Rev. Dr. Jimmie Wafer, Pastor of New Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church and board member of the Interfaith Leadership Council, offered these remarks to the IFLC Community Stakekholders Meeting, November 2021.
Good afternoon to all, and welcome to the beginning of an excellent opportunity to initiate incredible moments of reflective, insightful, and transformative experiences. We believe that our community is at a difficult crossroads. Our public lives have devolved into expressions of our resentments. Rather than looking upon our diverse community as a source of hope and potential joy, we are too often fearful. We need to do something about this. And so, we come today to present a proposal, The Interfaith Community Values Project.
I feel a growing excitement deep within about the challenging Interfaith Leadership Council Community Values Project. The genesis of this project is IFLC. But the concept includes all people of goodwill who desire to come together to share and hear values that incentivize the growth of the “Beloved Community.” We seek to foster a unique community where humanity thrives, encouraging every individual to be significantly prosperous and freely express the inclusive community-building values they hold dear. We endeavor to co-create a forum with you and many others that solicit and encourage the sharing morals they depend on and trust to build, grow, and maintain critical relationships and robust communities.
Today is a challenging and critical moment that informs us of a variable history that propels us to bring forth a collective and truthful articulation of the peculiar values and mindsets that we hold dearly and defend with all our hearts, minds, and souls. We are equal creations by the Sovereign of the universe, members of humanity, citizens of this country, and an integral part of the world given the privilege of living on this terrestrial ball—earth! We identify as progressive intellectuals, but collectively we choose to live in webs of confusion that trap us in many kinds of hateful and destructive responses to fundamental human qualities. It appears that our comfortable places of influence have become cauldrons full of deception and destruction with the ability to hold us hostage and diminish our potential and desire to contribute to a fruitful inclusive “Beloved Community.” We seek the formation of a unique community that values the essence of every person whose being articulates a relationship with the Supreme Power of the universe distinctly, uniquely, and contributes to the collective entity of humanity. IFLC often inserts its wisdom into many situations where progressive, diverse, and transformative ideas give radical new ways to hear, address, and offer unifying alternatives to challenging conditions that ordinarily foster division, hate, and destruction.
We, IFLC, consist of various faith traditions. However, we are unapologetically here to entertain the value of listening and hearing the importance values dear to people of goodwill. We offer this invitation hoping and trusting that solutions will emerge from many radical discussions of precious matters that will become transformative when listened to and appreciated. We hope this will be the beginning of a movement where listening and understanding will add an abundance of moments that lead to inclusive interactions that bring forth appreciation and desire to change and expand the collective mindset that will seek to affirm the value of all creation.
I believe that we gather today with a deep yearning in our hearts to find solutions to the trouble that systematically plagues the land. In a world that knows how to travel to the moon, Mars, and unimaginable distances, billions of miles, into space, and we are woefully unable to bridge the gap between various beliefs and traditions. We all know that transformation can happen when we are willing to learn from each other. We learn when we encounter others with open ears and minds that can hear and appreciate their essence and values. A great question that opens hearts and minds is what makes you tick and the values that give you self-worth that can change how others see and appreciate you and your contribution to the world. We challenge you to encounter someone seeking to understand and appreciate their sense of their value as a human being. They are an essential part of this adventure of being and living because they are vital pieces of this interdependent puzzle of life in the community. It is a valuable assurance to know that we all hold different and critical unknown components, and we cannot make a successful journey without each other. Our radical hospitality and kindness to others are so much about how the power of understanding their values changes us, presents tremendous opportunity, and opens our minds to how we may influence them to encounter us in a different light.
We offer what appears to be a radical exercise in awareness of self and others. The past mars our lives in what we perceive as positive and negative persuasive moments. The radical realization for me is that moment is beyond my ability to change it, and I am powerless to go back to change what happened, but I can change how the past influenced my life. So, I must have a comprehensive understanding of the past and how it affects me to move and express my being in a relationship with other people and the whole of creation. Once I know who taught me what I know, I am free to examine, evaluate, and overcome the influences of generational sins (mindsets) that limit my life and community vitality. This realization gives radical insight into a brave new kind of existence that combats the evil targeting the weak, uninformed, misinformed, and indifferent. Life in the twenty-first century shows us that an unexamined position of strength is naïve and dangerous. We are created fragile, vulnerable, and dependent human beings uniquely reliant on each other and therefore only as strong as the weakest segment of society. We are here, and I believe the universe has some requirements of you and me? Listen to these words from the prophet Micah, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
Let us strengthen the chain by listening to the values of the valuable connections that possess radical solutions. We propose the following Nine Noble Community Values as starting points to focus life-changing and community-building moments of discussion and listening.
We will begin with and explore:
Radical Respect for one another
Curiosity – especially Curiosity about our differences
Compassion and Care for the Stranger
Demanding Ethics – recognizing that what we believe is often very hard to achieve yet necessary that we try.
By their Fruits – recognizing how our actions have consequences for others
Those are at least some of the social values that have emerged from interfaith work over the years. No doubt there are more or, if not more, we will certainly discover different ways to express them. In our diverse community, there is much to learn.