This morning I attended one of the bi-monthly meetings of the Michigan Professional Communicators hosted by David Crumm of readthespirit.com, an ambitious and successful “publishing company, an online magazine and a network of writers connecting readers with the most important voices in religion, spirituality, interfaith and cross-cultural issues”. [See more at: http://www.readthespirit.com/about-read-the-spirit/#sthash.hgjDFJn7.dpuf] I am an Ohio interloper, but they welcomed me anyway!
The meeting started as usual with a brief tour and discussion of the host place of worship, this time Northville First United Methodist Church. Lead pastor Rev. Marsha M. Woolley discussed the outreach and mission of the church and the desire to use the space for community events.
I went today especially to support Gail Katz, the chair of the local host committee for our NAIN Connect, August 10-13 in Detroit, as the Connect was a major item on the agenda. David Crumm was asking all of us what news or story angles there were to offer the media. I offered a brief comment about the longevity and international scope of NAIN.
Gail passed their flyer and commented on several of the bus tours that are offered during the Connect – Mayor Jack O’Reilly showing how interfaith relations have transformed the city of Dearborn; Detroit and the Underground Railroad; the Arab-American Museum and Holocaust Memorial Center; Hamtramck, Michigan’s most internationally diverse city [which contains a Jewish cemetery that even David did not know about]; and the urban gardens that are transforming blight into beauty and bountiful food production.
David picked up on the news value of the tours. He said that, for a reporter, covering plenaries is often boring and offers little in the way of a photo-op, unless the presenter is of the fame of Nelson Mandela. The tours, on the other hand, offer valuable photo-ops and tell a genuine local story. Another Connect host team member commented that Detroit wanted to be able to tell its own story, not the one portrayed by ‘if it bleeds it leads’ media, and especially by outside magazines who visit for a week and then hype bankruptcy and violence.I have heard recently two of our future Connect sites disparaged based on negative stereotypes. “Who would want to go there?” It occurred to me that one of the important assets of a NAIN Connect is the opportunity to tell positive stories of local initiatives that work, the success stories that can and should inspire us to go out and do likewise.
In Detroit, as in all cities, there are urban issues and problems. But the under-told story is that Detroit has a vibrant interfaith community that is working for harmony in the midst of immense diversity. The people of Metropolitan Detroit are collaboratively working on exceptionally creative solutions.
Our Detroit Connect will offer the usually family reunion with people from all over North America doing interfaith work. We will participate in an outstanding roster of workshops and thought-provoking plenary presentations. The young adults will be featured in excellent programming. In addition, as always, we will discover the unique flavor of our local host’s rich diversity and interfaith best practices.
I am inspired by the Michigan Professional Communicators and by the interfaith work that Metropolitan Detroit is doing. I hope that you will join us in August to share in positive storytelling.