C3: The Stories That Make Us–A (So-Called) None’s Ethic of Interfaith Cooperation

On Sunday, July 2nd, I delivered the “teaching” or “secular sermon” at C3: West Michigan’s Inclusive Spiritual Connection for the third time. Previously,  I shared stories of the so-called “Nones” and building community, as well as spoke about the interfaith youth movement and why millennials are particularly drawn into interfaith spaces. This time, since it was my final time before I leave for divinity school, I told a much more personal story – my own story. Or, more accurately, the stories that have shaped my own story.

The readings from the service are below. To watch or listen: the video can be watched here or audio can be found here. Hope you enjoy!



“My sisters and brothers of every communion and community, of every household of faith, of the one family, clearly the word has been given. The worlds are now changing. This is our time to teach, to learn, to open the way for the seventh generation.

This is our time to dance, to fly, to see visions of life beyond the old boundaries, to search out the new common ground. The story and the stories are within our hearts. Let us begin.”

-Vincent Harding, “Hope and History: Why We Must Share the Story of the Movement”


There Is Room for You in Me by K. Sherman, CSJ
“There is room for you in me. There is room for you in me.
For I am part of you and you are part of me.
From the moment time began, it was meant to be that
I am part of you and you are part of me.”


“Engrave this upon your heart: there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you heard their story.” -Sister Mary Lou Kownacki


Catalyst Radio: Dustin Dwyer on five years with State of Opportunity

Listen to my interview with Michigan Radio reporter Dustin Dwyer, who has been working with the project State of Opportunity based in Grand Rapids for the past five years.

Listen here.

Aired on 6/16/17 on Catalyst Radio, 88.1fm WYCE, Grand Rapids Community Media Center’s community radio station. 

Common Ground Podcast

This past week, I talked with my friend Joe Hogan on the podcast he hosts called Common Ground, a production of the Hauenstein Center at GVSU.

The conversation spanned as many topics – both in breadth and depth – as Joe & I’s conversations usually do, and I think it stands as an interesting marker for interfaith engagement in this particular historical/political moment. Below are some of the themes we explored, and you can listen to the interview here.

  • What is the point of interfaith?
  • How do we create conditions for authentic dialogue?
  • The unique context of faith & interfaith in West Michigan
  • The role of interfaith in American politics today
  • Focusing not only on building common ground, but recognizing our inevitable common life
  • Interfaith Youth Core and Eboo Patel’s national leadership in the interfaith movement
  • Intersectionality of identity and how it has enriched interfaith spaces
  • The trend of the Rise of the ‘Nones’ and the role of non-religious people in interfaith
  • My Catholic upbringing, why I do interfaith, and my admiration for Carl Sagan & Dorothy Day
  • Living our faith our in public – “public theology reimagined”
  • The way we talk about and represent narratives around religion in media and news

The Interfaith “We”

(Wait, okay, how does reblogging on WordPress work?!)

Here’s such a lovely reflection based on a conversation jem & I had last week – love the way she distilled our conversation into the following:

“We have reached a moment in our public landscape in which the “I” interfaith leaders will quickly feel devastatingly alone or completely exhausted, and probably both. The interfaith movement is at a true “we” moment- a time when it needs to be acceptable and encouraged for us to ask each other to do things like march on the front lines, speak publicly against bigotry, or give money to civil rights organizations.”

The Practivist

Last week my friend Katie Gordon visited Boston so of course we had to get dinner and catch up. I showed Katie around campus, took her to the LGBTQ Resource Center to see our mutual friend and colleague Lee, and after a quick tour of our Sacred Space, we wandered over to Newbury Street. We stopped in Trident Books and mused over some titles, mainly discussing what had been happening on our respective campuses. We nerded out about a few particular books, mostly related to feminism and/or religion. Finally, we sat down to a delicious South Asian dinner.

samantha-sophia-195012.jpg PC: Samantha Sophia

Katie is the Program Manager for the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University in Grand Valley, Michigan. She identifies as secular, but make no mistake- Katie is one of the most influential interfaith leaders of our time. She trains for the Interfaith Youth Core’s Interfaith Leadership Institutes…

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On “Visionary Fiction”

“You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world… The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even but a millimeter the way people look at reality, then you can change it.” – James Baldwin

Why a “None” Does Interfaith

Repost from IFYC Alumni Blog | Dec. 1, 2015

Being involved with interfaith engagement is a deeply personal adventure into one’s own spiritual or religious tradition. Working with and learning from people of various faiths and commitments has caused me to delve deeper into my own beliefs and values. I’m motivated to articulate my beliefs in a way that tells the story of why I do this work, and why it matters to me as someone who identifies as a “none” (a person not affiliated with any religious tradition).  In the course of my journey I’ve developed an ethic of interfaith cooperation that is influenced not only by my own perspective as a non-religious person with a Catholic upbringing, but by the philosophies of those who I have crossed paths with over the years.  These four concepts from very different worldviews make up part of my moral and philosophical guidance for interfaith cooperation.

The Christian story of the Good Samaritan tells us that we, as Christians and as human beings, need to not only welcome those who are different from us, but also treat them with a transformative, radical love.  Our neighbor is not someone to be ignored, but to be brought in to our hearts and homes.

The concept of Ubuntu, a long-running humanist philosophy originating in South Africa, recognizes the shared humanity we must seek to see in one another, and embraces our interconnected fates: “I am because you are, you are because I am.”

The Jewish phrase tikkun olam means to “repair the world”, and represents the impetus to promote justice on earth.   According to Jewish tradition it is humanity’s job—collectively—to put back together the shards of a world broken into countless pieces.

The Sikh practice of chardi kala says Sikhs should keep a joyful, optimistic outlook even in times of strife. This concept is a reminder to create peace and better the world around us in this uplifting and positive way.

The Catholic theologian Thomas Berry once said, “The universe is a communion of subjects, not a collection of objects.” My calling toward interfaith cooperation was not truly understood until I could hear it through the language of my friends and neighbors. To welcome and love the “other,” to seek shared humanity and understanding, to strive to work together, and to do all of this in joy and delight, are the lessons I take from these worldviews and the reasons I am able to sustain myself in this work.  Through engaging with the community around me, I have learned how to be more authentically me.