Connecting with one another can enrich and broaden our faiths


POSTED: Saturday, July 18, 2009

On an early Wednesday morning once a month, people of diverse religious traditions come together as the Interfaith Open Table.

Participants include Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, Baha'i, New Thought and nonaffiliated individuals. Our purpose is “;promoting the positive healing role of religion in public life by encouraging dialogue and community building.”;

Our premise is taken from the Swiss theologian Hans Kung: “;There can be no peace among the nations without peace among the religions. There can be no peace among the religions without dialogue among the religions.”;

Our usual format is to take turns sharing our personal “;spiritual journey,”; speaking from the heart. We have found that when we speak from the heart rather than religious doctrine, we can better hear each other, regardless of our differences. This has enriched us and broadened our own faiths, sometimes in unexpected directions. A Samoan pastor reminded us we also need to connect with each other and paddle together to reach our destination.

Connecting with one another can be a healing experience. I had the privilege of working with runaway and homeless youth for 23 years. Most of the youth were estranged from their families, schools and communities. One of our effective healing programs was community service. I recall accompanying a group of youth who volunteered to perform at a nursing home. They did a “;break dance”; routine in the middle of a circle of two dozen patients in wheelchairs. The glow on the faces on the elderly patients as they watched and the thrill on faces of the youths was marvelous to behold. For these youth, starved for recognition with low self-esteem, helping and connecting to the older generation became a healing experience.

Since my retirement 10 years ago, I have had the privilege of serving as the visitation pastor for my church for the sick, seniors and shut-ins at the other end of the continuum. I have witnessed again the miracle of healing that occurs when we simply bring people together. We especially need to connect the generations.

President Barack Hussein Obama in his address to the Muslim world in Cairo noted that all the great religions of the world have the Golden Rule as a common thread: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Perhaps in serving and connecting with others, listening with our hearts, we can also address the great social issues that divide us, even within our religious traditions.

I was struck by the words of Harvey Milk, the early gay rights leader assassinated in 1985: “;We can never win unless we open our hearts to connecting with people who appear to be very different from us.”;


The Rev. Sam Cox is the coordinator for Interfaith Open Table. He is currently the visitation pastor for Kailua United Methodist Church. He was formerly the director of Hale Kipa Youth Services.