Some factors that make it happen…Part 2 – An essential prerequisite – Your ability to become fluent in speaking “Multi-Faith”

 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.

Some factors that make it happen…Part 1 – Continuity of Relationship

It is the common misperception that the US Constitution calls for a “wall of separation” between religion and state.  The previous Blog “Two Steps Forward – None Back” reviews the reality of the religion and “state” alignment based in the Constitution.

When moving beyond that misperception, the barrier to collaboration with clergy and congregations will vaporize.

The next move for you, and in bringing along your associates, is mastering a few basic factors which guide the journey into the Religion Sector.  You, as an influencer in the civic sectors, along with the clergy, as influencer in their sector, will both benefit from an overview of the Religion Sector 3.0 landscape of religion in society.

You may actually be further ahead in recognizing the arrival of the Religion Sector 3.0 era, if even simply from engaging with these Blogs and this website.  You can provide the lead for associates and for clergy in traversing the shift from 2.0 to 3.0.

Someone I worked with early on related to me after participating in an organizing meeting – “I knew they were in 2.0, but I didn’t yet know what the 3.0 would be for them.”

There is a lot of guidance in a “A Local Official’s Guide to Working with Clergy and Congregations,” which I co-authored.  I often use the “Guide,” replacing “Local Official’s” with a Post-it with “Educator’s” or “Health Professional’s” or any other community leader.

Section 5, “Involve and Prepare Local Agency Staff and Departments,”  recommends involving associates, regardless of your realm, in conversations from the outset, gaining their perspective, in general, and their sense of how specific outcomes might benefit from opening up an “appropriate and efficient” path to these assets.

Within the “Guide” it highlights that:

Education and training in Multi-Faith Awareness (for example, including a faith component in diversity training) will help fill what is often a vacuum on this topic among agency staff.  Such education provides county and city departments with insight and skills to more effectively engage with and serve the diversity of faith in the community.

The first critical step is setting up your own infrastructure which enables you to establish with all clergy that you are committed to a mutual continuity of relationship.  Seeing clergy as constituents in your realm will benefit from the three components that are the foundation for any process of Constituent Engagement.  In this case:

  1. Database – clergy and congregations – all or sortable by delineation or project specific subset,
  2. Spectrum Engagement – denominations, demographic and geographic,
  3. Relationship Formation – Structurally and Person to Person.

For the first two, I am available for any technical assistance in the design of these components.

The third is where success happens or does not happen, long term and across the spectrum.

Interestingly, you will gain four-fold in initiating the clergy relationship formation.

A. Securing the clergy relationships for you,

B. Giving your associates access to an entirely new scope of beneficial relationship – this is all clergy, not just the self-selecting clergy who possibly they seek or seek them,

C. Providing clergy newfound relationships with civic sectors’ leaders,

D. It will also include, as they will attest to as remarkable for them, mutual clergy engagement with clergy associates with whom they have no contact – remarkably, and to make the point, this consistently includes clergy who are in congregations within a few miles of them.

What’s Next:  Some factors that make it happen…Part 2 – An essential prerequisite – Your ability to become fluent in speaking “Multi-Faith.”

After That: Some examples of applications. – Please let me know if you have a project to consider – jaymiller@blueconnect.org

 

Exploring How This Makes a Difference

I began my Blogs, below, with “Religion Sector 3.0” and then “Two Steps Forward – None Back,”  Next, in “An Interlude,” I explored the immediate shift from flashes of race influenced violence in our society which were accompanied by isolated calls and long sought waiting for a response.  Now that call is not isolated.

In addition to acknowledging these significant moments, I related how moving “forward” in these moments benefits from how Religion Sector 3.0 can aggregate the call and response in the local community, throughout the nation.

Now I return to Religion Sector 3.0 and “exploring how this makes a difference.”  What are the sweeping benefits as we shift from the historic and currently dominant Religion Sector 2.0 to the Religion Sector 3.0 era?

