Interfaith Conference has extraordinary year in 2015
The interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee had an extraordinary year of collaboration, growth and outreach in 2015 as we continued to be a vital catalyst for social justice and interfaith understanding, tolerance and friendship.
Here are some highlights, followed by a log of weekly activities. In 2015, we:
Full log of Events and Activities in 2015
Dec. 6, 2015 -- Huda Alkaff, a Muslim member of our Interfaith Earth Network's Steering Committee, staffed a display about IEN's programs and interacted with the public at the Churches’ Center for Land and People “Markets & Meals for Hope” at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Menomonee Falls. We are striving to have a presence at all of these winter farmer's markets, which provide small-scale farmers the chance to sell their products in the off-season. Most often they feature a brunch using local food supplied by the farmers and prepared by volunteers under the director of the congregation’s chef or an outside professional. Farmers help farmers by building connections with each other and by donating ten percent of sales to the Harvest of Hope emergency fund with 100% of the donations given to farmers in need.
Dec. 3, 2015 -- We drew 230 people of diverse faiths to our 45th annual luncheon to hear immediate past NCAA Chapter President James H. Hall, Jr., talk on "Social Justice Challenges: How did we get here? How do we move forward?" Attendees engaged in lively dialogue at mixed-faith tables about possible solutions, followed by our presentation of four annual awards:
Frank Zeidler Award -- Jeanne Mantsch
For long leadership in social justice, peace, advocacy and environmental efforts by the Interfaith Conference and programs of the local, regional and statewide United Church of Christ. She now oversees IFCGM's March luncheon-lecture series and helps lead its Interfaith Earth Network.
Rev. Herbert Huebschmann Urban Ministry Award -- SE Wisconsin Common Ground
For effective grass roots organizing of congregations and other groups in the metro area in efforts ranging from creating a health care cooperative to getting banks, property management and mortgage firms to provide millions of dollars to address housing issues.
Mark Rohlfing Memorial Award -- Jane Audette
For her services to K3-12th grade regular and special education children as a Milwaukee Public Schools social worker in several district schools; and for her work as co-chair of the Education Task Force of MICAH (Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope).
Youth/Young Adult Leadership Award -- St. John Vianney S.W.E.A.T.
For bridging city/suburban separation and engaging 25 high schoolers in service projects at meal sites, pantries, schools and other nonprofit sites in Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties in the Brookfield parish's Something Worthy of Energy, Attention and Time summer program.
Nov. 12, 2015 -- The Interfaith Conference helped promote and was one of the co-sponsors of a presentation at UWM on Nov. 12 by Eboo Patel, nationally prominent founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Core. He spoke to a large crowd of students, faculty and members of the general public on "Bridges Between Us: The Importance of Interfaith Dialogue and Leadership." Several Interfaith Conference leaders attended. Interfaith Executive Director Tom Heinen joined about 15 other people for an informal dinner and conversation with Patel immediately prior to his presentation. One of Patel's quotes that were used to promote the event: "In a world where the forces that divide us are strong, I came to the conclusion: We have to save each other. It's the only way to save ourselves."
Oct. - Dec. 2015 -- Our Interfaith Earth Network hosted three of a series of four Faith & Ecology Conversations exploring ‘Eco-Logical Identity’. Discussion and reflections included connections what sustains us, purchasing as an ecological act and how much is enough. These conversations take place at 7 p.m. every third Tuesday at the Urban Ecology Center, Riverside Park. The final conversation of the series will be on January 19th and will focus on the journey to abundance.
Nov. 5, 2015 -- Forty Marquette University students from diverse Christian and non-Christian backgrounds participated in four simultaneous Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues that were organized by the Interfaith Conferernce's Jenni Reinke and Marquette Associate Professor Irfan Omar, who teaches in the Theology Department. The students dined at four different tables in a gathering room within the Office of International Education in Holthusen Hall. Overseeing the dialogues were Jenni and three experienced Interfaith Conference Amazing Faiths Moderators: Ann Dee Allen, the Rev. Nancy Lanman, and Donna Neubauer. The Interfaith Conference provided some supplemental funding for the dinners, which featured ethnic food from an Indian restaurant.
