By Paul Chaffee
The best gift in editing this publication for the past five years has been getting acquainted and working with hundreds of interfaith leaders, young and old, women and men, from dozens of different national, religious, and spiritual affiliations. In this remarkable community, two of TIO’s most prolific contributors are making an interfaith mark in extremely different ways, and an anthology of their work has been gathered for this issue. Progressive Protestant Christians both, their values and visions of a better world overlap in all sorts of ways. But their constituencies couldn’t be farther apart.
Vicki Garlock and Children
Vicki Garlock writes about children and the religions of the world. She writes for parents and teachers, articles that return us to our own childhood to ponder how we learned what we learned religiously and spiritually. Before honing in on interreligious education for children, Vicki earned a doctorate in neuroscience and cognitive development, and she spent 11 years as a college professor focusing on child development, biopsychology, and learning/cognition. She then gave up academia to write religious curricula and run the large, vital religious education program for children in her home congregation, Jubilee! Community Church in Asheville, North Carolina.
Dr. Garlock’s Christian tradition, grounded biblically, is clear, as she happily engages other traditions, never judging them. For pre-schoolers through the eighth grade, her curricula make accessible not only the wisdom and stories of Judaism and Christianity but of Buddhists, Muslims, Pagans, and the rest of the world’s religions. How does she do this?! The best explanation can be found in the opening article of hers in this issue, “A Bible-based, Interfaith Sunday School Curriculum.” Her website tells you more about her ministry and how she is sharing it.
Bud Heckman and the World
Bud Heckman did coursework in 13 different seminaries on his way to a graduate divinity degree because he wanted to see how different religious traditions run their schools, approach their curricula, relate to their students and to other traditions. Bud has had executive responsibilities in several international interfaith organizations, serves on numerous boards, and has consulted with a host of faith and interfaith enterprises. His InterActive Faith: The Essential Interreligious Community-Building Handbook (2008) is the best go-to guide for grassroots interfaith leaders and organizations on the market.
A common complaint running through the interfaith community is the problem of funding. Denominations, even those in financial travail, have sanctuaries, property, and many have endowments. Religious bodies often have long-term relations with their major donors. But interfaith is relatively new and lacks that kind of financial history and undergirding. Bud has taken on this ubiquitous concern, as is clear in more than one of his essays in this issue. He is the co-founder and convener of the Interfaith Funders Group, an association of several dozen foundations which fund interfaith work. A detailed outline of his recent workshop at the Religion Communicators Group national convention, “Oh, Go Fund Yourself! – Raising Resources for Your Work,” is available here.
Vicki Garlock and Bud Heckman are both deeply engaged in growing a global interfaith culture that makes a difference in a suffering world. And those of us at TIO are delighted that they are sharing their work in these pages.