Earlier this week, I attended the second annual gathering of the Western States Interfaith Leaders group, which included people from interfaith organizations in Northern and Southern California, Nevada, and Arizona. We met in the beautiful surroundings of the San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville.
Three of us were there representing the newly-fledged Silicon Valley Interreligious Council, but we weren’t the newest kids on the block. One of the attendees was from San Diego, where they were working on developing a group like SiVIC in their own area.
There were people from long-established organizations: The San Francisco Interfaith Council, Marin Interfaith Council, the Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County, the Nevada Clergy Association, and the Arizona Interfaith Movement. And there were representatives of community coalitions like the Interfaith Bureau of Sacramento and Interfaith Outreach of Carmel, and the Spiritual And Religious Alliance for Hope (S.A.R.A.H.). Finally, there were people from religious communities that define themselves as interfaith, including The Interfaith Circle of Alameda and the Spiritual Life Center in Sacramento.
Although there was a stated program of addressing the shared needs of interfaith organizations, especially funding, the best part of the time was the opportunity for talking informally, for sharing our experiences and our insights into the challenges and rewards of interfaith work, and for telling our stories (which we did Monday evening in front of the fire).
The gathering arose from the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne in December of 2009. Several people from the Western US had the opportunity to meet and felt that there was a special context for doing interfaith in the region that might be enhanced by meeting together and learning from one another. A small gathering in 2010 led to this year’s event, which included some 30 people in conversation.