Oct. 15-18, 2015 -- Interfaith Earth Network Program Director Kirsten Shead facilitated an Emerging Leaders Family Group at the Parliament of the World's Religions in Salt Lake City, Utah. Emerging Leaders (attendees under 35) came together for three consecutive evenings in the same small, peer facilitated groups of around 12 people and discussed one of the three focus-issues of this year's Parliament. Kirsten's Family Group focused on Climate & Environment. The task of these groups was not only to expand understanding of these issues amongst themselves, but also to come up with ways to work across faith boundaries to address them.
Oct. 15, 2015 -- The Interfaith Conference received the Niagara Foundation's 2015 Peace Award during an awards dinner at Renaissance Place on Oct. 15th. Accepting and speaking were Rob Shelledy, chair of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet (board of directors) and the Rev. Jean Dow, immediate past chair. The Niagara Foundation strives to promote social cohesion by fostering civic conversations and sustained relationships between people of different cultures and faiths.Other 2015 honorees were: Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee (Community Service Award); Janine P. Geske, Justice, Distinguished Professor of Law (Commitment Award) and Mark Sabljak, Publisher, Milwaukee Business Journal (Media Award).
Oct. 11, 2015 -- Bolstered by warm breezes and sunny skies, the Interfaith Conference's 30th Annual Greater Milwaukee CROP Hunger walk drew an estimated crowd of nearly 500 or more adults and children to the Milwaukee lakefront on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 11. People from dozens of congregations, schools and organizations brought 6,000 pounds of food for the Hunger Task Force to McKinley Park, walked 2-mile or 5-mile routes and enjoyed lively music from the Salsabrosa Dance Company and the Mariachi Zamora band. Balloon hats, corn-husk crafts and a fun obstacle course added to the afternoon's celebratory spirit. CROP Walk Director Norma Duckworth also arranged for several area stores and restaurants to donate of a variety of snacks and other food for walkers.
A big thank you to St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Greendale, which collected an additional 9,000 pounds of nonperishable food at the church site for the CROP Walk. In addition, Concordia University in Mequon collected 106 pounds of nonperishable food from students, staff and faculty as part of our CROP Hunger Walk effort.
AND...Tikkun Ha-Ir of Milwaukee collected more than 100 pounds of fresh produce at the lakefront walk site as part of a first-time effort to use the CROP Hunger Walk to improve the diets of food pantry clients by having people bring produce from their gardens or from the store. The Hunger Task Force distributed the produce. This was an extension of Tikkun Ha-Ir's success Surplus Harvest Milwaukee project and will be repeated for the 2016 Greater Milwaukee CROP Hunger Walk.
Dozens of volunteers from area schools and congregations helped make this year's walk a success.
Monetary donations and pledges are still being received, so we do not yet have a total.
Some 70% of the funding goes to Church World Service or other designated international agencies to address hunger, provide disaster relief and foster economic development. The remainder helps fund the walk itself and some local outreach.
Oct. 1, 2015 -- A panel presentation and discussion with some of the featured artists in an ongoing exhibit titled "Inspired: The Power of Art & Faith" was held Oct. 1 at the Art Gallery in the University of Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Student Union, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd. The Interfaith Conference helped find artists and co-sponsored the exhibit with the Union Art Gallery and UWM.
Sept. 26, 2015 -- Our Interfaith Restorative Practices Coalition participated in a Family Wellness Conference organized by the Women’s Auxiliary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community & Hephatha Lutheran Church. The focus of the conference was health, education and family unity. Coalition members staffed a booth and facilitated a circle. The circle provided as an opportunity for participants to experience restorative practices by speaking and sharing from their hearts, and at the booth, conference attendees could ask more questions.
Sept. 25, 2015 -- The Restorative Practices Coalition webpage of the Interfaith Conference website was updated with its own banner. It can now be accessed with www.restorativepracticesmilw.org as well as by www.interfaithconference.org.
