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Global Grassroots Interfaith in a Room

By Andrew Kille


Early this month, the United Religions Initiative (URI) brought together its Global Council and Global Staff, gathering in the San Francisco Bay Area for a week-long meeting. It was a rare opportunity for trustees and paid staff to get better acquainted and work together. Leaders came from over 25 countries representing more than 600 Cooperation Circles and hundreds of initiatives – peacebuilding, saving the environment, stopping religiously motivated violence, addressing poverty and women’s issues, and so much more.

As in the past, the Interfaith Center at the Presidio (ICP) was honored to host the welcoming ceremony for the Council in the Presidio Chapel on Sunday, June 22nd. Gathering in this sacred space, the global leadership lit candles, prayed, sang, and celebrated the work URI has been doing to bring people around the world together to address local needs for peacemaking, environmental action, empowering women and training youth.

ICP and the URI have worked closely together over the years. Many of the early organizational meetings for URI were held at ICP and nine members of ICP’s Board have served on the URI Global Council, more than from any other organization. Don Frew, ICP treasurer, currently serves as a URI trustee. The next evening, ICP managing director Linda Crawford and Board members Rita SemelandAndrew Kille joined Don, other Council members, the global staff, and local friends for the opening banquet, held in the Mission Gardens at Santa Clara University.

URI staff and trustees gather in California to work together for a week. – Photo: Barbara Hartford

URI staff and trustees gather in California to work together for a week. – Photo: Barbara Hartford

Sitting in the shadow of the adobe wall and buildings that were built in 1822, one could not help wondering what those early missionaries would have made of this gathering of friends and co-workers from around the world, committed to working across boundaries of religion, culture, and geography to make this world a better place for all.

Don Frew has chronicled the events of the week at the COG Interfaith Reports blog; it’s well worth checking out. You can also find photos of the welcoming ceremony on the ICP website.

An earlier version of this story was published in the July 2014 issue of Bay Area Interfaith Connect, edited by Andrew Kille.