Religious Diversity Journeys Continues completely virtually, reaching hundreds of Detroit-Area Seventh Graders for 2020-2021 school year

For nearly 20 years, RDJ has served as a unique experience for thousands of students and adults in Metropolitan Detroit. There is no other program that brings students from multiple communities together to educate young teenagers during a school day and within the context of Michigan’s statewide 7th grade Social Studies curriculum

In prepandemic times, RDJ was comprised of six field trips over six months. RDJ participants visited different faith communities and were introduced to a particular faith’s common terms, art, famous figures, holiday descriptions, origin history, prayer and ritual. Students also learned about the historical and contemporary sociology of SouthEast Michigan’s faith and cultural landscapes, practiced civil discourse and civic bridge building skills through peer to peer engagement with diverse student communities.

Pandemic Shift

Due to the pandemic, RDJ’s diversity literacy curriculum is online this year. Remote Journeys are designed to offer engaging enrichment and meaningful activities representing the most important big concepts and essential elements of the RDJ experience. RDJ’s 2020-2021 curriculum is content rich, engaging and solidly rooted in SouthEast Michigan’s diverse faith communities. This year, these “roots” have found a home on the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit website on password-protected pages designed to support this year’s unique needs.

Educational resources for each of RDJ’s five faiths will be presented as “clickable” modules. Enrolled teachers and students are issued a username/password that will allow for unlimited 24/7 access to all appropriate RDJ pages. Remote Journey resources are designed to work well as asynchronous enrichment. Also, a teacher can assign different modules as homework or classwork. This flexibility will allow teachers to direct students to RDJ remote Journey material in a way that supports every classroom community’s unique nature.

RDJ’s Sikhism Journey curriculum began in November. The Hinduism Journey will be available December 1st, Judaism in January 2021, Christianity in February and Islam in March. Remote Journeys will conclude in April with Journey resources from RDJ partners at the Detroit Institute of Arts and Holocaust Memorial Center.

Students will be encouraged to begin their Journey with each faith by clicking a module called “Test Your Knowledge”. This simple pre-assessment is a great way for students to begin thinking about what they might learn about each faith. Then, by following each clickable tile in the order presented, students will “journey” through a series of educational resources that will provide a foundation of basic information on each faith. Tiles further down from the top row offer additional experiences to extend a student’s learning, and then students are encouraged to conclude their Journey with a post-test that offers the prize of a randomly drawn amazon gift card!

What Will Students Experience and Learn on Remote Journeys? Students will learn about similarities in values and ethics that unite individuals of different faiths and will explore diverse cultural traditions that enrich our broader community. Through recorded visits to the local RDJ host communities, barriers of seeing those we do not know so well as “other” will begin to fall.

Each month RDJ will also host Zoom Q & A sessions with local clergy. Zoom Q & A experiences are an aspect of RDJ remote programming where we have already seen success.

Spring 2020’s online RDJ programing called “RDJ Anywhere” used Zoom sessions with local clergy to offer an immediate resource in crisis conditions. Zoom RDJ sessions were held in April and May 2020 and attracted hundreds of students, teachers and parents. Program feedback included participant comments including “I liked that it filled me with a lot of information, even without actually being on a physical field trip.”, “Even though we can’t be together, we can still learn new things.” and “As a parent, I am glad this opportunity was offered for the kids. We loved the real field trips, and I’m appreciative that the kids can at least do them virtually now.” We are excited to continue these engaging sessions through the 2020-2021 year.

What About In-person Journeys? We are committed to returning to in-person Journey field trips when conditions allow.

I Have Another Question – Who Do I Ask? RDJ Director Wendy Miller Gamer Wendy.IFLC@gmail.com is at your service for all-things RDJ!

Faith & Works Episode Two: Is America Losing Its Religion?

Faith & Works Episode Two

Bob Bruttell, Saeed Khan and Reverend Robert B. Jones Sr. discuss what religion means in the American context. The function of America has been formed by the presence of many different religious traditions and understandings. Continuing on the theme of what religion is becoming, the group asks if America is losing religion or if in fact it never left?

New Episodes Weekly

A new release every Wednesday

Want to Be a Guest? Got an Episode Idea?

Contact our Host

Meet The Panelists

Robert Bruttell

Robert Bruttell

Panelist

Robert Bruttell is Vice Chairman of the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit and Vice chairman of the Ecumenical Theological Seminary, Detroit. He is Adjunct professor of religious studies and history, University of Detroit Mercy and a member, Christ the King Parish (Roman Catholic)

Saeed Khan

Saeed Khan

Panelist

Saeed A. Khan is currently in the Department of History and Lecturer in the Department of Near East & Asian Studies at Wayne State University-Detroit, Michigan, where he teaches Islamic and Middle East History, Islamic Civilizations and History of Islamic Political Thought. Mr. Khan is also a Research Fellow at Wayne State University’s Center for the Study of Citizenship. He is also Adjunct Professor in Islamic Studies at the University of Detroit-Mercy and at Rochester College, co-teaching a course on Muslim-Christian Diversity.