Sept. 20, 2015 -- 75 people attended an event held by our Interfaith Earth Network (IEN) at the Urban Ecology Center, Washington Park, entitled "Why Green Burial? World Faith Practices & Sustainable Options." Speakers from eight faiths and cultural perspectives shared the burial practices of their respective traditions. Shedd Farley, director of the Linda and Gene Farley Center for Peace, Justice and Sustainablity and home to Natural Pathways Sanctuary (a green burial site) was the keynote speaker. There was also a free documentary screening of "Dying Green: Natural Burial and Land Conservation." This event was inspired by the passing and green burial of one of IEN's founding committee members, Carol Waskovich in September 2014.
Sept. 18, 2015 -- The Interfaith Conference and our Committee for Interfaith Understanding helped find artists and co-sponsored an exhibit that was titled "Inspired: The Power of Art & Faith." It opened Sept. 18 and ran through Oct. 9 at the Union Art Gallery in the University of Wisconsin -- Milwaukee Student Union, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd. This exceptional exhibit featured the works of 13 local artists and included enlightening explanations by the artists of how their various faiths influenced their creativity and expression. Organized by Nick Pipho, the gallery manager, the exhibit was described this way: "Art has the power to connect people of different cultures, languages, and faiths. Through artwork we can begin to identify the ideas and experiences that connect us all. Inspired: The Power of Art and Faith celebrates those connections as seen in the work of a diverse group of local artists. Through work in a wide range of mediums, these artists showcase their artistic creativity and reveal how they conceive of themselves, their culture and faith, and their community."
Aug. 24, 2015 -- The Interfaith Conference's Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue Program conducted a dinner dialogue at Milwaukee's Ambassador Hotel for a group of six international visitors and an American liaison officer who were visiting Milwaukee under the auspices of the U.S. State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program. Participants were educators, project leaders and nonprofit agency executives from Bangladesh, Iraq, Jordan, the Palestine territorities, Sri Lanka, Trinidad/Tobago and Ukraine. Dinner Dialogue Volunteer Ellen Parmelee, a Baha'i, moderated the dialogue. Donna Neubauer and Bob Jacobs, experienced dinner dialogue participants from the Milwaukee Jewish community, participated as did Interfaith Executive Director Tom Heinen. Tom also gave a slide-show presentation on the Interfaith Conference's programs. The International Institute of Wisconsin coordinated the activites by the group in Milwaukee.
Aug. 18, 2015 -- Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen represented the Conference as a guest at the "End of Summer" Recognition Program where youths, young adults and organizations that participated in the Coming Together Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence were honored. The luncheon was held at the Grace Center, 1209 N. Broadway and was organized by Community Advocates' Brighter Futures Initiative, the City of Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin's Project Ujima and Running Rebels.
Aug. 1, 2015 -- Representatives of the Interfaith Conference participated in the Sikh Community's annual Chardhi Kala 6K Run/Walk and had a tented area with various interfaith displays where they provided informational handouts and interacted with the public. This event was started by the Serve2Unite organization that young Sikhs founded after a white supremacist fatally shot six people at the Oak Creek temple in 2012. Its goals are to memorialize the slain Sikhs, promote interfaith understanding and community unity, and raise funds for scholarships for young people of any faith throughout the metro area who have demonstrated a commitment to community service.
July 15-17, 2015 -- Voting via email, the Interfaith Conference Cabinet (our board of directors) approved full Cabinet membership for the Sikh community. They will be represented by the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, which operates the temple in Oak Creek, and the Sikh Religious Society of Wisconsin, which operates the temple in Brookfield. The Sikhs have long been an active part of the Interfaith Conference through participation in our Committee for Interfaith Understanding (formerly our Milwaukee Association for Interfaith Relations). Dr. Swarnjit Arora has enthusiastically participated in the planning and running of Interfaith events for many years. We have invited the Sikh community to Cabinet membership several times over the years. Our relationships and collaborations with them have grown especially close since the tragic slayings of six people at the Oak Creek temple by a white supremacist in 2012.
