congregational) conversations about diverse faith traditions and how they bear on congregational mission. I was particularly impressed by the author’s use of footnotes and her extensive bibliography. The book is a “walking-talking workshop” in print with its detailed reflection/discussion questions and suggestions for further reading. Thank you, Pastor Strouse, for such a comprehensive presentation of how to approach constructively this timely and important conversation.

Inevitably, profound questions arise out of respectful encounters with people of religions other than our own. Many who have been involved in cooperative engagements with people of other faith traditions discover that it is often easier to talk with people of a different religion than it is with the person sitting next to you in your own congregation. For others, the struggle is within, as in the case of Elsie L., a parishioner in Buffalo. After a church session in which a Hindu woman active in interfaith activities had spoken to the group, Elsie spoke to Pastor Strouse. “If I accept the Hindu path as equal to Christianity,” she said, “I’m worried that I’m betraying Jesus.”

Years of wrestling with that question and similar ones resulted in Strouse’s new book, The INTRAfaith Conversation: How Do Christians Talk Among Ourselves about INTERfaith Matters? In it, Dr. Strouse addresses the challenges that the increasingly interfaith realities of today present to Christians, and invites reflection on how Christian theology and identity might be shaped and even strengthened by cooperative interfaith relationships.

Blending personal stories, thoughtful reflection on the changing face of America and pastoral concern, The INTRAfaith Conversation invites readers to understand and appreciate just what doing Christian theology means in today’s multi-religious world. The book’s sections reflect the breadth of Strouse’s focus: dealing with the new religious context; what it means to think theologically as a comunity; tolerance, exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism; personal experience; and pastoral and leadership issues for congregations entering the interfaith world.

The book is designed to be used with a discussion group; each section is followed by a series of questions for reflection and discussion along with suggestions for further reading.
I personally have been involved in interfaith work in the Bay Area for over 35 years and have never seen a book quite like The INTRAfaith Conversation. It addresses a very real issue with depth, humor, and pastoral sensitivity. I highly recommend it not only to pastors and other leaders in Christian churches, but to lay people who may be asking some of the same questions. Further, although it is specifically aimed at a Christian audience, it offers a model for how similar questions might be raised and wrestled with in non-Christian contexts as well.

“Talking with Strangers in Sacred Space”

There’s a really important article in this month’s issue of The Interfaith Observer. Lynda Trono, program convenor on the board of directors for the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN), has written a reflection on the first day of this summer’s NAIN Connect in Guadalajara. She begins by expressing the same feelings I had when listening to the opening keynote by Raul Vera López, bishop of the Diocese of Saltillo. And she ends up with an admission of arriving at the first ever NAIN Connect in Mexico with cultural blinders firmly in place.

I resonated completely with her frustration at having to listen to a very long Christian sermon at the start of an interfaith gathering. I also shared her chagrin at coming to learn that the bishop, a staunch defender of human rights, is beloved in Mexico – in fact is called the Oscar Romero of Mexico.

There’s a lesson here for us to learn. As open and accepting we profess to be, we still come into interfaith gatherings with cultural biases and expectations. In Guadalajara I was already aware of (and embarrassed by) my “ugly American” lack of ability to speak Spanish. Now I learn how much deeper my sense of privilege runs. And even as I wonder what might have helped us to bridge the cultural divide earlier than we did, I know that it’s up to me to learn about the culture I’m visiting.

I’m very grateful for Lynda Trono’s honest and reflective article.

 

 

Pluralism Summer Week Nine: Elaine Donlin Sensei, Buddhist Church of SF

elaineI’m happy to announce a return visit from Elaine Donlin of the Buddhist Church of San Francisco, which is the oldest Jodo Shinshu (Pure Land) Buddhist Church in America. Elaine is an ordained priest and a Minister’s Assistant and has been teaching the Essentials of Buddhism since 2008. She serves as Buddhist Community Clergy for several SF Hospitals, as well as, partners with the SF Zen Center to provide Meditation and Buddhism in the SF County Jails. She is also a founding member of the BCSF LGBTQQ group.

Elaine has become a good friend of First United. She and Rev. Ron Kobata were in attendance at our big anniversary celebration back in April. Elaine has also shared with me some resources she’s been using in intrafaith conversations in the Buddhist community.