With areas of focus including US policy, globalization, Middle East and Islamic Studies, as well as genomics and bioethics, Mr. Khan has been a contributor to several media agencies, such as C-Span, NPR, Voice of America and the National Press Club, as well as newspapers and other outlets, and is also a consultant on Islamic and Middle East affairs for the BBC and the CBC. In addition, he has served as consultant to the US-Arab Economic Forum. Mr. Khan has founded the Center for the Study of Trans-Atlantic Diasporas, a think tank and policy center examining and comparing the condition of ethnic immigrant groups in North America and Europe, consulting the US and UK governments on their respective Muslim communities. Most recently, Mr. Khan has become co-host of the radio show “Detroit Today” on Detroit Public Radio.

Saeed Khan

Saeed Khan

Panelist

Rev. Robert Jones, Sr. is a native Detroiter and an inspirational storyteller and musician celebrating the history, humor and power of American Roots music. His deep love for traditional African American and American traditional music is shared inlive performances that interweave timeless stories with original and traditional songs.

For more than thirty years Robert has entertained and educated audiences of all ages in schools, colleges, libraries, union halls, prisons, churches and civil rights organizations. At the heart of his message is the belief that our cultural diversity tells a story that should celebrate, not just tolerate. 

 

 

Faith & Works Episode One: What is Becoming of Religion and Community Values?

In this first episode, Bob Bruttell, Saeed Khan and Reverend Robert B. Jones Sr. introduce the Faith and Works podcast. What is religion becoming? How does religion relate to our current society? What might we learn from the transition religion is in the midst of in America? What role does religion play in today’s landscape? In the American context, with a corporatization of religion, what is the impact on our identity?

IFLC Introduces the Faith & Works Podcast

About The

Faith & Works Podcast

“Faith and Works” will feature two to three Detroit-area experts, representing various interfaith perspectives, who will discuss community values and the changing role of religion in contemporary American life.
Topics will include the transformative role of music that began in the church and evolved into many genres such as soul, gospel, Jazz and Rock ‘n Roll and religion’s role in past and present quests and protests for civil rights and equality.

New Episodes Weekly

A new release every Wednesday

Want to Be a Guest? Got an Episode Idea?

Contact our Host

Meet The Panelists

Robert Bruttell

Robert Bruttell

Panelist

Robert Bruttell is Vice Chairman of the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit and Vice chairman of the Ecumenical Theological Seminary, Detroit. He is Adjunct professor of religious studies and history, University of Detroit Mercy and a member, Christ the King Parish (Roman Catholic)

Saeed Khan

Saeed Khan

Panelist

Saeed A. Khan is currently in the Department of History and Lecturer in the Department of Near East & Asian Studies at Wayne State University-Detroit, Michigan, where he teaches Islamic and Middle East History, Islamic Civilizations and History of Islamic Political Thought. Mr. Khan is also a Research Fellow at Wayne State University’s Center for the Study of Citizenship. He is also Adjunct Professor in Islamic Studies at the University of Detroit-Mercy and at Rochester College, co-teaching a course on Muslim-Christian Diversity.

With areas of focus including US policy, globalization, Middle East and Islamic Studies, as well as genomics and bioethics, Mr. Khan has been a contributor to several media agencies, such as C-Span, NPR, Voice of America and the National Press Club, as well as newspapers and other outlets, and is also a consultant on Islamic and Middle East affairs for the BBC and the CBC. In addition, he has served as consultant to the US-Arab Economic Forum. Mr. Khan has founded the Center for the Study of Trans-Atlantic Diasporas, a think tank and policy center examining and comparing the condition of ethnic immigrant groups in North America and Europe, consulting the US and UK governments on their respective Muslim communities. Most recently, Mr. Khan has become co-host of the radio show “Detroit Today” on Detroit Public Radio.

Saeed Khan

Saeed Khan

Panelist

Rev. Robert Jones, Sr. is a native Detroiter and an inspirational storyteller and musician celebrating the history, humor and power of American Roots music. His deep love for traditional African American and American traditional music is shared inlive performances that interweave timeless stories with original and traditional songs.

For more than thirty years Robert has entertained and educated audiences of all ages in schools, colleges, libraries, union halls, prisons, churches and civil rights organizations. At the heart of his message is the belief that our cultural diversity tells a story that should celebrate, not just tolerate. 