July 12, 2015 -- About 30 leaders, supporters and participants in Interfaith Conference programs attended a movie screening and breaking-of-the-fast Ramadan iftar dinner as guests of the Niagara Foundation at the Turkish American Society of Wisconsin, 6011 S. 27th St., Greenfield. Founded in 2004, the foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the mission of fostering civic conversations and sustained relationships between people of different cultures and faiths. Attendees at the dinner viewed Love Is A Verb, a documentary about the Hizmet social movement of Sufi inspired Sunni Muslims that began in Turkey in the l960s and now reaches across the globe. It also is known as the Gulen Movement after its inspiration, leader and revered teacher, Fethullah Gulen.
July 12, 2015 -- IFC Executive Director Tom Heinen spoke to about 50 high school students from various parts of Southeastern Wisconsin in the hall at St. Monica Catholic Church in Whitefish Bay as they began a week of volunteer service at area non-profit organizations through the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's summer Reach Out, Reach In program.
June 25, 2015 -- Nearly 50 people dialogued in small groups and heard presentations at a forum on solutions to poverty that the Interfaith Conference and other organizations co-sponsored at Lake Park Synagogue on Milwaukee's east side. Similar forums have been held in various parts of the state as part of an effort to have reasonable, faith-and-values-driven conversations about issues of poverty and public policy in communities with a diversity of political views. In the fall, the effort will turn toward developing specific strategies. Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen was the moderator at the synagogue forum. The Rev. Nancy Lanman, a United Methodist deacon who serves on the Interfaith board, offered the opening prayer. Rabbi Nisan Andrews from Lake Park Synagogue and Rabbi Tiferet Berenbaum from Congregation Shir Hadash provided reflections. Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, gave a compelling PowerPoint presentation on poverty across the state. Rev. Barbara Rasmussen, a retired ELCA minister, offered the closing prayer. The main organizers and co-sponsors of forums here and elsewhere in the state are the Wisconsin Council of Churches, WISDOM, the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and the Citizen Action Education Fund of Wisconsin. The Jewish Community Relations Council and Tikkun Ha-Ir of Milwaukee also co-sponsored the Lake Park Synagogue forum.
June 23, 2015 – Kirsten Shead, program director for the Interfaith Earth Network, represented the Interfaith Conference at the Metro GO! Regional Transit Leadership Council Meeting "Greater Milwaukee – Minneapolis St. Paul – Greater Cleveland: Transportation Strategies for Vibrant Communities & Economic Competitiveness" in downtown Milwaukee. Expert panels included representatives from the Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, Director of Economic Development for the City of Minneapolis, president of the Public Policy Forum and co-chair of the Downtown Development Task Force.
June 22, 2015 -- IFC Executive Director Tom Heinen, acting on behalf of the national GreenFaith organization, presented a Water Shield certificate to Huda Alkaff, founder and director of the Islamic Environmental Group of Wisconsin, for becoming the first faith-based organization in Wisconsin to earn that honor. This certification signifies that the Islamic Environmental Group of Wisconsin has taken educational, spiritual and practical steps to conserve water, protect water quality, and mobilize its members and community to do the same at home. The presentation to Huda Alkaff and other members of IEGW's green team took place at a water-themed Green Ramadan event in the Islamic Society of Milwaukee's Community Center. The Interfaith Conference's Interfaith Earth Network (IEN) is a Midwestern partner of GreenFaith, which formally launched its national Water Shield program at an IEN "Making Waves for Water" event at the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center on the Lake Michigan lakefront.
June 21, 2015 -- Representatives of the Interfaith Conference were among the speakers during an inspirational outdoor candlelight vigil organized by the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek to pray for the nine victims of the Charleston, S.C., church shooting, their families and the church community. About 100 people attended. The Rev. Andy Oren, vice chair of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet and pastor of Bay View United Methodist Church, offered thoughts and prayers. The Rev. Joseph Baring, an African Methodist Episcopal Church member of the Interfaith Cabinet, offered a passionate personal reflection and prayer. He knew two of the victims of the Charleston shooting. Many people joined the Sikhs in signing a banner with personal messages that will be sent to the Charleston church community.
