Nearly 200 people gathered at Santa Clara University to celebrate the creation of the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council (SiVIC). The result of nine months of planning and preparation, SiVIC intends to be a meeting place for people of the diverse religious traditions of the South Bay, and a voice for interreligious cooperation and respect.
At the core of the day was a community conversation facilitated by Chris Block, CEO of the American Leadership Forum. The discussion began with a panel which included Fr. Jon Pedigo, Feeza Mohamed, Mari Ellen Reynolds Loijens, and Dave Cortese (stepping in for an ailing Delorme McKee-Stovall). Block invited discussion of the findings of the Knight Foundation’s The Soul of the Community study, especially regarding the sense of connectiveness that people are feeling and how it might be improved.
Participants in the room then broke into smaller groups of 3-7 people to carry on the discussion in relation to their own experience in Silicon Valley, and how interreligious cooperation might contribute toward addressing the needs of the community. So engaging were the conversations and the chance to meet with others in the community that it was hard to come back together again!
Special music was provided by Ladyesong and the Joyful Noise Gospel Choir, which brought people to their feet. The Rev. Bruce Bramlett, formerly director of interfaith relations for Silicon Valley FACES served as the Master of Ceremonies.
Special greetings were shared by Dave Cortese, Chair of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors; Cindy Chavez, former San Jose City Councilwoman and Director of Working Partnerships; Chief Chris Moore of the San Jose Police Department, and Rev. Ellen Grace O’Brian, Center for Spiritual Enlightenment and member of the Board of the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Following a litany inviting people to commit to work together as part of the Council, Rev. D. Andrew Kille of Interfaith Space invited everyone to write down “a hope, a prayer, a commitment, a wish” for the future of the Council. The cards were collected together and, after a moment of silence, he announced, “Let us celebrate the inauguaration of the Silicon Valley Interreligious Council!”
Fr. Jon Pedigo
Pastor, St. Julie Billiart Catholic Parish; PACT; Interfaith Council on Economics and Justice; Diocese of San Jose
Vice Chair for San Jose District 3 Youth Advisory Council ; Junior at Notre Dame High School, where she is Commissioner of Community Service; active in many interfaith cooperation efforts
Mari Ellen Reynolds Loijens
Chief Philanthropic Development and Information Officer, Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Chair, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, former Vice-Mayor of San Jose