- To bring together communities of different faiths
- To collectively address common challenges
- To build bridges of understanding and respect between diverse religious and ethnic entities
In 2004 the Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation in Ashburn, VA received a donation to support interfaith activities. In the summer of 2006, Beth Chaverim congregants approached Loudoun Cares, a leading county non-profit, to assist in convening other congregations that were interested in interfaith dialogue.
The first luncheon meeting of what was to become Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES was held at the invitation of Beth Chaverim in November, 2006, facilitated by the executive director of Loudoun Cares. Many of the current BRIDGES members were in attendance.
As luncheon meetings continued throughout 2006, the group expanded to include a more diverse range of congregations and communities. Our group learned from established interfaith efforts, invited presentations from relevant local programs, and discussed potential activities. In the spring of 2007 we adopted a name and a mission statement, and formally became Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES. Our inaugural event, the first annual Interfaith Family Picnic, was held in August of 2007.
Since that time we have created a set of guiding principles and established partnerships in the community to co-create an array of programs and activities. We work to maintain an attitude of gentle hospitality and openness to inspiration as we strive to do the work of true interfaith organizing.
Food, faith and fellowship…
Meetings are hosted each month by a different faith or community organization. Our primary focus is learning from the community and from each other. An elected Board manages our operational needs.
Ongoing activities include the Annual Interfaith Family picnic (July), the Interfaith Day of Thanks (November), active participation in Leesburg’s Martin Luther King Day, and various educational programs in partnership with Loudoun County Public Libraries and Schools.
Covenant of Interfaith Engagement
(Excerpted from our Guiding Principles)
Members of BRIDGES recognize that interfaith engagement has the potential to organize participants around commonly held values, to encouraging a deep respect for diversity, to promote a climate of understanding and tolerance, and to provide channels for deepening relationships.
BRIDGES members covenant to affirm and promote interfaith engagement that respects the uniqueness of distinct traditions. We hope, that by building trusting relationships we may be able to address common challenges. This does not necessitate assimilation but encourages us to experience the world via the perspectives enabled by our diverse traditions, faiths, and experiences. The history of interactions between people of faith has seen both movements of syncretism and resistance to assimilation. Some of our faiths owe much to borrowing and combining faith traditions, oftentimes into a new formulation of faith. Others have shown enduring value because they kept their distinctiveness, resisting pressure to be absorbed into the predominant religion of a culture or land. At Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES, we wish to recognize the unique value of our various faith traditions without any agenda of proselytizing or of assimilation. We see diversity as a gift and an opportunity.
BRIDGES members covenant to affirm and promote interfaith engagement that welcomes participants to deepen their appreciation and understanding of their own traditions. Sometimes the best way to learn about your own tradition is by sharing it with others. Our conversations with one another should be characterized by mutual respect and curiosity, perceiving that we may well learn more about our own particular tradition, as we understand it comparatively with those holding to a different tradition. At root, our dialogue should be “testimonial,” suggesting that each participant speaks their own “witness” of faith, while the others receive that “testimony” without assuming that the “witness” should or will be held universally.
BRIDGES members covenant to affirm and promote interfaith engagement that encourages critical dialogue. At times Interfaith engagement will have the good end of helping one to clarify one’s own distinctive perspectives. In that clarifying process, one might also discover new challenges to the adequacy of one’s formulations. Certainly, each distinctive tradition has its own intra-faith dialogue, complete with disagreements and conflicts. Interfaith Dialogue is an opportunity to bring some of those disagreements and conflicts to the surface – welcoming participants to individually or collectively work toward insight or transformation. This aspect of intra-faith / interfaith engagement may provide a very helpful ingredient needed for addressing social conflicts that arise from religious commitments.
BRIDGES members covenant to affirm and promote interfaith engagement that welcomes insight and transformation. The evocative nature of interfaith engagement may lead to new understandings, appreciations, and friendships. Our shared concern for Loudoun County has brought us together in dialogue. Continued engagement may birth new shared or individual insights or commitments. Though we realize that change is often uncomfortable we recognize transformation as a positive result of our interfaith engagement.