June 16, 2015 -- Tikkun Ha-Ir of Milwaukee honored the Interfaith Conference and several other organizations at its Collaborating with Community event at Congregation Sinai in Fox Point. The event featured as guest speaker Tom Schneider, executive director of COA Youth & Family Centers. In Hebrew, Tikkun Ha-Ir translates as "repair of the city." Its mission is to encourage the Jewish community to build a more just Milwaukee through study, action and civic engagement. The framed citation that Executive Director Tom Heinen accepted on behalf of the Conference read, "In recognition of our dedicated partnership and your outstanding service to the Greater Milwaukee Community. Presented with heartfelt appreciation by Tikkun Ha-Ir to Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee."
May 29, 2015 -- IFC Executive Director Tom Heinen and his wife, Katie, set up and staffed Interfaith Conference displays at the annual assembly of the Greater Milwaukee Synod, ELCA, at Carthage College in Kenosha.
May 27, 2015 -- Rob Shelledy, chair of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet, represented IFC at a reception and annual meeting of the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center, 6255 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Whitefish Bay.
May 26, 2015 -- Nearly two dozen people from several faith traditions particiated in two, simultaneous Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues hosted by Rabbi Tiferet Berenbaum and Congregation Shir Hadash on Milwaukee's East Side. The moderators were Donna Neubauer (Reform Jewish) and Ellen Parmelee (Baha’i). The congregation shares the same building as Plymouth United Church of Christ.
May 26, 2015 – Kirsten Shead, program director for the Interfaith Earth Network, wrote a guest post on the Waters of Wisconsin blog. Her narrative post on her experiences with water as a child and an adult is entitled Little Bluegills and Big Sharks: Exploring Waters in Wisconsin and Abroad. The Waters of Wisconsin initiative (WOW), part of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, launched their blog in October 2014 as an ongoing conversation about Wisconsin’s shared waters. Through this blog they aim to feature great ideas and poignant stories from writers, policymakers, farmers, scientists, and others that explore what healthy, abundant water means to Wisconsin and her people. Kirsten’s first post on water and faith was entitled Down to the River to Pray. She is a member of the WOW steering committee and communications team as an influential voice for people of faith and their role in celebrating and safeguarding our Wisconsin waters.
May 19, 2015 -- Interfaith Conference Cabinet member Rev. Jermaine Reed from the Church of God in Christ's Wisconsin First Jurisdiction and IFC Executive Director Tom Heinen attended a community Memorial Service for Youths Lost to Violence at 6 p.m. at Tabernacle Community Baptist Church, 2500 W. Medford Ave., Milwaukee. Hosted by Milwaukee Major Tom Barrett and the Milwaukee Police Department, it included comments by public officials, church leaders and relatives of victims.
May 13, 2015 -- Several present and former members of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet (our board of directors) attended the annual Ceasefire Sabbath breakfast organized by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's office and held this year at the Salvation Army Worship and Community Center, 1645 N. 25th St. Focused on efforts to reduce violence in the city, the event included the launch of a new chaplaincy program in which faith leaders of various denominations will respond to scenes of violence and interact with the community and the Police Department in other ways. The goal is to have about 50 chaplains -- seven in each police district. The Salvation Army is providing training for the chaplains.
May 3, 2015 -- Our Committee for Interfaith Understanding drew 140 people of different faiths and denominations to the newly opened mosque in Brookfield to have building tours and engage in lively, small-group sharing after hearing representatives of 12 faiths give brief presentations on the day’s theme, “Why do we pray? An exploration of the purpose and benefits of prayer.” The Islamic Society of Milwaukee hosted the event and provided Middle Eastern food.
