Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston (IM) has been hosting Dinner Dialogues for 10 years now. These are conversations that invite people of different faith traditions to get to know each other and find out about each other’s faiths and their daily experiences of those traditions. Many people over the years have reported that these experiences have been incredibly valuable. But along the way, many participants have asked for deeper conversations.
Recently, using the Scriptural Reasoning outline from Cambridge University, several faith leaders gathered at IM and engaged in those deeper conversations.
The group explored the theme of hospitality by looking at sacred texts from Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions. The group was composed of clergy and lay leaders from Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Baptist, Mennonite, Reform Judaism and Hare Krishna traditions. The presence of Hare Krishna participants meant that parallel texts and stories from that tradition were added to the conversation.
From the beginning, the diversity of the group was apparent in that the texts were read in Greek and Hebrew along with English. The group as a whole shared a depth of knowledge not just of their own sacred texts, but of the texts of other traditions. This knowledge and wisdom led to profound conversations about the role of the faithful in welcoming the stranger. There were questions as to the understanding of who is a “stranger,” as well as what are the limits of hospitality. As an observer of the conversation, I have the impression that all of the participants walked away with a much richer sense of their own tradition’s teaching on hospitality, along with a deeper sense of the connectedness across cultures and faith traditions regarding the treatment of the “other.”
On its face, this was a scholarly exercise. And yet, you could see those engaged experiencing something more than just intellectual connection. In the short time the group was gathered, I observed a sense of community, a deeper understanding of similarities (and differences), and the value of taking the time to engage sacred texts for dialogue. The opportunity to simply meet people with other worldviews will always have value, but the opportunity to engage with fellow scholars with other worldviews provides an even deeper understanding of our human connectedness.
Manager of Programs and Partnerships
IM Interfaith Relations Department