Loudoun Interfaith Bridges is the result of a hope, a gift, and a conversation…
In 2004 the Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation in Ashburn VA received a donation to support interfaith cooperation. This precipitated a discussion about interfaith activities in Loudoun County. In the summer of 2006, Beth Chaverim congregants approached Loudoun Cares, a leading Loudoun County non-profit, to assist in convening congregations that were similarly interested in interfaith dialogue.
Our mission and principles
The organizational documents of Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES are available for download (PDF):
The first luncheon meeting of what was to become Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES was held at the invitation of Beth Chaverim in November, 2006 at the Thomas Balch Library in Leesburg. The executive director of Loudoun Cares facilitated the meeting, and many of the current Bridges members were in attendance. As luncheon meetings continued throughout 2006, we expanded to include a more diverse range of congregations and community constituencies. The meetings encouraged learning from established interfaith efforts, invited presentations from relevant local programs, and opened discussions on potential joint activities, as well as the selection of a group name and mission statement. In the spring of 2007 we formally became Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES, and with a mission statement adopted, and the first joint activity set in motion, we were off and running! Our first activity, the Interfaith Family Picnic, was held in August of 2007.
Through 2008 we have examined our place in our community, drafted a set of guiding principles, fine tuned our mission, proposed a vast array of potential activities, and established committees to co-create community wide activities. As we formalize our structure we work consistently to maintain an attitude of gentle hospitality and an openness to inspiration. We are truly doing the work of interfaith organization.
(Excerpted from our Guiding Principles)
Members of BRIDGES recognize that interfaith engagement has the potential to organize participants around commonly held values, to encouraging a deep respect for diversity, to promote a climate of understanding and tolerance, and to provide channels for deepening relationships.
To achieve these ends we covenant to affirm and promote interfaith engagement that:
BRIDGES members covenant to affirm and promote interfaith engagement that respects the uniqueness of distinct traditions. We hope, that by building trusting relationships we may be able to address common challenges. This does not necessitate assimilation but encourages us to experience the world via the perspectives enabled by our diverse traditions, faiths, and experiences. The history of interactions between people of faith has seen both movements of syncretism and resistance to assimilation. Some of our faiths owe much to borrowing and combining faith traditions, oftentimes into a new formulation of faith. Others have shown enduring value because they kept their distinctiveness, resisting pressure to be absorbed into the predominant religion of a culture or land. At Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES, we wish to recognize the unique value of our various faith traditions without any agenda of proselytizing or of assimilation. We see diversity as a gift and an opportunity.
BRIDGES members covenant to affirm and promote interfaith engagement that welcomes participants to deepen their appreciation and understanding of their own traditions. Sometimes the best way to learn about your own tradition is by sharing it with others. Our conversations with one another should be characterized by mutual respect and curiosity, perceiving that we may well learn more about our own particular tradition, as we understand it comparatively with those holding to a different tradition. At root, our dialogue should be "testimonial," suggesting that each participant speaks their own "witness" of faith, while the others receive that "testimony" without assuming that the "witness" should or will be held universally.
BRIDGES members covenant to affirm and promote interfaith engagement that encourages critical dialogue. At times Interfaith engagement will have the good end of helping one to clarify one's own distinctive perspectives. In that clarifying process, one might also discover new challenges to the adequacy of one's formulations. Certainly, each distinctive tradition has its own intra-faith dialogue, complete with disagreements and conflicts. Interfaith Dialogue is an opportunity to bring some of those disagreements and conflicts to the surface – welcoming participants to individually or collectively work toward insight or transformation. This aspect of intra-faith / interfaith engagement may provide a very helpful ingredient needed for addressing social conflicts that arise from religious commitments.
BRIDGES members covenant to affirm and promote interfaith engagement that welcomes insight and transformation. The evocative nature of interfaith engagement may lead to new understandings, appreciations, and friendships. Our shared concern for Loudoun County has brought us together in dialogue. Continued engagement may birth new shared or individual insights or commitments. Though we realize that change is often uncomfortable we recognize transformation as a positive result of our interfaith engagement.