I find myself conducting sessions on Multi-Faith Awareness (MFA) on three levels: (a) ad hoc, in the midst of a variety of conversations, (b) when consulting with institutions on strategic plans for collaborative applications, and (c) in workshops to bring MFA systemically to various entities.
At every level, MFA includes (a) the constitutional reality of the “alignment” as opposed to the “wall,” (b) the language, (c) the structure of the institution of the Religion Sector and the uniqueness of different denominational structures, and (d) case studies based on real projects from those participating in the discussion. The introductory paragraphs of the curriculum outline state:
Multi-Faith Awareness consultation and training augments multi-cultural training to enhance constituent and client relations, community engagement and staff professional development.
MFA trainings give participants the skills to comfortably and appropriately engage issues related to religion, enhancing service to constituents, clients, community and staff. Individuals gain a knowledge of the diversity of faiths and the structure of religion sector institutions.
This includes: (a) understanding the religion dynamics related to serving constituents, clients, and staff, (b) forming relationships with religion sector professionals to provide support for individuals they jointly serve, (c) establishing congregation partnerships to collaborate in community projects, (d) addressing perceptions and misperceptions of religious beliefs and practices that impact an individual’s feelings of personal advancement, and a commitment to civic involvement and a sense of a civil society.
As I began the design for Regional Clergy Engagement, I needed to test the inclusiveness of the available sources for assembling the comprehensive clergy database. I called an organization involved with the Muslim community and was referred to a Muslim staff person. I was informed that there was a small mosque in San Mateo.
It was almost Ramadan and I thought to ask, “What would be the appropriate greeting during Ramadan?” I learned, “Have a blessed Ramadan.” I was one lesson further along in my grasp of Multi-Faith Awareness. With each call to connect with a person in the Islamic community, I was able to conclude with “and have a blessed Ramadan.” With that, I came away feeling I was more connected. It was clear from responses on the phone and when attending Ramadan Iftar that the feeling was mutual.
All Multi-Faith Awareness (MFA) conversations will explore your comfort with using religion “specific language” in any given situation. Your selection of terms may appropriately depend on how well you know the person you are talking to, or your comfort with a particular term.
The MFA sessions include a section on “specific language” and “inclusive language.” “Congregation” is the inclusive term for a religion site, so if you are not certain about the term, congregation works. How many times have I, as the lead clergy person in the county, who just happens to be a rabbi, met with a mayor and the conversation usually goes, “I really value the role of the religion community. I make sure every year to have a breakfast with the clergy from the churches, oh I mean, and the synagogues, oh and the mosques…” At which point I chime in with “Congregations works well.” “Oh, thank you!”
You can follow the link to the outline for the Consultation and Training in Multi-Faith Awareness and the Religion Sector Glossary.
What’s Next: Some examples of applications. Please let me know if you have a project to consider.