First Quarter of 2015 -- The Interfaith Conference held 10 Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues in area homes, each with 8 to 12 people of different faiths, races and cultures breaking bread and engaging in deep, transformative sharing with assistance from trained moderators, prepared questions and a gentle appreciative listening format.
April 29, 2015 -- Affirming that mutually shared, faith-based values have an important role to play in our democratic society, more than 700 people of many denominations and faiths gathered in Madison to speak with one voice on issues of poverty, inequality and injustice. This day-long People of Faith United for Justice gathering was focused on the proposed Wisconsin State budget and was organized by the Wisconsin Council of Churches, the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee, WISDOM and six other organizations. It featured prominent keynote speakers, a march around the Capitol and visits with state legislators to discuss four main issues:
The keynote speakers were Hannah Rosenthal, CEO/President of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and former Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism for the U.S. State Department; and the Rev. Everett Mitchell, Pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church in Madison and Director of Community Relations for UW-Madison. Rev. Mitchell holds Masters Degrees in Christian Ethics and Social Ethics from Princeton Theological Seminary.
April 25, 2015 -- IFC Executive Director Tom Heinen attended and spoke briefly at the annual meeting of the Southeast Association of the Wisconsin Conference United Church of Christ at New Horizon UCC Church in Kewaskum. The theme was "Changing Lives." Tom and his wife, Katie, also set up and staffed Interfaith Conference displays.
April 21, 2015 – Interfaith Earth Network program director Kirsten Shead gave closing remarks at the Milwaukee Water Commons Water City 3.0 Commissioning Meeting. After four hours of discussion and group work around patterns and Milwaukee becoming a water city, Kirsten was asked to recap the process and send the group out with passion, vision and hope. The Interfaith Earth Network has been working with the Milwaukee Water Commons in various capacities. Milwaukee Water Commons is a cross-city network that fosters connection, collaboration and broad community leadership on behalf of our waters. They promote stewardship of, equitable access to and shared decision-making for our common waters.
April 2015 -- Our Interfaith Restorative Practices Coalition created an Internship and is offering it through the Communications Department of UWM.
Spring 2015 -- The Interfaith Conference's Restorative Justice Committee officially changed its name to the Interfaith Restorative Practices Coalition.
March 25, 2015 -- Kirsten Shead, program director for the Interfaith Earth Network, represented the Interfaith Conference at the Metro GO! Regional Transit Leadership Council Meeting "Are We Prepared? Will We Be Able to Compete" in Brookfield. Expert panels of business and civic representatives included Human Resource Manager for FedEx Smartpost, Chief Economist for the WI Dept of Workforce Development, Director of Milwaukee County Dept of Transoprtation and the Mayor of Oak Creek.
March 15, 2015 -- Former Interfaith Earth Network Steering Committee Chair Terri Lowder, a ELCA Lutheran, staffed a display about IEN's programs and interacted with the public at the Churches’ Center for Land and People “Markets & Meals for Hope” at United Methodist Church of Whitefish Bay.
March 15, 2015 -- Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen and his wife, Katie, represented the Conference at a standing-room-only presentation by Angela Schluter at Congregation Shalom 7630 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Fox Point. Schluter, whose mother Edith Hahn Beer wrote the autobiographical book "The Nazi Officer's Wife," told compelling stories about how Edith hid the fact that she was a Jew during World War II to escape the Holocaust, took on another woman's identity and ended up marrying a Nazi officer. Her appearance was co-sponsored by Congregation Shalom and the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Resource Center.
March 11, 2015 -- Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen was one of several community leaders who participated in a conference-call/in-person meeting organized by U.S. Attorney James Santelle to discuss the Justice Department's ongoing engagement with a range of police/community issues, both local and national.
March 8, 2015 -- Three Catholic members of our Interfaith Earth Network's Steering Committee -- Dianne Dagelen, Barbara Richards and Katie Heinen -- staffed a display about IEN's programs and interacted with the public at the Churches’ Center for Land and People “Markets & Meals for Hope” at St. Sebastian Catholic Church on Milwaukee's west side.
