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Tag Archives: Missoula Interfaith Collaborative

Interfaith Work & Sangha Building

I’m currently reaching maximum saturation levels in terms of my usage of time spent on writing projects, events planning, managing meetings and gatherings, and attending a variety of other functions. I’m in the boat right now of practicing to say no when it comes to the question as to whether or not to take something else on – AND it’s going well, too, I might add.

Factoring into all the many lovely things I’ve chosen to do with my time is to: tell a story on stage at the Wilma Theater here in town on May 5th, as part of an interfaith concert and celebration event called Tangible Hope, submit an article to be considered for publication in the Mindfulness Bell for their sangha building issue (slated to come out in the fall), and write a short piece for the Community of Faith section in our local newspaper (for their May 12th edition).

Is interfaith work and sangha building different? Ultimately, no, I think not. When I look and engage through the lens of sangha building, I see clearly that sangha exists wherever I go. It’s all around me. Whether in the setting of my home sangha of Be Here Now or my larger Plum Village family, or my growing relationships and partnerships with local pastors and interfaith members as part of the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative (MIC), which I serve to represent our communities of Be Here Now and Open Way with, sangha is an action verb; it’s a quality of heartfulness that propels me in the direction of cultivating brotherhood and sisterhood.

From the story I plan on telling as part of the Tangible Hope concert event:

I remember a time a few years ago when I was standing in a long security line at the LAX airport – I had just spent a month on a retreat at a monastery in our tradition in southern CA, so I went from this beautiful, sequestered and quiet environment to a place that was decidedly quite different. As I was standing in the security line, I had the wonderful insight that I didn’t feel as though I had left a lovely setting with my extended sangha and was now tossed into a hectic and unpleasant environment with grumpy strangers; I had simply transitioned from one sangha to another: from my monastery sangha into my air traveling sangha! This insight allowed me to interact with the space and the people around me in a different way – a way that was more open, friendly, caring, and kind. So, when I look and operate through the lens of sangha I experience it wherever I go, all around me – I carry it with me and I actively create it.

If we are truly invested in building sangha – aka spiritual community – then we must practice to envelop it fully into our lives and not relegate it to just our own beloved circles consisting of those whom we share most closely and are most comfortable with. The true spirit of sangha building must be all inclusive; this is the only way we can serve as agents of change in the world and continue beautifully into the future.

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Faith in Action

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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:

Instruction:

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

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Healing Communities

quote-comfort-the-afflicted-and-afflict-the-comfortable-finley-peter-dunne-54022

This past week I had the opportunity to attend two meetings as part of the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative’s (MIC) community outreach training.  As a faith leader of my local sangha and director of the Open Way Mindfulness Center I have been serving as our representative at a variety of MIC meetings, events, functions, trainings, and workshops since its inception, about 3 years ago.

On Tuesday I went to a training offered through the MIC by Doug Walker, United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, who traveled here specifically from DC to offer the training from Healing Communities.  From their website:

Healing Communities is a framework for a distinct form of ministry for men and women returning from or at risk of incarceration, their families and the larger community. Healing Communities challenges congregations to become Stations of Hope for those persons affected by the criminal justice system.

The training was being offered to a host of different congregations so that we could open up dialog, brainstorm ideas, and hopefully move forward with an action plan in order to open our doors and create a safe environment for individuals returning back to the community after being incarcerated.  Healing Communities aims at addressing concerns and issues that might arise within faith communities and also helps shed light on the social stigma involved for those coming out of the prison system and their families.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics 1 in 32 Americans are under correctional supervision, which means in prison, jail, or on probation or parole.  And since 95% of inmates will be eventually be released from prison at some point that means this is well worth our time as faith communities to address in terms of how to best support our congregations, since the chances of this affecting some of our members, on some level, is extremely high.  This isn’t an issue for certain areas of the country or certain demographics of people.  This is a matter that concerns us all.

During the training on Tuesday a local Methodist pastor shared the quote above, stating that it was the creed of Methodist leadership, “Comfort the afflicted.  Afflict the comfortable.”  I had never heard this before and it very much struck me as being important enough to jot down so I wouldn’t forget it.  When I looked it up online I discovered that it originated from an American humorist and writer by the name of Finley Peter Dunne.  As it turns out, Dunne’s quote is from an essay he wrote about the state of newspapers:

Dunne once wrote the following passage mocking hypocrisy and self-importance in the newspapers themselves:

“Th newspaper does ivrything f’r us. It runs th’ polis foorce an’ th’ banks, commands th’ milishy, controls th’ ligislachure, baptizes th’ young, marries th’ foolish, comforts th’ afflicted, afflicts th’ comfortable, buries th’ dead an’ roasts thim aftherward”.
– From Wikipedia

Since then Dunne’s quote has been adapted and used in many contexts and is often enmeshed within ministry work.  I really connect with this quote in regards to faith leadership roles.  It makes a lot of sense to me and has offered some good food for thought.

A primary focus of both the Healing Communities training and the MIC meeting we hosted at the Open Way Mindfulness Center last night entitled Better Together (which was a conversation about community service and some of the unique issues facing Missoula and how we can engage our particular mindfulness tradition in getting involved both individually and collectively) was about developing relationships.  In terms of supporting men and women during the re-entry process and also getting our sangha members actively involved in community service work forming, building, and sustaining reciprocal, genuine relationships is the most important aspect.  It is the nature of relationships and the web they form that unites people together, that offers inspiration, motivation, and ripples outwards to positively affect others.  Relationships take time.  They take active participation, interest, and an authentic drive to connect.

I think many things can be whittled down to the importance of relationships really.  Whether it’s with business, family, volunteer service, politics, creative endeavors, social communities, hobbies, interests, activist work, or otherwise our relationships are what bind us together.  Our relationships are what make us who we are.  And its the building of even more relationships that often serves as the best kind of support and nourishment that we can offer and benefit from.

May healing communities and the relationships they foster abound – in all of the many ways that this can take place.

P.S It just occurred to me…perhaps sometimes, it is we ourselves who are the comfortable that need to be afflicted by giving our time and energy to help comfort those afflicted.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2015 in Community

 

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