TWH – This last installment in a series on the Parliament of the World’s Religions (PoWR) 2021 concerns interfaith work. The PoWR is perhaps the largest interfaith gathering in the world. The first part was about the PoWR itself. The wild hunt spoke with four pagan participants. Holli Emore, Dree Amandi, Reverend Selena Fox and Twila.
The value of interfaith work
Emore, executive director of Cherry Hill Seminary, finds interfaith work helps her grow. It is teaching her to work with people with whom she has major differences.
She said: “I’m a flawed example, sure, but I’ve learned to (most of the time) approach differences and conflicts from a win-win perspective, instead of just being right.”
In recent years, this task has become more difficult. Emore felt that “it is even more important that we engage in interfaith work. Religions are only the container for the most important work of building and maintaining healthy and peaceful societies. It all sounds very woo-woo, until it isn’t.
Amandi, a witch of Cio Amore, said: “PoWR reminds us that there are many people around the world who are also working to cultivate more peace, justice and compassion. We are not alone in this case. “
Emore described his interfaith work outside of PoWR. She worked in disaster chaplaincy. After the murder of George Floyd, she worked on a media campaign to mitigate the violence. She advocated for multireligious representation in the media and in education.
Emore said: “These efforts are supported by vision and education [that] Parliament has been offering us for over a century now.
Amandi discovered that interfaith work at PoWR had similarities to his work at Circle Sanctuary, a tradition that emphasizes the value of interfaith work.
She said, “It was important for me to be at PoWR to participate, learn and network with other spiritual leaders.”
Amandi continued, “The biggest lesson I take away is that every positive impact makes a difference, whether it’s a brief moment of real connection or a big gesture. Everything counts when working for continuous positive change ”
Emore appreciated how much the PoWR informed his professional work. She attended a session on Measuring the Effectiveness of Interfaith Work, which will impact her teaching on Interfaith Leadership at Cherry Hill Seminary. Another session gave him ideas on multigenerational engagement. Yet another session confirmed 10 years of work in the South Carolina statewide interfaith group.
For Emore, the PoWR has shown that, even with differences, people can “come together peacefully”. He showed that we can go beyond simple tolerance. People can both recognize and celebrate these differences.
Emore said, “I have experienced this in my statewide role with interfaith partners in South Carolina, in my work at Cherry Hill Seminary, and in my personal life.”
How can interfaith work benefit pagans?
Interfaith work may not appeal to everyone. Prior exposure to certain religious traditions has marked some pagans and they may be wary of interfaith work.
Fox, Chief Minister of Circle Sanctuary, appreciated the opportunities offered by the PoWR. She felt it was a way for the pagans to connect with each other on a global scale.
In the “big tent” of paganism, some pagans may still feel like a minority. For example, Emore describes herself as a Kemetic, a minority within the pagan world. At PoWR, she attended a Kemetic ritual.
Emore described this ritual as “very meaningful to me since I am Kemetic, and there are so few of us.”
At the same time, the PoWR also gives pagans a chance to meet people from other traditions. These opportunities have motivated Fox to participate in PoWR in the past and to continue to do so in the future. PoWR gave him the ability to “speak, listen, learn, network, connect and collaborate with others on many spiritual paths around the world”.
Emore spoke about the pagan concept of interconnection. She stressed that interconnection “includes those who follow a different path”. She referred to research studies that show that engaging with people of different spiritualities improves a person’s spirituality.
For Twila, a pagan animist, the PoWR has shown that “all faiths have something to offer you as you journey as a pagan. We all live on this planet, we all breathe the same air, but we all experience the reality around us differently. Interacting with all these people of various faiths allows me to better understand this world as I walk my own path. You can listen and learn from a variety of faiths / religions while still staying true to yourself and your path.
In 1993, the Chicago Greek Orthodox Archdiocese came out of the PoWR. They were opposed to “the particular participation of certain quasi-religious groups with which Orthodox Christians do not share any common ground.” They noted in a letter that “it would be inconceivable for Orthodox Christians to establish a perceived relationship with groups that do not profess any belief in God or a Supreme Being. The presence of such groups appears to compromise the integrity of Parliament’s objective.
This year, a Greek Orthodox prelate spoke at PoWR 2021.
Emore said: “Few realize how pivotal the Pagan PoWR leaders have played over the years, from fundraising and programming to promoting the history of Parliament to the world. “
Emore thanked, “Phyllis Curott, Chair of the Board Program for this year’s event, for making pagans so beautiful and providing a rich experience for all!
Fox urged pagans to attend the next PoWR in Chicago, August 18-23, 2023. Fox continued, “I hope there will again be pagans from many traditions and countries participating.
For more information on the PoWR, please visit their website.