When folks turn out to the Monroeville Public Library on the evening of Oct. 29 to hear an interfaith panel discuss environmental stewardship, they actually may leave with a whole lot more.
That is the intention of the organizers of that program, the first in a four-part series featuring representatives of the eastern suburb’s Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Unitarian Universalist and Sikh communities. The series is presented by the Monroeville Interfaith Ministerium (MIM), a partnership comprising the diverse faith communities that shape Monroeville.
MIM aims to foster relationships and dialogue among Monroeville’s faith leaders, and the panel discussions are intended to include the wider public in its efforts of fellowship.
Members of MIM meet monthly, rotating their meetings to various houses of worship, where they have lunch, talk about current issues of concern, and “get to know each other,” explained David Morse, president of MIM and a former pastor of Monroeville United Methodist.
“My life has been enriched by the fellowships I have with different faith leaders,” Morse said, adding that he believes those relationships can expand to enrich the community at large.
MIM has hosted previous panel discussions at the library — although the topics differ from year to year — and typically draw a crowd of about 50 audience members, according to Rabbi Barbara Symons, spiritual leader of Temple David and the immediate past president of MIM.
“What I think is important here is that internally we get so much out of being with one another, and now we are getting that out to the community in proactive ways, to get together and learn from one another,” she said.
The panel discussions commence with each faith leader speaking on the designated topic for about five minutes, holding questions from the audience until everyone is done presenting, Symons said.
“We all learn from one another and take pride from one another,” she noted. “You can see the pride on the panelists’ faces. It’s lovely to participate in that way.”
The topics chosen for the series are the result of MIM members’ “brainstorming,” Symons said. “We chose four that we thought would be of interest, ones that we all could relate to, that we all have positions on.”
In addition to next week’s panel on environmental stewardship, the other topics for this season’s series are: The Place of Mindfulness within Our Faith Traditions (Dec. 5); Thou Shalt: Sources of Religious Authority (Feb. 13); and End of Life Decisions: Simultaneously Secular and Sacred (April 29).
“All these things touch every one of us no matter who they are,” said Morse, who will be moderating the discussions. He hopes the discussions will help the diverse Monroeville community “sort their way through faithful issues.”
The panel itself is a “celebration of diversity,” Symons said. “We don’t have to all be the same in our viewpoints, but we can share what we believe in a forum that is open to the public.”
Other programs sponsored by MIM have included an annual interfaith Thanksgiving service, informational programs in schools and ecumenical Lenten and Good Friday services. PJC
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.