Following a year of unprecedented uncertainty and chaos and in the midst of ongoing racial tensions and social divisiveness, developing interfaith and/or cross-cultural relationships is more important than ever.
Invite leaders and members from every identified religious and/or cultural group in your community – whether their all multi-denominational Christian bodies or run the gamut of world religions – to create and share TOGETHER a community-wide Service of Healing and Hope.
Preparatory dialogues, alone, may be sources of healing for leaders around the table. Let these meetings be time for prayer, learning about one another, sharing from everyones’ holy texts, dialoguing about wide-ranging topics and simply getting to know one another. You might even engage in a book or comparative scripture study. You can find some great book options in our Conflict, Division & Reconciliation lib guide (or I’d be happy to help you find one!).
Get the local media in early: this heightens transparency, enhances community buy-in, and keeps dialogues focused on the intended outcome (at the very least – there may be additional happy outcomes, as well!). Letting the community know that leaders from diverse groups are sitting in prayer, creative conversation and preparation for such a service may be healing and hopeful, in and of itself (spread the word that these conversations are happening through your own online media, too).
Throughout preparations, put an emphasis on cultural learning and growth. Avoid appropriating by sharing leadership and honoring boundaries of what is and is not appropriate to share (from any particular religion or culture) in a diverse setting.
Invite the entire community to participate in the event. Host the event outside at a public site, such as a park, or stream the event online (community health and safety should be deciding factors in determining where is best). Holding at a neutral site also mitigates any assumptions about one religious group having ownership or dominance.
Create litanies expressive of shared dreams and aspirations. Offer prayers in diverse languages, reflective of diverse religious expressions. Share global music (be sure to employ the best possible music leaders to keep folks participating). Keep the initial event brief and uplifting, reflective of hope and peace.
Build on the event by offering additional learning and sharing opportunities between diverse groups and potentially establishing recurring services. The potential to expand on this – as safety allows – to include sharing food, dance, art and other religiously and culturally significant elements is enormous!