I’m looking forward to hearing about how her practice informs her politics and her work in the world.
Pluralism Summer is an initiative of First United Lutheran Church, a progressive church, rooted in the Reformation tradition, which says that the church, our worship, and our music must always be re-forming. We believe that it’s more important to ask the questions than to know all the answers.

We believe that, as theologian Hans Kung wrote:
“There will be no peace among the nations until there is peace among the religions.  There will be no peace among the religions until there is dialogue among the religions.”

We believe our wisdom will only be enhanced by continued conversation with all of our neighbors. Together we work for peace, justice, and the good of all people and all creation.

A few words about First United:
Our 5:00 service is decidedly interspiritual. This means that, while we are rooted in the Christian tradition, we beleive that  spirituality is at the heart of all the world religions. This shared spiritual heritage enables us to go beyond the differences in our theological beliefs and traditions. In other words: all are welcome!

 

Pluralism Summer Week 8: Society of Friends (Quaker)

laura headshotNext up in our summer of “religion and politics” is Laura Magnani from the Quaker tradition. Laura is director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Bay Area Healing Justice Program in California and has worked on criminal justice issues for over 35 years. She wrote “America’s First Penitentiary: A 200 Year Old Failure in 1990” and co-authored the AFSC publication, “Beyond Prisons: A New Interfaith Paradigm for Our Failed Prison System” in 2006. She is also a  nationally known expert on solitary confinement. We are honored to have her as a speaker in our summer series.

A few words about First United:effc5190d0f805a4130997d6703a5eef

Our 5:00 service is decidedly interspiritual. This means that, while we are rooted in the
Christian tradition, we beleive that  spirituality is at the heart of all the world religions. This shared spiritual heritage enables us to go beyond the differences in our theological beliefs and traditions. In other words: all are welcome!

Pluralism Summer is an initiative of First United Lutheran Church, a progressive church, rooted in the Reformation tradition, which says that the church, our worship, and our music must always be re-forming. We believe that it’s more important to ask the questions than to know all the answers.

We believe that, as theologian Hans Kung wrote:
“There will be no peace among the nations until there is peace among the religions.  There will be no peace among the religions until there is dialogue among the religions.”

We believe our wisdom will only be enhanced by continued conversation with all of our neighbors. Together we work for peace, justice, and the good of all people and all creation.

Pluralism Summer Week 7: Archbishop Franzo King

st_john_coltrane_fmivnlThe Church of St. John Coltrane was in the news a while back because of the loss of their worship space on Fillmore Street. No one was sure where they would go or if this unique expression of spirituality and worship would be lost. Thankfully, in April, they took up residence along with us at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church. They join, not only 10155866_10153102768389325_6707118149508077725_nFirst United and St. Cyprian’s, but also Sophia in Trinity (the Roman Catholic Womanpriest congregation) and Middle Circle (First United’s outreach to the spiritually independent).

The corner of Turk & Lyon has become quite the  eclectic center!125

This Sunday, we are delighted to have as our guest speaker Archbishop Franzo W. King, co-founder of The Church of St. John Coltrane and presently Archbishop of the African Orthodox Church-Jurisdiction West. He is also a founding Member of the San Francisco Interfaith Council.

This will undoubtedly be a highlight in our summer series!
And, as always, regardless of what you believe or don’t believe, all are welcome.

 

Pluralism Summer is an initiative of First United Lutheran Church, a progressive church, rooted in the Reformation tradition, which says that the church, our worship, and our music must always be re-forming. We believe that it’s more important to ask the questions than to know all the answers.

We believe that, as theologian Hans Kung wrote:
“There will be no peace among the nations until there is peace among the religions.  There will be no peace among the religions until there is dialogue among the religions.”

We believe our wisdom will only be enhanced by continued conversation with all of our neighbors. Together we work for peace, justice, and the good of all people and all creation.

 

The Intrafaith Conversation in Mexico

NAINConnect16Well, it’s over. The 28th annual gathering of the North American Interfaith Network at the Convento Esclavas de Cristo Rey in Guadalajara was the first (and hopefully not the last) NAIN Connect in Mexico.

The theme was “Sacred Space” and much attention was rightly given to the indigenous people of Mexico. But there were other expressions of sacred space – both internal and external. I myself was privileged to lead a workshop on creating safe and sacred space in which intrafaith conversations can happen.

