I am working on a complete Connect 2014 report, but wanted to share some early reflections.
155 men and women of almost fifty different faith traditions traveled from across North America to attend our annual NAINConnect hosted by the Interfaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit.
Brother Al Mascia and Maggid Steve Klaper of Song and Spirit opened the Sunday evening plenary with wonderful interfaith music.
Rev. Buttry, in his outstanding opening plenary address, spoke of three essential C words: Communication, Connections, and Collaboration.
Communication means to seek to understand and be understood. He said we need to take the risks to talk about the real stuff, to really talk to each other. We need to do the communication that is even harder than interfaith communication. We need to have intrafaith communications to be bold advocates for connection to others within our own faith traditions. This need for intrafaith communication was echoed by Saeed A. Khan on Monday evening and by Rev. Dr. Stephen Butler Murray, who moderated the Tuesday evening panel.
He said we need to build the connections now so that we have them in times of crisis.
He told the parable of the prince challenged by his father to move a huge boulder in order to win his royal succession. The prince won the challenge, because he realized he did not have to move the whole boulder at once. He cracked it into pieces and moved it bit by bit. “The world has a crack in it; it lets the light in.” We need to collaborate to build the House of Peace.
Saeed A. Khan: Don’t compromise your convictions to gain acceptance. Everybody else should expand.
Dr. Parvinder Mehta asked, Are we ‘salad bowl’ or a ‘melting pot’? We need to appreciate and respect differences and educate ourselves.
Myeengun Henry, elder of the Wolf Clan: There are tough questions to put on the table. We need a Vision Quest to find out who we are.
Sheri Schiff: Why don’t we do more visiting each other, visiting our museums?
Rev. Thomas H. Priest: The bridge is already there, we just don’t see it. Not build relationship – grow it. Not build bridge – use it.
Rabbi Michael L. Moskowitz: Corn is higher in fields next to each other, because they cross-pollinate.
Superintendent Marcus R. Ways: We need to replicate ourselves, influence others to join [interfaith movement].
Fr. George Shalhoub reminds Muslims that we [Christians] are your parents and the Rabbi, your grandparents. … I am not a descendans of Abraham, but a Child of God. Love your neighbor is a basic commandment. Share humanity. Your ritual is your treasure. Who are we to cancel each other?
Imam Elturk: Be courageous to come out and meet the other. Struggle with own congregation to go out and meet neighbors. We shouldn’t be reactive, but proactive. We need one another.
Water became an unintentional theme at the Connect this year. When the Executive Committee met in Detroit in March, they were greeted with the snowstorm of the century. Toledo, Ohio, attendees had just experienced a weekend water ban, due to algal toxins in the city water, which left 500,000 people to scrounge for bottled water. Detroit has also been in the national news with the threat of water shut-offs to those who have not paid their water bills. Monday night during the Connect, it rained up to 6 inches in a short period of time. The buses trying to return from our evening out met with closed freeways due to flooding, necessitating skilled detours and several hours. Some presenters could not make it in for Tuesday’s events, due to the still flooded roads. Water is a spiritual issue, though we had not expected it to be part of the Connect.
For all of that, the courageous and diligent Detroit host team ‘weathered’ through and we had an amazing conference.