So far, there are two Living Interfaith communities: this one in Vancouver, BC and our sister congregation, the Living Interfaith Church, in Lynnwood, WA, USA. But people from other cities – and even countries – reach out sometimes to say they wish they had something like this in their own areas. A place where people from different faith traditions can meet, learn from one another, develop friendships, and even worship together in love and with mutual respect.
Fortunately, you can have something like this in your own city or region – which is why Rev. Steven Greenebaum; our Interfaith Leader, Cathy Merchant; and others have joined together to create the Living Interfaith Support Network to support the creation of these very kinds of congregations.
While we cannot help subsidize your Interfaith communities, we have years of experience which have resulted in various tips, religious and cultural reminders, prayers, basic liturgies, and open-ended programs that might be of help to you as you start building your own Interfaith network.
For example, when Cathy came to Vancouver in 2017, she only knew a half-dozen people and had no idea what the Interfaith landscape would be like in this new city. But over the course of her first year, she contacted all the Interfaith organizations and faith communities she could find to see who might be interested in checking out a new style of Interfaith worship. She was clear right from the start that:
There was absolutely no hope or expectation that anyone leave their home faith communities. In fact, that would have defeated the whole purpose of bringing people from different faiths together, in the first place.
No one should ever preach on anyone else’s faith tradition, because no matter how well-meaning or knowledgeable they might be, we can never convey the beliefs or practices of another tradition as well as we can our own. Rather than accidentally misrepresenting one another, it is better to reach out to people from other faith communities to see if they’d be willing to share. This ensures that we are learning first-hand from other practitioners, and it helps us strengthen our connections to people in these faith communities, who might be more supportive of Interfaith endeavors than we had initially thought.
Not everyone – or even most people – from any given faith tradition needed to be involved for this to be successful. Even if only one or two people from a small handful of traditions wanted to join, that would still “count” as a congregation and would serve to promote peace and understanding in our wider region.
Using these three basic principles, Cathy has been able to build up this community to include now three dozen people from eight different faith traditions in just a few years. She has other suggestions, too, if you are interested in creating an Interfaith congregation or network but aren’t sure where to start. Please just email her at firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Or you can reach out to Steve Crawford, one of the founding members of the Living Interfaith Church, at email@example.com to hear his suggestions for getting started.
For more detailed information and some of his own experiences in creating the original Living Interfaith Church, please check out Rev. Steven Greenebaum’s books, including:
One Family: Indivisible
Practical Interfaith: How to Find Our Common Humanity as We Celebrate Diversity
The Interfaith Alternative: Embracing Spiritual Diversity