Tampa Bay area women of various religious backgrounds will gather today (March 9) for the 9th Annual Womenís Interfaith Prayer for Peace.
And Iíll reflect on how much I need to reach beyond my own religious silo and connect with women of other faiths.
The event, held at the Franciscan Center in Riverside Heights, brings together women with differing beliefs for prayer, music and reflection. About 80 people are expected to attend. Participants will share stories and scripture calling for peace.
"This program is to honor spiritual unity so we gain strength as a community moving towards becoming a nation of peace," said Sharon Joller, marketing director for the Franciscan Center.
This year speakers include Right Rev. Judy A. Kahler, Bishop of the Celtic Christian Church and Hospital Chaplain for VITAS Healthcare in Central Florida. Franciscan Sister Anne Dougherty and Liz Kennedy, founder of Bridge Builders, will lead the event.
Interfaith presenters scheduled to appear are Donna Wood with a Hebrew scripture reading, Nora Zaki with a reading from the Koran, Ida Walker with a Christian scripture reading and Shreya Narayanan with a Hindu reading.
Interfaith gatherings offer a first step in bridging the gap and forming real relationships outside oneís own religion, Joller said.
Considering the close-knit women in my life, I must admit, the majority check the Christian box.
I know females of many faiths ranging from common to obscure, but these women are acquaintances. We may meet for lunch or converse at events. Still, we donít share the best and worst moments of lives. We donít know each otherís embarrassing stories.
Growing up, the opportunity to engage beyond hellos with young non-Christian women rarely presented itself. I remember chatting with a classmate in high school about her hijab, but we never met up after school. I never visited the synagogues or learned much about the culture of my Jewish friends.
As an adult, seeking out interfaith friends for the sole purpose of forming diverse relationships feels forced. Still, a little awkwardness may prove necessary to make a change. Admitting how little we understand about anotherís religion, asking questions and opening up about our own beliefs, is a start.
A few years ago, Relevant Magazine published an article about interfaith friendships and putting relationship before conversion. If we can learn to approach those of differing, even dissenting religious tenants, without trying to change them, real bonds are possible. I hope to raise my children to see the commonalities between themselves and others before the differences.
Maybe 20 years from today my daughter, now just 18 months old, will serve as bridesmaid in a friendís Hindu wedding. Maybe she will know what the inside of a synagogue looks like because she attended a friendís bat mitzvah. Maybe gatherings of interfaith prayer will seem as common as Sunday church.
To attend this free program at the Franciscan Center, 3010 N Perry Ave., Tampa, email [email protected]
Contact Sarah Whitman at [email protected]