 

Acclaimed photographer James Fraher writes about Robert: “Perhaps the world’s most highly educated blues musician, an ordained minister, a longtime DJ, and a living encyclopedia of blues history, the Reverend Robert Jones is comfortable among juke joint loud talkers, fancy-hatted church ladies, and PhDs alike.”   

 

Rev. Robert Jones makes his home in Detroit while performing throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. An award-winning multi-instrumentalist, he is accomplished at guitar, harmonica, mandolin, banjo and fiddle. He has recorded six albums of original and tradition songs. Robert is the former host of the award-winning radio programs “Blues from the Lowlands” and “Deep River” broadcast on Detroit Public Radio’s WDET-FM Detroit. And he has taught at music history courses at Wayne State University in Detroit.As an ordained minister and a Baptist pastor, he has an unwavering faith the cultural importance of sacred and traditional American roots music. In addition to his solo performances, he often collaborates musically with his wife, Sister Bernice Jones, singer-songwriter Matt Watroba and poet-performer M.L. Liebler. 

Award-winning Birmingham Educator Rick Joseph Named New Chairman of World Sabbath

 

After 20 years, World Sabbath, a Detroit faith-based event that brings youth and adults together one Sunday each year to offer prayers of peace as an answer to global wars and conflict, is changing leadership. Birmingham language arts and social studies teacher Rick Joseph, who in 2016 was recognized by the Northwest Evaluation Association as Michigan Teacher of the Year, will take over the chairmanship position as Gail Katz steps down after 20 years of involvement and service.

 

Usually held in March, World Sabbath draws hundreds of worshippers and participants into a house of prayer into a multi-sensory experience with prayers, songs, and dance. Planning a future event will be a challenge due to the ongoing pandemic, Joseph acknowledges. The next in-person World Sabbath is not slated until early 2022 and is set to be hosted by Temple Israel. To mark the day in 2021, Joseph hopes he can coordinate with local religious leaders and educators to create an online compilation and collection of expressions and prayers for peace across Detroit’s diverse faith population. 

 

Joseph believes that World Sabbath is the embodiment of “what makes us spiritual beings and is a celebration of the ties that bind us in how we come together in peace to acknowledge the Creator.”

Children participating in the Parade of Flags, World Sabbath

“Coming together as we do each year at World Sabbath helps create a more peaceful loving world. I am looking forward to cultivating relationships with local religious and educational leaders to increase the diversity represented at World Sabbath.  

 

As a social studies teacher, Joseph always encourages his students to have deeper conversations by asking hard and sometimes uncomfortable questions to learn how to respectfully engage in civic discourse. Joseph said that sometimes, questions that can come off as offensive are okay if they are framed in a curious, non-accusatory manner. When a student learns effective communication tools such as how to ask questions on sensitive topics, everyone comes out ahead if it means those questions lead to learning and understanding more about another student’s religious or ethnic backgrounds. 

 

“There are no elephants in my classroom. No topic – religion, politics, race – is off the table. And though sometimes some questions or opinions raised by one student may seem offensive or even bigoted to another, I see them asking the question from a point of curiosity. It is then my job to reframe the question so it will have constructive and educational results.”

Joseph looks forward to his new role and hopes to continue Katz’s legacy of “creating community wherever she goes and whomever she comes in contact with.”

“Gail Katz is truly one of the most inspiring educators that I know. She is a true role model for me. From her work on World Sabbath to starting Religious Diversity Journeys, she has shepherded and facilitated relationships that span across religious differences and across Metro Detroit. She is somebody whom I aspire to and will continue to learn from as I move into this position.”

 

As a Catholic, Joseph looks to the verse from the Book of Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” for inspiration as he embarks on this new leadership chapter in his life to encouraging others across faiths to seek to achieve peace. He is eager to work with other faith leaders who can bring youth from different faith and ethnic perspectives together for future World Sabbath events. 

 

There is a possibility that there will be an online event in 2021 and for that, he is seeking people to submit videos illustrating peace practices in their religious traditions, rituals, or texts. 

 

A World Sabbath History

 

In 2000, Detroit area pastors Rev. Rod Reinhart and Rev. Ed Mullins introduced Katz to the program concept as they sought to create an annual peace event for clergy as a reaction to wars going on around the world.

 

When Rev. Reinhart and Rev. Mullins departed the Detroit area in 2004 and turned the coordination of World Sabbath over to Katz.

 

At the time, she was a Middle School teacher so she put her own spin on the event by asking area youth to participate and offer prayers of peace instead of clergy.

 

Twenty years later, Katz said it is time to “pass the championship torch on” to Joseph.

 

“I’m looking forward to staying on the World Sabbath committee and watching Rick take over as the new chairman of the World Sabbath, who will add his own insights and new ideas to the event as he encourages his own students to become involved in projects that increase their understanding of diversity.”