By Rev. Charles Packer
When I was in college, I studied the living traditions of eastern and western religions from a very broad perspective. When I entered the ministry, that interest in learning about other religions, and a desire to study them on an interpersonal level, never left me.
As a native Iowan, when I moved to Oakland County in 2015, I greatly appreciated the variety of interfaith programming and educational and cultural opportunities that reflected our community’s diverse population.
It was not long before I began my involvement in the Detroit Interfaith Leadership Council. Within the organization, I began to form meaningful and rewarding friendships with both clergy and lay leaders who shared my interest in first-hand experiences as a means of learning about religion. I have cherished the friendships and conversations that IFLC events have sparked.
Others who come to IFLC programs have also forged meaningful relationships and friendships, especially after attending one of IFLC’s signature events, such as Exploring Religious Landscapes or “Ask a” programs.
As a member of IFLC’s Community Building Committee, the “Ask a” events were designed to be as non-intimidating and inviting as possible. It involves one house of one faith inviting representatives from another tradition and honestly and graciously answering questions by attendees about how they practice and observe their religion. Over the years, the series has provided the sharing of personal insights and stories from our Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Pagan and Native American neighbors.
It may sound like a Christian thing to say, but by facilitating the “Ask a” series, I do believe I have found one of my callings in providing anyone in the community who is curious about learning about other faiths to take part and connect in these deeply powerful conversations.
IFLC has benefited me greatly as a pastor. After each program I attend, I bring back new insights and learning resources to my congregants. In turn, my congregation has become involved in interfaith work. This past year, volunteers at my faith community, the Pine Hill Congregational Church, wholeheartedly dedicated themselves to interfaith work as a host congregation for the first time to area seventh graders who learn about world religions as participants in IFLC’s flagship program, Religious Diversity Journeys.
For right now, we cannot physically gather at IFLC events. We know that can leave many with feelings of isolation. But the groundwork and the relationships that IFLC established in the years before the pandemic has allowed us to pivot and create online events. As we continue to develop virtual programming, we enable people to leave the close confinements of quarantine and shake off the isolation.
IFLC will continue to provide digital ways for us all to connect with the wider world through the exploration of different religions. In doing so, we recognize that people of different faiths and cultural backgrounds have all had to deal with some kind of loss, be it an economic one, the painful loss of loved ones, or, the spiritual loss of not being able to gather for religious services or cherished holidays.
But by keeping in touch by learning virtually together, IFLC helps us gain an understanding of how our faiths help us find resilience. This encourages me and gives me a measure of hope.
IFLC is ever thankful to our supporters. Without you, such past programming, and the friendships that result, would not be possible. With continued support, IFLC will continue to grow our outreach. It starts this fall with the launch of our new Faith and Works podcast, a new, video-enhanced lecture series that delves into how faith shapes artistic expression, and continued growth of our Religious Diversity Journeys program.
We seek to continue and expand these programs through support from people like you. Please consider a donation through www.detroitinterfaithcouncil.com , or by clicking on the Donate button below.