I know I am not alone in deep sadness and perplexity over the continued killings that are happening in several parts of the world, with no clear end in sight. How might we respond? In my church, we pray, we send aid and support to those suffering, we share learning about the roots and current realities of the conflicts, and we advocate according to our conscience. 

And we do what we can to build relationships of care, compassion and understanding in our local communities.

The Reverend Anita R. Warner

In the fall of 2015, some clergy and congregations of different faiths celebrated Thanksgiving together for the first time, out of a simple desire to expand the community of those who give thanks to God together, and to build relationships with one another. We discovered a deep hunger to grow relationships and better understanding among people who practice different faiths. 

In early 2016, the Interfaith Clergy Alliance (ICA) and Interfaith CommUNITY of South County (ICSC) were born. 

The ICA and ICSC leaders of local faith communities wanted to state clearly that we are not threatened by the religious differences and diversity in our local community. Rather, all of our faith traditions call us to show respect and compassion toward one another. The core principles of our country, found in the Constitution and First Amendment, also call us to defend our neighbors’ rights to freely practice their religion. 

Many people in our community do not personally know others who practice other faiths; we want to provide a way to begin to build relationships. Many may know people of other faiths but do not have opportunities for dialogue about matters of faith; we want to provide a possibility for that. Many are interested in other faiths; we want to provide a respectful and firsthand opportunity for us to better understand our neighbors’ beliefs and faith practices. 

From 2016-2018, ICSC and ICA had a “Faith of Our Neighbors” experience and learning series, in which a faith community would host and offer an overview of their faith and life. That series included sessions by and on Islam, Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, the Episcopal Church, Judaism, the Lutheran church, Buddhism and the Catholic church.

ICSC and ICA are bringing back a “Faith of Our Neighbors” series in a new way, exploring Lifecycles. The host faith community will share how they acknowledge and celebrate birth, coming of age, marriage and death. The first session of the new series, on Buddhism, will be held on Sunday, March 3, at the Dhammakaya Meditation Center Silicon Valley, 280 Llagas Rd. in Morgan Hill. 

We hope to have up to three Faith of Our Neighbors: Lifecycles sessions per year. We hope, by building understanding and appreciation of various faith perspectives and practices, to contribute toward a climate of neighborliness, acceptance, compassion and kindness in Morgan Hill, Gilroy and all of South County. 

Rev. Anita R. Warner ([email protected]) serves as Pastor of Advent Lutheran Church in Morgan Hill and is a founding member of the Interfaith Clergy Alliance.

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