The magnitude of this difference is a result of a designed Religion Sector, which includes the infrastructure for engaging all clergy and congregations in a region.

“A Local Official Guide to Working with Clergy and Congregations,” which I wrote in collaboration with the California Institute for Local Government, lists three benefits for community leadership and institutions of all the civic sectors* of society.  These also benefit individual constituents who are sharing more and more in advancing issues throughout society.

  • Extending Local Agency Education and Outreach
  • Deepening and Diversifying Public Engagement
  • Partnering in the Delivery of Programs and Services

*government, education, non-profit, business, religion

Individual community leaders and individual constituents, are the essential “influencers” when it comes to moving “forward.”  Those who want change will have to stand against systemic institutional and cultural barriers.  It is only with their success at “extending, deepening and partnering” that they will be able to move forward, breaking through these barriers.

We are currently deadlocked within our formal state and national institutions and in our local modes of collective discourse.   New visions will need to emerge from new perspectives which are going to depend on “extending and deepening and partnering,” so more people and a greater diversity of people share in the collective discourse.

As I stated in the last Blog, the congregation is the institution in every community with the greatest number of people, meeting more frequently and maintaining expansive communication by email and website.  Those individuals affiliated with any single congregation represent to a greater and greater degree, the diversity of race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, political alliance.  The list goes on.

In some congregations diverse group of congregants may not worship at the same time.  In some places, a greater diversity exists in geographic clusters of congregations, even on the same block.

In the first month of my assignment to frame the infrastructure for Regional Clergy Engagement, I drove a neighborhood in a community demographically diverse.  I spotted a church spire and headed that way.  The pastor was in and I asked about the congregants.  He related that when he arrived, they were the historic Irish population, with the addition over time of Hispanic and Filipino congregants.  Each convened its own Church Council and gathered at separate worship times.  He began a process of convening sessions of Council representatives, resulting in, among other things, the planning of three shared celebrations each year.   Relationships had changed, misperceptions had significantly diminished, the “community” had emerged.

Within the infrastructure provided by Religion Sector 3.0, the vibrant cluster in this congregation became the vibrant clusters of congregations throughout the Peninsula.  All tied together by the “cluster” of clergy framed within the infrastructure afforded by Regional Clergy Engagement.  Each Regional and Area Dialogue, Discussion with superintendents of schools, city managers, state assembly members, health professionals, office of emergency services and emergency managers, etc., reflected the denomination, demographic, geographic mix of the jurisdiction and the constituents they serve.

This made a difference, whether it was engaging around the different perceptions of each other, the challenges of a community crisis, or the role of congregations in a specific projects related to a health issue, disaster preparedness and response, seniors, students academic and personal success, or land use planning.  The list goes on.

The difference is the unprecedented ability to engage all the clergy, and through them all the congregations, and through them the critical portion of community constituents, and through them, their families and friends – the vast representative majority of the community.  With this bandwidth, there is no limit, as the past 15 years has confirmed, to the magnitude of the paradigm shift in moving “forward.”

WHAT’S NEXT: Some factors that make it happen…

THEN: Exploring some examples of applications. Please let me know if you have a project to consider.

Rabbi Jay Miller   RELIGION SECTOR 3.0
1.0  On the Town Square         2.0  Walls of Separation
3.0  Alignment: Among Congregations – Within Society

rabbijaymiller.com      jaymiller@blueconnect.org      650.740.4411

A interlude before moving to more fully “Exploring how this makes a difference…”

I am posting this on Saturday, June 6.  I am now fully focused on the killing of George Floyd, the cycle of voices raised collectively in demonstrations and the range of responses too much from modes derived from the limited array of Standard Operating Procedures.

“Two Steps Back, None Forward?”  I am stepping aside from the last blog on Religion Sector 3.0, “Two Steps Forward, None Back,” before moving to the promised next blog, “Exploring how this makes a difference.”  That “difference” contains a critical aspect of how we find “Forward” in this current moment.

