You’re invited to participate May 8-12 in a “Virtual Mission Encounter” offered by American Baptist Women’s Ministries (ABWM). Through daily activities and evening conference calls with special guests you can experience and explore interfaith dialogue in this Encounter and experience first-hand how God is calling people to transform their communities through relationships with one another.
“For Christians and Muslims to truly live together in a peaceful and just world, we need to get to know one another, talk to one another, and have real relationships with one another,” says Virginia Holmstrom, executive director of ABWM. “My faith has personally been enriched by Baptist-Muslim dialogue. Becoming a bridge to connect Christian and Muslim women with one another has been deeply satisfying for me. I’ve been able to witness deeper understanding of and respect for one another’s faith stories, traditions and values, and I believe all of that is pleasing in God’s sight.”
Holmstrom has helped to lead spiritual pilgrimages to the Republic of Georgia that have been open to American Baptist Women and American Muslim women. Last summer in Washington, D.C., she co-led a three-day event, “Connecting Faithful Women: Experiencing Baptist-Muslim Dialogue” with Rafia Syeed, founder in the D.C. Metro Area of Bridging the Gap, Connecting the Faithful. The event included a field trip to the Adams Center, a large Islamic Center with a mosque in Sterling, Va.
Here’s how the Virtual Mission Encounter works: Each night will feature a conference call for registrants and two special guests, a Baptist and a Muslim. They will dialogue with one another on each evening’s topic. Registrants will then be able to join in the dialogue, enabling them to learn further from and participate in interfaith dialogue in such a way as to gain skills for developing dialogues in their own communities. Registrants will also receive a daily email containing several activity options, with a suggested number to complete. That suggested number totals about 30 minutes of activities that registrants complete on their own schedules. Evening conference calls will begin at 9 p.m. (Eastern). Registrants unable to participate in a particular call can receive recordings made available to participants only.
Conference call leaders include:
Monday, May 8
Topic: “See the Pillars of Our Faith: Understanding better the key points of Christian and Islamic belief”
Baptist leader: Rev. Carol McVetty, Executive Minister of American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago
Muslim leader: Taalibah Hassan, a guest speaker on Islam since the 1980s and an experienced interfaith dialogue facilitator. She serves on the board of directors of the Muslim Association of Virginia.
Tuesday, May 9:
Topic: “See Our Acts of Prayer and Worship: Learning about the role of prayer and times of worship in Islam and Christianity”
Baptist leader: Rev. Dr. Suzanne Kershaw, associate minister of Grace Baptist Church in Philadelphia’s Germantown in Pennsylvania, and president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries of the Philadelphia Baptist Association
Muslim leader: Dr. Safiya Saaman, recently retired director of Conservation Education program of the U.S. Forest Service, which reached more than 4 million children and their educators each year
Wednesday, May 10:
Topic: “See Our Acts of Faith: Exploring how our faith leads us to be engaged in service to the world”
Baptist leader: Marcia Street, an elementary school teacher who has enjoyed many mission field trips in her visits to 40 countries, where she has strived to study, work with and experience where Baptist missionaries are doing their ministry.
Muslim leader: Munira Abdulhalim El-Bearny, an interfaith chaplain born in Kenya who is the founder/developer and executive director of IMANI Cultural Center in Fredericksburg, Va.
Thursday, May 11:
Topic: “See Jesus in Different Ways: Jesus is a part of both Christian and Islamic faith, although in different ways”
Baptist leader: Rev. Elizabeth B. Congdon, an interfaith dialogue leader for many years and co-coordinator of the Monmouth (N.J.) Center for Religions and Ethical thought. Actively working to build interfaith community she is a key leader in a local school initiative called Teens Against Intolerance.
Muslim leader: Syeed (as described above)
Friday, May 12:
Topic: “See What You Can Do: An opportunity for participants to share ideas and encourage each other to courageously explore next steps”
Congdon says of her experiences with dialogue: “”I’ve been to the Republic of Georgia twice, each time as part of an ABWM team. Both were inspiring times filled with fun, exploration as well as serious, challenging moments listening to our Muslim sisters and brothers share their struggles. Frequently it felt like I was standing on holy ground in solidarity with my Muslim sisters and brothers. I got to see new things, and I also saw old things in new ways.”
For more information and to register for the Virtual Mission encounter, go to: http://www.abwministries.org/eventDetails.aspx?EventId=18
For information on the spiritual pilgrimage to the Republic of Georgia open to American Baptist women and American Muslim women, go to: http://www.abwministries.org/eventDetails.aspx?EventId=24
Contact Holmstrom at Virginia.Holmstrom@abc-usa.org.