March 4-5, 2015 -- Members of our Interfaith Earth Network's Steering Committee staffed a display about IEN's programs and interacted with current and future leaders at the 12th Annual Sustainability Summit and Exposition at the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee. The primary mission of the Sustainability Summit "is to educate and motivate investors, entrepreneurs and the future workforce for rapidly expanding opportunities in green energy and sustainability."
March 4, 2015 -- "Healing as a Community," the second of two talkbacks the Interfaith Conference arranged in collaboration with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater and its production of "The Amish Project," drew 77 people for a question-and-answer session with three panelists that was engaging, poignant, deeply personal and pragmatic. The play was based on the shootings of Amish school girls in Pennsylvania in 2006 and the Amish community's incredible forgiveness of the gunman and charity towards his wife. Coming immediately after actress Deborah Staples' compelling, one-woman performance of the play, the talkback delved into the critical and timely issues of hate, forgiveness, intolerance, violence, healing, faith and community spirit. The three panelists were: Pardeep Kaleka, whose father, Oak Creek Sikh Temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, was one of six people slain by a white supremacist at the temple in 2012; Oak Creek Polict Lt. Brian Murphy, who survived being shot 15 times as a first-responder at the temple; and Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi. The audience burst into sustained applause at the end of the session, in the Rep's Stiemke Studio theater.
March 2, 2015 -- A large contingent of representatives from the Interfaith Conference Cabinet (our board of directors) and our Committee for Interfaith Understanding was present for inaugural ceremonies and an open house for a new mosque in Brookfield -- the first mosque to be built in Waukesha County, on March 2, 2015. Among the speakers were Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, religious director of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee; Brookfield Mayor Steve Ponto; U.S. Attorney James Santelle; Ahmed Quereshi, president of the Islamic Society and an Interfaith Conference officer; Dr. Rob Shelledy, chair of the Interfaith Conference and coordinator of social justice ministry for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee; and Tom Heinen, Interfaith Conference Executive Director. A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story referenced the Interfaith Conference presence. See: Mosque
March 2015 -- We drew record-breaking, faith-diverse crowds averaging well over 100 people for our annual Tuesdays-in-March luncheon lecture series, which this year had the theme, "Confronting the Realities of Segregation." The five programs were so popular that we had to move the presentations from the community room to the church nave and sanctuary at First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee, 1342 N. Astor St. Organized by our Peace & International Issues Committee (PIIC), the programs were:
February 25, 2015 -- About 70 people heard three interfaith panelists provide moving stories about their journeys to forgiveness and the impact of the fatal shootings of family members on them and others as the Interfaith Conference collaborated with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater in presenting a Faith & Forgiveness talkback after the 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25th performance of "The Amish Project" in the Rep's Stiemke Studio theater. Actress Deborah Staples, who starred in the one-woman show, sat in the back of the audience for the talkback after getting out of costume. The play -- a deeply moving, powerful production -- is based generally on the shootings of six Amish school girls by a lone gunman in Pennsylvania in 2006 and the Amish community's incredible forgiveness of the gunman and charity towards his wife. The three panelists were: Afriqah Imani, an African-American Muslim who embraced and befriended the killer of her son after the University of Wisconsin Law School’s Restorative Justice Project helped her end 10 years of anger; Amardeep Kaleka, son of former Oak Creek Sikh Temple President Satwant Singh Kaleka, who was killed in the attack; and Marna Winbush, one of the founders of Milwaukee’s Mothers Against Gun Violence, whose son was gunned down in a triple homicide. The Interfaith Conference also is organizing a talkback after the March 4 performance on the theme of Healing as a Community. It will feature Pardeep Kaleka, another son of the slain Sikh Temple president; Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi; and Oak Creek Police Lt. Brian Murphy, who was shot 15 times after responding to calls for help at the temple.
February 21, 2015 -- Terry Wiggins, a Unitarian Universalist member of our Interfaith Earth Network's Steering Committee staffed a display about IEN's programs and interacted with the public at the Churches’ Center for Land and People “Markets & Meals for Hope” at North Shore Congregational Church in Fox Point.
