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Huff-Post Religion Uncovers ‘The Surprising Sacred Gathering Spaces That Are Moving Into Your Neighborhoods’

Published with permission from Huff-Post Religion. By: Jaweed Kaleem

Twice a week, every Sunday and Monday night, around a dozen New Yorkers gather in long, candle-lit studio apartment nestled between a hair salon and some warehouses in one of Brooklyn’s latest hip neighborhoods. They’re actors, singers, seminarians and new parents, and they sit in groups of six around tables in one of the simplest and most untraditional Christian worship spaces the city has to offer.

St. Lydia’s Church has no pews, no altar, no vestments, no band or choir, and little formality of any kind. Instead, church means drums and chanting, with frequent references to Jesus; breaking bread and drinking communion grape juice; and a long, three-hour homemade vegetarian dinner punctuated by Bible readings, a sermon and frequent talk of what it means to be a young spiritual seeker in Brooklyn. The pastor is ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but the members themselves range from atheist and agnostic to evangelical, Catholic and Episcopalian.

Worship services at St. Lydia’s church in Brooklyn center around a meal prepared by attendees.

“Growing up, I was really sure in my faith in God and in going to Episcopal church — I loved the liturgy — but my sense was that I would never invite a friend of mine to this kind of worship service because it felt like there were so many barriers everywhere, from the look to the feel to the sounds of the place,” says Emily Scott, 34, who founded St. Lydia’s dinner church five years ago at a friend’s apartment (it more recently settled into its new home in Gowanus). “We try to practice the most basic form of Christianity: bread, wine — grape juice in our case — water, a meal, singing and a community relationship and connection. I preach, but so does everyone else. We learn from each other.”

As fewer Americans identify with traditional religion and more people check the “none of the above” box when asked about their faith, a host of creative, nontraditional spiritual spaces are popping up across the country. They include religious communities that worship and mingle in bowling alleys and cocktail bars, or multi-faith worship centers that intentionally group Muslims, Jews and Christians together. Houses of worship are rebranding, too, hiring architects to design new campuses to appeal to the future faithful.

Traditional churches still dominate the American landscape, but what religious space looks like is undergoing a subtle, gradual shift, with some of the most celebrated new religious communities arising in cities and college towns. The church steeple in the American town square hasn’t gone, but it’s got some company.

“The declining participation of young people in formal religion has led to there being a pressure on elders — and young leaders themselves — to try new things,” said Duke University sociologist Mark Chaves, author of the National Congregations Study, which in its latest 2012 survey found that 9.3 percent of American congregations met in a building other than a church, mosque, synagogue or school — a 1.5 percent increase over 14 years. “There has always been some innovation happening in American religion, of course, but people are trying new things these days.”

Here are a few of the ways the future of faith is playing out in religious spaces.

Read the full article on Huffington Post >

May 12th, 2015 at 3:02 pm

The Spotlight Is on Interfaith Youth: Better Together Day, World Faith, and More

By Shani Belshaw, Parliament of the World’s Religions Intern

The global interfaith movement is expanding rapidly through youth engagement.  Building impact through innovative approaches to dialogue and action, the spotlight on interfaith youth organizations is bright in recent weeks.

  • World Faith-Interfaith Youth In Action announced the introduction of three new members of its Board of Directors, Alexandra Karasavva, Rev. Jennifer Bailey, and Savneet Singh.
    • Karasavva graduated from NYU with a major in Middle Eastern Studies and international politics. She has worked for eight years as the Director at TransPerfect Translations, a global business solutions provider.
    • Rev. Jennifer Bailey is a Nathan Cummings Fellow and Truman Scholar; she leads a multi-faith movement and organizes community events as the Founder and Executive Director of the Faith Matters Network (FMN).
    • Savneet Singh is a Cornell University alumnus, where he majored in Applied Economics and Management. He is the Founder and President of Gold Bullion International (GBI), the first electronic business where individuals can buy, sell, and trade physical precious metals.

Read more about these new World Faith Board here.

It’s time to get the word out for “Better Together Day” on April 14th.

The campaign by Interfaith Youth Core is all about getting our world more connected because we really are better together.

It all starts with a pledge.

For Better Together Day you pledge to meet someone from a different religious or non-religious background and start a conversation with him or her about what they believe and about your beliefs as well.  These conversations break down the stereotype that you can’t casually talk about religion with someone that you don’t know very well, a stereotype that isn’t true at all.

Click here to take the Better Together Day Pledge right now!

IFYC’s website offers many tips on how to start a conversation and even a shared values toolkit. The website has a lot of great ideas on how to get more involved on “Better Together Day”. One way they mention is by “speedfaithing”, which is where you spend 20 minutes learning about a religious tradition the other partakes in. Another idea to get involved is to take a new friend selfie: introduce yourself to a stranger, tell them about “Better Together Day”, share something meaningful with each other, and then snap a selfie with them!

There is even a “Better Together Day” Conversation Space on Facebook! 

