Last night I attended what was called the Faith in Action Summit put on by the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative (MIC). As our sangha’s representative with the MIC, and one of our faith leaders (as an ordained Order of Interbeing member), I was also asked to say a few words as part of this event. Among a handful of other clergy members from different congregations we were advised to craft an address, totaling 2 minutes and 30 seconds, on the following prompt:
Given our current societal context:
A prominent mark of our culture is a falling away from religious communities and practices. Yet the value of social justice and service to the community remains strong, especially among young people.
Many faith leaders understand that our faith communities are in a time where deep transformation is necessary.
A central teaching of all our faith traditions is to be people marked by our call to seek justice and love our neighbor.Paint a picture of what it may look like in 5 to 7 years if you could build the congregation that you hope to be. Note: (You have unlimited resources and everyone that needs to will say yes to your vision).
- Please be specific (What activities is the congregation doing, how is the building used or is there a building, what are the staff doing, how is the congregation known in the broader community)
- Be imaginative
As you might imagine, addressing the above prompt was not only challenging, especially in coming from a Buddhist tradition that emphasizes living in the present moment, but was also an interesting task to have to craft a response to it in under 3 minutes as well. While I felt as though I was sidestepping the prompt a bit, I just couldn’t bring myself to come up with a grandiose, sky-is-the-limit vision as to what our sangha will look like in 5-7 years. Here’s what I came up with instead:
Good evening, dear friends, my name is Nicole Dunn and I am the director, and also one of the ordained faith leaders, of the Open Way Mindfulness Center here in Missoula, where we are based in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Our sangha, meaning spiritual community, owns and operates the mindfulness center, which is home to four different meditation groups that meet on a weekly basis, as well as a peer-led support group for previously incarcerated community members that meets every Friday night, and a group for parents that meets twice a month – we also host other community based classes, workshops, and retreats led by a variety of different instructors.
As time unfolds I envision our center being home to an increasing variety of meditation groups and classes and having more of our members transition into leadership roles so that we will be able to reach a broadening range of individuals. I’d like to see us move in the direction of offering regular mindfulness programs at our center for kids and teens. In our particular root tradition, which emphasizes learning how to live in the present moment in a fully engaged way, we are encouraged to look at the interconnection of how when we take good care of this moment we’re automatically taking good care of the next moment too, because the future is born from the present. So in many ways I would hope that our future will look much like what we’re already doing, only extended and amplified.
Our tradition was created in Vietnam during the war by Thich Nhat Hanh and so we’re celebrating 50 years just this year, so in the grand scheme of things we’re a very new sprout among faith communities. We have a saying that “One Buddha is not enough, ” which means: It takes many hands to cultivate the transformation that is necessary to actualize the world in which we want to live in and be a part of. This time, right now, that we’re all investing in, and the motivation and call to action in which we’re manifesting here together is not only vitally important but it’s also really good news for our ability and capacity to grow, thrive, and strengthen in the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood so that we can continue moving beautifully into the future.
The event last night had a great attendance of people from a variety of different congregations. It was a heart warming gathering, full of inspiration and wonderful visioning. Hearing from other clergy members of different faith traditions about how to put faith into action gives me a great sense of confidence and pride in how our local community is motivated towards making a difference in the lives of others, for our earth, and for our global community. Amen.