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Hearing the Emerging Voices, Including Your Own

By Paul Chaffee


Dynamic grassroots interfaith activities depend on our hearing the ‘voice’ of everyone participating. This can seem tedious and unnecessary in communities which have depended on clergy, teachers, experts, and trustees to do most of the talking and make most of the decisions. Without participatory inclusion, though, do not expect any sustainable vitality to develop. This learning about inclusivity surfaces in a number of this month’s stories.

Appreciative Inquiry, a discipline which has nurtured hundreds of interfaith groups, asks that an ‘inquiry’ begin with everyone sharing, from the heart, one-on-one, their own best experiences and feelings about the subject at hand. When these one-on-one conversations are shared with small groups, and then, briefly, with the whole group, a community voice typically emerges, full of enthusiasm and promoting more involvement.

Sharing the podium with everyone and finding a community voice is terrific at the community level. When you are writing an interfaith article or videotaping a story for hundreds or even millions to read or see, that same inclusiveness can be mirrored, but not duplicated. TIO’s “emerging voices” this month and last cannot speak for everyone – but they are representative of the thinking and activity bubbling in our midst today.

Most of their voices were unheard of before 9/11. Since then numerous internet platforms have offered faith and interfaith communities, places to hear from and be heard. We are reaping the bounty. HuffPost Religion, Religious News Service, Worldwide Faith News, and Faith in Public Life News all post daily aggregations of religion stories. Institutionally, North America Interfaith Network, Religions for Peace, the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and United Religions Initiative all have engaging newsletters and blogs.

But the most exciting additions have been new electronic publications generated largely by ‘the younger generation.’ Collectively they are taking interfaith discussion to new levels. The list includes KidSpirit, Journal for Inter-Religious Dialogue, State of Formation, Journal of Comparative Theology, the brand-new Claremont Journal of Religion, as well as TIO. Not one has seen its tenth birthday yet, so they are more flexible and open to new writers than established publications, more interested in exploring new issues in the vast arena of interfaith culture. This issue of TIO, focused on ‘emerging voices,’ is dedicated to the host of people who are opening up new doors for interfaith communication.