Take the pledge and let your friends know about “Better Together Day”. We are in a world blessed with technology, but we are still disconnected as ever. Religious tension globally is at a six year high. We should all be using social media like Twitter and Facebook to stay more connected. Use the hashtag, #WeAreBetterTogether to let all your followers know about this amazing movement.

IFYC is partnering a network of 3.6 million young advocates that take on global issues. DoSomething.org will work with IFYC to promote dialogue through the “One Text Under God(s)” program.

All you do is text IFYC to 38283 and you can have the chance to ask four IFYC members from four different backgrounds about their faith; Thomas is an atheist; Keryn is a Mormon, Pavitra is a Hindu, and Sara Rahim, a Muslim, who is an IFYC alum and serves the Parliament as a UN youth representative.

Read about Sara Rahim in this recent profile featured in “The Muslim Observer”

When Sara Rahim recounts the details of her past accomplishments, it is with a breezy, cheerful tone. This is at once disarming and refreshing, given that they are long and of the highest caliber, especially for a person so young: the twenty-three-year old’s résumé is peppered with accolades from the State Department, the United Nations, and the White House, to name a few.

But for someone who thinks so globally, who speaks a laundry list of languages, her recipe for changing the world, Rahim says, starts simply: with sharing a meal, or starting a conversation.

It is this attitude that propelled her to the UN stage on February 6, 2015 as the youth keynote speaker for World Interfaith Harmony Week. Rahim has served as the Youth Representative of the Parliament of the World’s Religions for a year, one of the oldest interfaith organizations in the world.

Continue reading…

Congratulations to these emerging leaders. All young and bold interfaith advocates are invited to bring their talent and energy to this year’s 2015 Parliament at reduced student rates! Check it out here. 

Parliament Communications Team Member Nafia Khan contributed to this article.  

5 Questions Introducing New Parliament Board Trustee Dr. Brian Birch

Shani Belshaw, an intern on the Parliament communication’s team, recently conducted an interview with one of the Parliament’s newest trustees Dr. Brian Birch to discuss his journey to the Board and what a significant role religion plays in our societies. Birch also explains his view on how the 2015 theme— Reclaiming the Heart of our Humanity. Working Together for a World of Compassion, Peace, Justice, and Sustainability—exemplifies the topical, practical dimensions that will be addressed at the Parliament.

Parliament of the World’s Religions: The 2015 Parliament in Salt Lake City is quickly approaching, what about the coming Parliament excites you most?

Brian Birch: I cannot think of a better time to be hosting a Parliament. Religious differences and misunderstanding continue to play a significant role in human conflict. This event is an opportunity to communicate the deep commitments of religious communities to peace and harmony.

PWR: This is the first Parliament to ever be held in Utah; what do you hope the people of Utah gain from the 2015 Parliament being held there?

BB: I am extremely proud to be part of hosting the Parliament in my home city. Salt Lake City is a wonderful choice. The people of Utah are among the most friendly and hospitable in the world. Our community will greatly benefit from the cultural and religious diversity. Though we have a strong history of hosting international visitors, the religious dimensions of the event add a degree of unparalleled richness.

PWR: The theme of the 2015 Parliament is Reclaiming the Heart of Our Humanity: Working Together for a World of Compassion, Peace, Justice, and Sustainability; what do you like about this theme?

BB: The theme could not be more timely and communicates the very practical dimensions of interfaith work. Religion remains among the most potent forces in the human experience. It influences a variety of institutions and thus has a substantial role to play in finding solutions to our biggest challenges. I’m excited that people will see the application of faith to our economic and environmental challenges.

PWR: What major events in your life have encouraged you to be a part of this movement?

BB: As a young Latter-day Saint missionary in New York City, I was mesmerized by the diversity of faiths and cultures I experienced there. I observed firsthand the challenges of religious misunderstanding and prejudice and it led to my academic pursuits in these areas. My experiences over the years have only strengthened my commitment to respectful interactions across religious and ethical lines.

PWR: One of the three focused constituencies of the 2015 Parliament is youth. You’re the Director of the Religious Studies Program and Center for the Study of Ethics at Utah Valley University and active in the development of student interfaith leadership through partnerships with the Interfaith Youth Core; what have you learned from working with the youth?

BB: I am continually amazed by the creativity and commitment of young interfaith leaders. Students are naturally more inclusive and have an orientation toward service that gives them a head start in working across differences. The Parliament leadership is especially anxious to provide opportunities to build on their unique forms of social capital.

_____________________________________________________________

Brian D. Birch is Director of the Religious Studies Program and Center for the Study of Ethics at Utah Valley University. He received his Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion and Theology at Claremont Graduate University and specializes in comparative theology and the ethical dimensions of religious diversity. He is a member of the Salt Lake Interfaith Roundtable and active in the development of student interfaith leadership through partnerships with the Interfaith Youth Core and related organizations. He currently serves as Senior Research Fellow at the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy and his latest book projects are entitled Radical Pluralism: Essays on Religious Practice and Mormonism Among Christian Theologies for Oxford University Press.

