On the Formation of a Statewide Multi-faith Network Initiative

In 2017 and into 2018 SPIN has been working with the Twin Cities Interfaith Network (TCIN) to explore their best futures and explore the development of a statewide multi-faith network. On Feb. 1, 2018, they co-sponsored a gathering of faith and interfaith leaders entitled, “Faith Communities Connecting to Change the World.” The concept of such a network was introduced and participants were invited to volunteer, or nominate others, to help with the formation process.

Since then a transitional steering group has met and focused on clarifying the vision. On June 18 and 19, 2018, gatherings will be held inviting people to lead or join task groups.

Let us know if you are interested or have questions. Contact Tom Duke (tduke03@earthlink.net) or Kevin Schill (kevin@outreachopportunities.org).


Statement of Vision and Invitation to Participate

Here is the statement about the vision and invitation to participate offered by Gail Anderson:

(Remarks at Feb. 1, 2018, “Connecting to Change the World” World Interfaith Harmony event at Dar Al Farooq Islamic Center, Bloomington, MN)

Be part of the formation of a New Statewide Multi-faith Network Initiative

Gail Anderson: On a Saturday morning last summer, I was awakened by a call from Imam Asad Zaman. He said there has been an explosion at Dar Al Farooq. I remember in my sleepiness asking him, what do you mean explosion, do you mean bomb? Yes, he said, someone threw an explosive device through the Imam’s office window.

He asked me to help organize a press conference for noon that day. I made some phone calls, and those people made some phone calls, and by noon we had about 100 people here participating in that press conference with the message that we stood against hate and violence.

The next Tuesday there were 1000 people in the field behind the building in a showing of support to say, not to my neighbors! Not in my community.

That is the power of relationships. And another word for relationships is NETWORK.

Thank you for joining us today. I am so delighted that so many of you, from different faiths, representing different communities and organizations are here today.

My name is Gail Anderson, I am one of the co-founders of the Twin Cities Interfaith Network and co-chair, with Tom Duke, of the exploratory committee and I have been asked to present some of the work that the Twin Cities Interfaith Network and the Saint Paul Interfaith network have been doing for the last several months.

For more than ten years the Saint Paul Interfaith Network and the Twin Cities Interfaith Network have functioned as hubs of interfaith cooperation. Last spring, we began to collaborate on exploring how we could increase not only our impact, but the impact of what each of you, and your organizations are doing.

First, we did some research. What we heard was there is a lot of good work going on, but it is fragmented, under capacity and underfunded. There is duplication of effort and there are gaps. Emerging groups do not know where to go for resources. Existing groups burn out and fold.

Then we held listening sessions. We talked to more than 50 of you in groups and one on one meetings to hear what you need to support you and your organizations and faith communities. Our idea was shaped by what we heard from you.

We asked – if we were going to build something to increase the impact of interfaith and faith-based work in Minnesota, what would this new entity look like, what are its characteristics.

Here is what you said:

We need a network–it should be multi-faith and state-wide.

This network should be mutually supportive, build on relationships as a core strategy, to create trust and solidarity.

It needs to be inclusive and representational of

  • Religious communities
  • Faith-based issue-oriented groups
  • Geographic
  • Generational

Continually invitational

  • Making sure to include otherwise marginalized people and voices

Generative

  • Members decide if they are in, and members shape the network, non-hierarchical.

Strategic

  • Not everyone is going to be involved in every issue or every activity, people come together as it makes sense to them.

The network has a central hub

Communications

  • Shared calendar
  • Resources–Listing of organizations, activities, educational materials
  • To be inclusive it uses the full range of technologies–Virtual meetings, live streaming
  • Action alerts
  • Information sharing

Training

  • Building interfaith and intercultural competency
  • Leadership training
  • Equip, inspire, motivate

Can help groups mobilize and respond quickly to events and emerging problems

Connects people for transformational change

  • Opportunities to go deeper, building relationships
  • Facilitates gatherings of those with common interests or goals
  • Provide different levels of action for people
  • A way for people to connect for meaningful change

Someday, an annual event. We are networking right now, sitting with people we may not have known before, learning about organizations and projects, thinking about how to work together.

Someday this may be a conference, with breakout sessions, and hundreds of people in attendance.

This Minnesota network would be designed to lift everyone up, not to add to anyone’s burden.

That’s a lot. Some people ask – what problem are you trying to solve? Is there a problem?

We say yes.

There are still homeless people, we still have poverty, there is still gun violence, – 11 school shootings already in 2018. We still don’t have a comprehensive immigration law, and our neighbors are being deported daily. Muslims, Native Americans, African Americans – even those who are elected to serve us -are targets of discrimination and hatred, and even banned. People who thought they were part of the mainstream now find themselves once again marginalized. Religions don’t understand each other, and religion is used as a wedge to divide us.

It is not as if we are not trying. We all are working so hard, we are all doing good work, [Yet while we are making progress, and while we can see the solutions, we aren’t done.

What we are lacking is the infrastructure to hold us together, to support each other in this work, and the increase the impact of all our work.

We are beginning with a vision:

A multi-faith, collaborative network of faith-based leaders and organizations

That assist member groups in doing their more effectively

And serves as a catalyst and tool for increased collaboration

For greater SOCIAL IMPACT

Now it is time to build.

You can help

Spread the word–Jerad Morey is here from the Minnesota Council of Churches. He will be writing a short newsletter story about todays event, with picture from our photographer Randy Hoepner. We will be sending you a copy of this story. Please adapt it and send to your networks.

We are looking for nominations for people to serve on a steering committee, to help set direction, do some strategic thinking, people who represent constituencies, who will bring diverse viewpoints to the table, who can be champions of the network.

We are also looking for nominations for people to serve on a working group, particularly to help with communication, technology, and fundraising. People who are open to the opportunity to share their talents to help the network launch.

There are papers on your tables so please nominate someone today. And we will be sending you a follow up email where you will also be able to reflect on what you heard today and make a nomination later. We want to hear from you, we are asking for your partnership in shaping this vision and bringing it into reality.

These are challenging times. Rev. Brittany shared her chilling story of standing up to Nazis in her hometown. We are meeting in a facility that was bombed last summer. We all have been working hard, we are tired, and sometimes discouraged.

Poet Sherman Alexi reflected on these times and wrote a poem called Hymn. I leave you with a few lines.

I am one more citizen marching against hatred

Alone we are defenseless. Collected we are sacred.

What better inspiration for Faith Communities Connecting to Change the World.

Collected we are sacred.