My wshe likes itorkshop was on Tuesday, but on Monday I got some great publicity. During the discussion at a workshop on interfaith hospitality, someone spoke up and said, “What we really need to have is an intrafaith dialogue.” I almost jumped out of my seat as I raised my  hand to jump in and tell everyone about the opportunity to do just that – and buy the book as well!

Going in, I had no idea how many religions might be represented. This was my first venture with a potentially interfaith group. It turned out that the group was largely Christian, with a smattering of Buddhists, Religious Science adherents, a Jewish/Buddhist, and a “none.”

I started off with a personal intrafaith story. Then I shared a resource I had  just learned at the hospitality workshop: The Differences Between Dialogue and Debate. This was part of the presentation about how to create a safe space for difficult dialogue to happen – and we all agreed that these can be very difficult conversations for us to be part of. Too often our buttons get pushed and our “non-anxious presence” (I prefer “non-reactive presence”) goes out the window.

IMG_4605Then we broke into small groups and everyone got a chance to share their own stories and struggles with members of their own tradition. Finally, we  began to strategize about how to create an intrafaith conversation when we got back home.

IMG_4606I don’t know if anyone will do that. But I believe that, at the very least, the issue was put out onto the table, and participants went away with some resources and hopefully lots to think about.

And that’s a start.

Check out my web site at https://intrafaithconversation.com 
Follow my blog at https://intrafaithconversation.com/blog-2/
Buy my  book at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and Sagrada Sacred Arts in Oakland, CA
Kindle edition is also available on Amazon

Pluralism Summer: Weeks 5 & 6

165763_489522519437_2022599_nI first met Dolores White back in 2002 when I had just arrived in Berkeley. I’d met Paul Chaffee from the Interfaith Center at the Presidio and was invited to a board meeting. Somehow I found my way from the East Bay to the far side of San Francisco (the Presidio is not easy to get to on public transportation and my car was still back in Buffalo).  I’ve gotten much more savvy about navigating the streets of San Francisco, but back then I wasn’t sure how I’d ever find my way back home.

Dolores, a member of the Baha’i faith, was one of the board members who welcomed me that day and the first to offer me a ride to the nearest BART station. I was so grateful. Since then I’ve learned that that’s just Dolores: graciousness personified.

She was one of our speakers two summers ago, when our theme was the environment, and I’m so glad she agreed to come back for Week 5 to address the question of how her Baha’i faith informs how she thinks about politics.

Unfortunately, however, I won’t be there. I’ll be attending NAINConnect 2106 in Guadalajara. NAIN is the North American Interfaith Network, founded in 1990 as a way to build communication and mutual understanding among interfaith organizations and diverse religious groups throughout North America.

d4ba2c0967b317439c004019f5e18b66This will be the first gathering in Mexico and there will be an emphasis on Indigenous Peoples and their relationship to the land/struggle for land and water rights.  The theme of the conference this year is Sacred Space. According to the planners, we’ll be looking at sacred space in the widest sense possible – our inner sacred space, the space we create together in relationship, our worship spaces, holy places, the land and the earth and the universe as sacred. Also, my workshop proposal was accepted, so I’ll be leading my first interfaith intrafaith conversation!

WEEK 6 of Pluralism Summer will be completely different. Middle Circle will be taking over the entire time slot. Middle Circle is the “spiritual but not religious” community sponsored by First United. The theme’s question had to be a little different for this group: “How does your religious/ spiritual/ philosophical tradition inform how you think about politics?” Not only will Middle Circle give us their insights, they’ll also help those of us in the “traditional” church expand our ideas of what the interfaith community includes.

Pluralism Summer is an initiative of First United Lutheran Church, a progressive church, rooted in the Reformation tradition, which says that the church, our worship, and our music must always be re-forming. We believe that it’s more important to ask the questions than to know all the answers.

We believe that, as theologian Hans Kung wrote:
“There will be no peace among the nations until there is peace among the religions.  There will be no peace among the religions until there is dialogue among the religions.”

We believe our wisdom will only be enhanced by continued conversation with all of our neighbors. Together we work for peace, justice, and the good of all people and all creation.