The World of Interfaith, Parliament 2015 Coming to America

The Parliament Board voted to hold the next Parliament of the World’s Religions in the United States in 2015. Dates and city will be announced shortly.

The Board of the Parliament voted this weekend to hold the next Parliament in the United States in 2015. The next Parliament marks the fifth modern Parliament and the first American Parliament in 22 years.

“America is the home base of the interfaith movement and it’s about time the Parliament come back home. The Parliament in 2015 will strengthen the interfaith movement through our listening, sharing and networking with each other,” says Chair of the Board Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid.

The interfaith activism in North America has at least doubled in the last 10 years, whereas it is sprouting all around the world where people who have never heard of the interfaith movement are now becoming part of it. As the next generation connects to issues of peace, justice and sustainability it is time to introduce these emerging leaders to the Parliament.

Dates and location will be announced shortly.

Since 1993, more than 37,000 delegates of 80 countries have come to the Parliament representing 50 plus traditions in programs, plenaries, cultural exchanges and dialogue. Parliaments held in the USA, South Africa, Spain, and Australia have amassed a global interfaith community committed to the advancement of a more peaceful, just, and sustainable world.

We Want To Hear From You:

As the Parliament prepares to announce the next host city please kindly share with us your preferences on themes, plans and costs as we create a Parliament 2015 for you.

Open Short Questionnaire…

Please stay connected in the coming days for these important announcements:

  • Parliament 2015 Host City Announcement
  • Parliament 2015 Dates
  • Exclusive Pre-Sale Registration Instructions for Parliament Ambassadors, Supporters, and Partners
  • On-Sale Dates and Rates to attend the 2015 Parliament
  • Sponsorship and Exhibition Details
  • Program Proposals
  • Pre-Parliament Events Planning Around the World
  • Volunteer, Intern, and Professional Openings with the 2015 Parliament

Become a Parliament Ambassador!


Join a select network of global Interfaith advocates conducting listening sessions with their communities to create the next Parliament. Ambassadors extend the Parliament platform for mobilizing people of faith for social action in their local communities and play an indispensable role in the evolution of the Parliament movement. Read more…

CPWR Fellow Joshua Stanton Is Top Nominee for Coexist Prize

“One of the most dynamic new leaders in the interfaith field,” Joshua Stanton, CPWR’s Religious Leadership Fellow, has been nominated for the 2012 Coexist Prize, a prestigious award given by the Coexist Foundation.  The foundation cited Stanton’s groundbreaking work in harnessing new media for interreligious dialogue, specifically highlighting State of Formation.

 

 

2012 Call for Contributors–State of Formation

from State of Formation

Greetings,

We are excited to announce that we will be officially accepting nominations on a bi-annual basis and therefore are calling for nominations and self- nominations for Contributing Scholars for our online forum, State of Formation.

State of Formation is a community conversation between young leaders in formation. Together, a cohort of seminarians, rabbinical students, graduate students and the like – the future religious and moral leaders of tomorrow – will work to redefine the ethical discourse today, particularly as it is used to refract current events and personal experiences. This initiative is supported by a partnership between the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR), Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue (JIRD), Hebrew College, and Andover Newton Theological School.

Over the past year, emerging religious and ethical leaders from around the country have engaged readers around the world by sharing their stories and views on State of Formation. Conversations once dominated by established leaders are now readily embraced by the up-and-comers, and accessible to contributors from many different moral, faith, political, economic, and social backgrounds.

Over the past six months, State of Formation staffs have worked to identify Regional Associations in Chicago, Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Francisco, Richmond, and Nashville. These groups strive to showcase the strong work happening within local communities across the country while fostering better relationships between emerging leaders. Through this process, we hope to provide resources for enhancing dialogues across the country in addition to creating a sense of community for State of Formation contributors.

Contributing Scholars to State of Formation will be able to take advantage of the numerous benefits to participating in the State of Formation Contributing Scholars Fellowship. In addition to being recognized as a Contributing Scholar by JIRD and CPWR, they may be eligible for travel grants and may have their work featured in articles on additional platforms like CPWR’s website, PeaceNext, The Huffington Post, Interfaith Youth Core, Pluralism Project, Interfaith Observer, and Tikkun.

Nominees should be currently enrolled in a seminary, rabbinical school, graduate program, or another institution for theological or philosophical formation — or up to three years out of their graduate program in a professional setting. (On rare occasions, exceptions will be made to these guidelines in order to increase the diversity of the writers.)  Emerging leaders from both within and outside of the regional groups are encouraged to apply.

Does this describe you or an emerging leader you know? Please take a moment to fill out our brief nomination form. Nominations for the spring are due March 15, 2012 and will be accepted on a rolling basis.

Sincerely,

Honna Eichler, Managing Director of State of Formation at the Journal for Inter-Religious Dialogue.

Click here to visit State of Formation