Three gain ideas for interfaith event, church's series, service project
Three members of Unity Spiritual Center in South Spokane, who were among 8,000 people of more than 200 traditions at the Parliament of World Religions Nov. 1 to 7 in Toronto, are now applying ideas from that gathering in their congregation and for interfaith work through One Peace Many Paths.
The 2018 Parliament marked 125 years since the first Parliament in Chicago in 1893.
It was Hank Broeckling's first Parliament, but the second one for Joan Broeckling and Jane Simmons. Joan went in 2015 to Salt Lake City. Jane and her husband Gary, co-pastors at Unity, went in 2012 to Melbourne.
They are incorporating ideas for interfaith work, an upcoming event, study program, native-non-native ties, a mat project and the Compassion Games.
Inspired by diversity
Because they are involved in peace and interfaith work in Spokane, they gained inspiration at the Parliament.
"I soaked up energy from the diversity and acceptance," Joan said. "It was fascinating to be among so many people of so many traditions on the world level, gathering and recognizing our commonalties Unity teaches about the oneness of creation. We live out our oneness in everyday relationships."
Jane said it made her "heart sing" to be under one roof with so many kind, compassionate people.
Hank said it deepened his sense of oneness with everyone to connect with people of so many races and beliefs.
"I recognize we are one from the Creator. Horizons opened for us, realizing those who were there are taking that energy back to their homes," he said.
Sharing 'Speed Faithing' event
One Peace Many Paths is planning an "Interfaith Potluck and 'Speed Faithing' Dialogue" from 6 to 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9, at the SGI-USA Spokane Buddhist Center, 1717 W. 6th Ave., as part of the 2019 United Nations' World Interfaith Harmony Week.
"Speed Faithing," a spin-off on speed dating was introduced at the Parliament, said Joan.
"In small groups, we will share how our faiths impact our questions, perspectives and life choices," she said. "With others from our spiritually diverse community, we will explore such topics as gratitude, love, environmental responsibility, spiritual practice, relationship to the divine, giving and receiving, peace and justice, prayer and meditation, and service.
Offering series to act on faith
Inspired by interacting with many of the 250 people at the Parliament from The Association of Global New Thought, Jane decided to lead a year-long Sunday series with Gary, called "Don't Believe a Word I Say." Congregants are invited each week to put the principles spoken about into practice rather than just hear about them.
"New Thought seeks to create a world that works for everyone," she said. "The world is changing. Change happens through us."
The series encourages participants to take words of faith and put them into practice to see what changes they bring, she said.
"Unity is about practicing spirituality," Jane said.
Insight for indigenous ties
Hank connected the recognition and presence of Canada's First Nations and other indigenous people with his involvement locally with the Native Non-Native Talking Circle, started six years ago by One Peace Many Paths.
Last September, the 2018 Spokane Compassion Games included a Horse Massacre Healing Event, acknowledging the 1858 U.S. Army massacre of 800 Indian horses, "honoring the resilience of tribes and pledging for native and non-natives to work together for a positive future," Hank said.
He and Joan also participated in a Spokane Tribe regional tour of 160-year-old battle sites and heritage spots.
At the Parliament, Hank learned that Canada's 2006 National Reconciliation Act seeks to bridge relationships with First Nations. It includes rewriting history books, because most have been written from the white man's perspective of coming to tame and civilize indigenous people. He also learned how Canada is valuing and promoting First Nations' culture.
"From that and my connection with the Native Non-Native Talking Circle, I realize we all need to heal," Hank said, aware that poverty is still an issue for indigenous people and indigenous women continue to disappear.
Doing a service project
Joan looked for ideas she could bring back to use in the Unity Sunday school and worship, as well as in One People Many Paths workshops on compassion, environment and interfaith gatherings.
At Unity Spiritual Center, she has started a project with third to eighth graders, called "Mats of Love," creating mats with plastic bags to give to homeless people.
"We are weaving long newspaper bags into four-by-six-foot mats on a loom with two-by-four boards," Joan said. "The mats are four inches thick, providing insulation from the ground."
Joan seeks donations of thousands of bags for this intergenerational activity—doing a little every Sunday.
That project connects concern about homeless people with the concern about plastics in the environment.
At an environmental presentation that challenged single-use plastic bags, Hank learned that only "nine percent of plastics are recycled, and the rest goes into landfills and the ocean."
He was impressed by the openness to change among Parliament participants and by recognition that "we can't keep doing what we are doing," especially given reports that climate change is speeding up."
Compassionate Cities met
Joan met representatives of four other—Spokane is one—"Compassionate Cities"—Rotterdam, San Jose, Pomona and Austin. For more than 10 years, some have been connecting governments, nonprofits, artists and others to reduce poverty and make their cities more compassionate.
"Each year, One Peace Many Paths and the Compassion Games promote the United Nations' 15 Sustainable Development Goals," said Joan, who learned how the SDGs are being spread worldwide.
"How can we as a city and region integrate compassion into our policies, courts and education?" she asked. "I am one small voice. Compassion needs to be systemic and global, not one little effort here.
"We have more compassion in the community now, but it's not yet systemic. We have to work with city leaders so it runs through policy," she said. "It's also important for interfaith work to demonstrate compassion.
Interfaith is not a luxury
"Interfaith is no longer a luxury or nice option. It's a necessity in facing today's challenges," Joan said.
Opening night, she felt grateful and inspired to see people of so many ethnicities and walks of life finding many ways to be a compassionate presence, motivated by their faith traditions," said Jane. "We all want to make a difference so children have a safe place to live and a clean earth."
Every session, 25 to 40 workshops were offered, covering many issues from many perspectives.
"It's important for faith communities to connect with people who are affiliated with any faith or no faith through common causes, the environment and social justice issues," Jane said. "Many young people don't come to church Sundays, so we need to build relationships and discuss spiritual aspects to deepen connections."
In one "jam packed" session on the future of religion, Jane came to realize that many who are labeled as "nones"—not identifying with or affiliated with any religion or faith community—are not people with no faith.
"Most seek spiritual meaning and are concerned about social justice," she said.
Copyright@ The Fig Tree, February, 2019