I have been involved in interfaith work for close to three years. Here are a couple of items I have run across recently in my reading. Both deal with how people from different faiths, backgrounds and ethnic origins can connect on a genuine level with each other despite real differences:
In the 1940s, African-American minister and scholar Howard Thurman started an interdenominational church in San Francisco called the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples. More than just interdenominational, this church brought people of many different races together. This in the U.S. during the Second World War!!!
Here is what worked for Thurman and his wife, Sue: “a profound conviction that meaningful and creative experiences between peoples can be more compelling than all the ideas, concepts, faiths, fears, ideologies, and prejudices that divide them; and absolute faith that if such experiences can be multiplied and sustained over a time interval of sufficient duration any barrier that separates one person from another can be undermined and eliminated. We were sure that the ground of such meaningful experiences could be provided by the widest possible associations around common interest and common concerns.”
Thurman’s church did this through a wide variety of spiritual, artistic and service activities.
And this, “And around all of these and other activities, one basic discovery was constantly surfacing — meaningful experiences of unity among peoples were more compelling than all that divided and separated. The sense of Presence was being manifest which in time would bring one to his or her own altar stairs leading each in his own way like Jacob’s ladder from earth to heaven.”
(“With Head and Heart: The Autobiography of Howard Thurman,” pg. 148)
The second thought I encountered more recently and comes from Jesuit priest Fr. John Kavanaugh, who passed away recently:
“I am convinced that if Christians, Jews, and Humanists penetrate to the depth of their commitments, longings, and beliefs, if they enter that depth with a painful honesty and an integrity open to the fullest mystery of their human personhood, they will find themselves, at the bottom of those depths, indelibly and eternally brothers and sisters.”
(“Following Christ in a Consumer Society” pg. 130)