On the 25th anniversary of the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN), more than 150 friends came together in Toronto over August 11 through 14 to convene the annual Connect conference. Leaders of religious, faith, and spiritual communities from across the continent gathered for workshops, plenaries and inspirational tours of sacred sites to learn and celebrate interfaith relationships some regarded “like family.”
The 25-year-old network currently led by Rob Hankinson of Edmonton, CA, energized participants across programs themed “In Diversity Is Our Strength.” The message was enhanced with a plenary on best practices gleaned from Canada’s legal history of human rights, a gripping panel delving into the importance of understanding diverse traditions within the indigenous communities, and the overarching agenda of most workshops focusing on cross-community development for all participating interfaith institutions. Youth engagement commanded a broad interest over the days of reflecting on what new talents come into the movement with several next generation of interfaith leaders in attendance.
Reconnecting to some of the first and brightest leaders on the North American Interfaith scene, the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions attendees Chair Imam Dr. Abdul Malik Mujahid, Senior Ambassador for Sacred Spaces Suzanne Morgan, and CPWR Staff Molly Horan were greeted by this spirit of partnership and collaboration. The Parliament was also represented by some of NAIN’s longest advocates including CPWR Board Chair Emeritus Bob Thompson, Ambassador Advisory Committee persons Kay Lindahl and Paul Eppinger, Parliament Ambassadors Sande Hart and Simran Jeet Singh, and past CPWR staff Ruth Broyde Sharone, each leading regional interfaith efforts.
(Check out the Parliament’s event photo album here)
As the legacy of NAIN leaders were heard over video and live speeches, one by former NAIN Chair Kay Lindahl reminded that interfaith is rooted in the beauty of conversation, relationship, and collective action in an original poem in tribute to NAIN penned by Lindahl’s husband, Frank Hotchkiss.
NAIN’s next annual conference will be held in Detroit in 2014 with interim fundraising efforts working to increase youth scholarships. A goal of $25,000 over the 25th year was announced and kick-started with a generous $2,000 donation from the global action network, United Religions Initiative.
“Gathered As One” was graciously shared with CPWR for publication.
GATHERED AS ONE
We, gathered as one,
Here, now, in this place,
Seeking a holy harmony,
Can we let these walls recede,
Dissolve, and be replaced
By visions of historic landscapes –
Where tribes of peoples long ago
Created stories, rituals and beliefs
That now form our differing faiths –
Those landscapes of earliest times:
Mighty rivers, plains, mountain valleys,
Desert oases, steep cliffs, shores by the sea,
Great forests; all visible
In a swirl of differing colors
With differing sounds and song?
Then, can we envision differing structures
Made to honor Gods or God:
Rings of stone, great mounds, kivas,
Pyramids, stone sundials in stone cities
High in the clouds, fine temples,
Great cathedrals, all of diverse design
In differing lands, with differing chants
And differing songs of worship?
Let these also recede, dissolve –
All the magnificence
Created over many centuries,
And now return to a vast
Far-reaching, interweaving expanse
Of those early native landscapes
All the people of our global family
Marching from the four directions,
As we create, here, now,
A new magic space for all who seek
To heal and be strong stewards
For our global home,
all who seek peace,
Who know of the transformative power
Of love and of those mysterious,
Blessed, spiritual connections
With the sacred.
Frank Hotchkiss 8/8/13 email@example.com
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