Monday, I shared one of the two Shakespeare lines I remember, because these are the two I have had the occasion to recite in public performance  “There is a tide, which taken at the flood, leads to fortune.” This line came to me as I was watching various videos of people speaking up, individually and in small groups, affirming the core sentiments of the voices heard in the demonstrations.

Might this cycle bring an unprecedented level of a tide which leads to fortune?

These videos of people speaking up took place in cities scattered around the country and were aimed at moving the conversation above the inevitable noise around the demonstrations — The articulation of the issue, often followed by confrontations that take the focus. These were very articulate statements, each one heard by thousands of people throughout the nation, thanks to social media which made each one ever-present.

I am watching to see if there is a convergence of voices of people framing and reframing the issue and this sufficiently reported by the media.

The upcoming blog on Religion Sector 3.0, “How this makes a difference” will explore, with your welcome perspectives, the ways the innovation of the capacity to engage all clergy and every congregation in a region – city/county – collectively transforms the magnitude of the communal consciousness, the communal discourse and the communal direction “Forward.”

In every community, congregations, individually, are ubiquitous. (Eric Klinenberg – Palaces for the People). Religion Sector 3.0 delivers the unprecedented infrastructure which now can galvanize the benefit of their collective “ubiquitous-ness” in support of renewing community.

Congregations provide the framework for sustained discourse which collectively engages the voices of the full diversity of the community. This discourse can explore and put forth proposals which come out of exchanges reflecting the full spectrum of personal perspectives.

Today we lack the arena for communal discourse that is not conducted within the framework of self selecting subsets.  We have, this week, heard the frustration of the never-ending experience of movement “Forward” seized by the forces of polarized factions.

It is ironic that when religions, commonly perceived of as the most contentious of factions, were approached with a different premise, and in the context of 21st century collaborative modes of organizational design, they responded enthusiastically to the opportunity for bonding across the spectrum.  This is gave them the unprecedented and unexpected experience of joining together to collectively fulfill their common conviction, as clergy and as congregants – their belief in the core principles of both community and humanity.

This transformational breakthrough gains the collective assets of all congregations, each one encompassing:

  1. The most constituent based arena in every community,
  2. The greatest bandwidth of the community diversity – demographic, geographic and philosophical,
  3. The vast attendance, array and frequency of weekly gatherings,
  4. The voice of an acknowledged influential leader – the clergy,
  5. The ultimate in formal and informal communication – the origin of the historic phone tree 😊 – Now the contemporary website, email blasts, Facebook AND the generic “gossip” sustained by a continuity of relationships unlike anything else in our lives today. (Robert Putnam – Bowling Alone).

In the immediate terms of the focus of this week and what is hopefully the sustained undeterred focus, this is “how this makes a difference.”

Furthermore, individual congregations in the 21st century are predominately a microcosm of our communities – demographic, geographic and philosophical, as mentioned above, also economic, class, education, and so on.  And yes, across the political spectrum – just ask a clergy person after certain sermons.

This is the available arena for structured discourse on a range of key communal issues, building on the current communal fervor, within individual congregations and among congregational geographic clusters.  This is the collective Congregation Based Constituent Engagement (CBCE) not the ever present self selecting subsets of people.  See my next blog for more on this dynamic.

We have heard repeated this week over and over again, the anguish and pleas of a Black person regarding what it is like to watch their children venture out each day into the world.  And to wait for their safe return.  And adults, when willing to acknowledge that this is what they feel when they venture into the world.

When a Black person goes out into the world, they know their race matters. Whether they are in a:

Car

School

Medical Clinic

Job

Airplane

University or College

Business

On the street…

They wonder, will the person who focuses on them as Black be a:

Cop

Teacher

Doctor or Nurse

Supervisor

Flight attendant

Professor

Merchant

Anyone…

Most every congregation across the nation is composed of all these people and so many more.