 

Pluralism Summer: Week 4

Sue Englander/John Durham weddingI’m particularly happy to welcome two guest speakers this coming Sunday. Ed Driscoll and Jim Lichti are members of First Mennonite Church of San Francisco. When we chose the topic of religion and politics as the theme for this summer’s series, I knew I wanted to include someone from one of the historic peace churches. We’ll have a member of the Society of Friends (Quaker) later in the summer, so we’ve really been blessed.

The great thing about Ed and Jim, though, is that there’s a personal connection with First United, through our music director/administrative assistant, Orion Pitts. Plus, Orion and I both grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, so we’re familiar with Mennonites, particularly their conservative dress and oft-mistaken identification with the Amish.

It will be great to hear from these “west coast” Mennonites and hear their perspectives on faith and politics, especially on this Independence Day weekend.

Pluralism Summer is an initiative of First United Lutheran Church, a progressive church, rooted in the Reformation tradition, which says that the church, our worship, and our music must always be re-forming. We believe that it’s more important to ask the questions than to know all the answers.

We believe that, as theologian Hans Kung wrote:
“There will be no peace among the nations until there is peace among the religions.  There will be no peace among the religions until there is dialogue among the religions.”

We believe our wisdom will only be enhanced by continued conversation with all of our neighbors. Together we work for peace, justice, and the good of all people and all creation.

Join the INTRAfaith Conversation

Reviews for  The INTRAfaith Conversation: How Do Christians Talk Among Ourselves About INTERfaith Matters?   

Ishe likes itnevitably, profound questions arise out of respectful encounters with people of religions other than our own. Many who have been involved in cooperative engagements with people of other faith traditions discover that it is often easier to talk with people of a different religion than it is with the person sitting next to you in your own congregation. For others, the struggle is within, as in the case of Elsie L., a parishioner in Buffalo. After a church session in which a Hindu woman active in interfaith activities had spoken to the group, Elsie spoke to Pastor Strouse. “If I accept the Hindu path as equal to Christianity,” she said, “I’m worried that I’m betraying Jesus.”

Years of wrestling with that question and similar ones resulted in Strouse’s new book, The INTRAfaith Conversation: How Do Christians Talk Among Ourselves about INTERfaith Matters? In it, Dr. Strouse addresses the challenges that the increasingly interfaith realities of today present to Christians, and invites reflection on how Christian theology and identity might be shaped and even strengthened by cooperative interfaith relationships.Blending personal stories, thoughtful reflection on the changing face of America and pastoral concern, The INTRAfaith Conversation invites readers to understand and appreciate just what doing Christian theology means in today’s multi-religious world. The book’s sections reflect the breadth of Strouse’s focus: dealing with the new religious context; what it means to think theologically as a comunity; tolerance, exclusivism, inclusivism, and pluralism; personal experience; and pastoral and leadership issues for congregations entering the interfaith world.

The book is designed to be used with a discussion group; each section is followed by a series of questions for reflection and discussion along with suggestions for further reading.I personally have been involved in interfaith work in the Bay Area for over 35 years and have never seen a book quite like The INTRAfaith Conversation. It addresses a very real issue with depth, humor, and pastoral sensitivity. I highly recommend it not only to pastors and other leaders in Christian churches, but to lay people who may be asking some of the same questions. Further, although it is specifically aimed at a Christian audience, it offers a model for how similar questions might be raised and wrestled with in non-Christian contexts as well.
Rev. Dr. D. Andrew Kille

This crisp and cogent book by the Rev. Dr. Strouse is published at a time when both interfaith and intrafaith dialogue are critical to the vitality of spiritual life in our nation. As a parish pastor in a small, struggling congregation I have become increasingly aware of the insularity and isolation of many of our parishioners. This seems less the result of inadequate parish education as it is the byproduct of too many people getting their information from biased TV networks, so-called social media or word-of-mouth. We parish pastors need to examine our internal (intra-congregational) conversations about diverse faith traditions and how they bear on congregational mission. I was particularly impressed by the author’s use of footnotes and her extensive bibliography. The book is a “walking-talking workshop” in print with its detailed reflection/discussion questions and suggestions for further reading. Thank you, Pastor Strouse, for such a comprehensive presentation of how to approach constructively this timely and important conversation.
Rev. Richard G. Eddy

Expertly laid out, providing a roadmap for a much needed dialogue.
Russell H. Miller

Available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,
and at Sagrada Bookstore in Oakland, CA