Congregations offer the arena where we can have the real conversations and confront the reality of all of our lives.  Each one of us, on the list above and everyone else, has something to say about how we see the world we struggle to navigate every single day.

It is only all of us engaged with each other that we have hope for “Two Steps Forward, None Back”

What’s Next: “Exploring how this makes a difference…”

Rabbi Jay Miller   RELIGION SECTOR 3.0
1.0  On the Town Square         2.0  Walls of Separation
3.0  Alignment: Among Congregations – Within Society

rabbijaymiller.com      jaymiller@blueconnect.org      650.740.4411

Two Steps Forward – None Back

The context for this post comes from my role as Religion Sector Specialist, which began in 2002.  At that time, I was hired by the Peninsula Community Foundation, now the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.  The Foundation’s goal was to give design to the nationally recognized ad hoc structure of the array of clergy and congregations in every region.

The creation of such a design would provide the basis for the long-sought capacity to engage every clergy person and their congregation or organization. This design and engagement was successful within months.  This initiated the framework for an alignment within (a) the full religion sector, and (b) between the religion sector’s core institutions, the congregations, and the institutions of the other sectors of society, the civic sectors – government, education, human services and business.

The historic image of the “separation” – among congregations of different religions and between congregations and the institutions of the society – found a structure for achieving appropriate and efficient mutual engagement.  The term “wall of separation” – not a part of the U.S. Constitution – transitioned to an “alignment” which honors what is the constitutional religion and state decree, composed of the two clauses: (a) no establishment of religion, and (b) the protection of the right of every individual to practice their religious identity.

The misnomer of a religion and state “wall” had resulted in the marginalization of religion within society, to the unresolved detriment of (a) the institutions of both the civic and religion sectors, and (b) the lives of individuals in a wide array of circumstances.

So, since 2002, I have experienced the resulting era of Religion Sector 3.0, along with the clergy and the leaders of the civic sectors within the scope of the project, initially in one region, and subsequently, as I consulted around the country, in locations in California and other states.

Step by step, I have shared in (a) the clarification of the nature of the unresolved issues, (b) the exploration of their related dynamics, and (c) resolving an array of specific issues.

This is the context for this post, to include you in extending the public discourse, adding to the shift from misperception to the common basis for the exploration of the nature of (a) the religion sector, (b) the relationship between the religion sector’s congregations and the civic sectors, and (c) religion in society.

WHAT’S NEXT: Exploring how this makes a difference…

Rabbi Jay Miller   RELIGION SECTOR 3.0
1.0  On the Town Square         2.0  Walls of Separation
3.0  Alignment: Among Congregations – Within Society

rabbijaymiller.com      jaymiller@blueconnect.org      650.740.4411

Religion Sector 3.0

Today, building on current conditions and perspectives, we find ourselves at Religion Sector 3.0.

First, there was Religion Sector 1.0, “The Church on the Town Square.”  Then came Religion Sector 2.0, “Walls of Separation.” The United States has transitioned from “the church” to a multitude of congregations of a diversity of faiths, scattered away from “the town square.”

Progressively, certainly by the 1950’s, the subsequent “walls of separation” were twofold. First, came the very separate existence of congregations, each from the other.  Even congregations of common faith were scattered by distance as they spread themselves across the landscape.

Second came the increasing imposition of the “wall” as a barrier between “religion” and “state.”  Segments, in the religion sector and the civic sectors, promoted the rationale that society would be best served if a wall separated religion from society.  This was reflected in the life of the individual and in the religion sector core institution, the congregation.  The Religion Sector was ad hoc, fragmented and marginalized, as such, projected as outside of society.

A range of factors contributed to a 21st century longing for a society in which both people of religious faith and religion institutions were not separated from each other, and in which their faith was acknowledged within society along with other personal practices and organized expressions of personal identity.

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