February 21, 2015 -- Two representatives of the Interfaith Conference -- Executive Director Tom Heinen and his wife, Katie -- staffed displays about our various programs and interacted with attendees at the winter forum of Catholics for Peace and Justice at St. Alphonsus Church, 6060 W. Loomis Rd., Greendale. The theme was "Open to the Word -- Empowering People through Faith and Action." Retired Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba gave the keynote presentation.
February 15, 2015 -- Jeanne Mantsch, a United Church of Christ member of our Interfaith Earth Network's Steering Committee staffed a display about IEN's programs and interacted with the public at the Churches’ Center for Land and People “Markets & Meals for Hope” at Lake Park Lutheran Church in Milwaukee.
February 7, 2015 -- Interfaith Executive Director Tom Heinen spoke briefly, staffed displays about the Interfaith Conference's various activities and interacted with Methodists from throughout the region at the United Methodist Church Metro Districts' annual all-day gathering, held this year at Christ Church UMC in Racine. The theme was "Tools to Make the Connection: Community Engagement." More than 140 people attended. They were welcomed by the Rev. Deborah Thompson, Metro Districts Superintendent, and other leaders.
February 4, 2015 -- The Interfaith Conference assisted Marquette University in planning small-group diversity dinner dialogues for about 100 students and faculty in the Alumni Memorial Union as part of the university's multi-faceted mission week activities. The dinners were based on our Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue Program. Some of that program's discussion questions were used; others were created and/or adapted for the theme of the mission week, which was, "Who Cares? Charity, Justice and the Quest for the Common Good." Amazing Faiths Program Director Jenni Reinke helped train student moderators. Interfaith Conference Cabinet Member the Rev. Matt Kruse, an ELCA Lutheran, and Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen participated in the dinners.
February 3, 2015 -- Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen represented the Conference at a presentation by Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, at Bader Philanthropies, Inc., on N. Water Street in Milwaukee's Third Ward.
January 31, 2015 -- Katie Heinen, a member of our Interfaith Earth Network's Steering Committee staffed a display about IEN's programs and interacted with the public at the Churches’ Center for Land and People “Markets & Meals for Hope” at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church in downtown Milwaukee.
January 26, 2015 -- The Program Director for our Interfaith Earth Network, Kirsten Shead, accepted an invitation to join the Steering Committee for the Waters of Wisconsin (WOW), a nine-person core leadership team. WOW is a statewide initiative of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters. Kirsten has been participating with WOW since the fall of 2013 on their Communications Working Group as a main voice for people of faith and for the role of faith communities in celebrating and safeguarding our Wisconsin waters. The aim of WOW is to foster nonpartisan, science-based strategies and solutions to safeguard Wisconsin’s freshwater ecosystems and water supply for generations to come.
January 25, 2015 -- More than 160 people of a wide variety of faiths crowded into the sanctuary of Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield for a program jointly organized by the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee's Committee for Interfaith Understanding and the Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network (BEGIN) and titled "An Interfaith Experience: How does your faith inspire you to treat the stranger?" Representatives of 13 denominations and faiths gave mini-presentations. Then there was a break for refreshments, including home-made ethnic treats, followed by lively small-group dialoguing at tables. The crowd was so large that extra tables needed to be set up in the foyer.
In addition to Evangelical, Protestant and Roman Catholic Christianity, the other faiths represented in the presentations were: Baha'i, Buddhism, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), Evangelical Christian, Protestant Islam, Islamic Sufism, Judaism, Sikhism, Unitarian Universalism and Zoroastrianism.
The attendees, some of whom came from as far away as Elkhorn, discussed four questions in small groups:
a) Did something that one of the speakers said particularly strike you or otherwise resonate with you?
b) Was there a time in your life when you felt like “the stranger”?What was your experience of that?
c) How can you apply what you’ve heard today in your neighborhood, your workplace, in your faith community,
in your social interactions?
d) Looking ahead, what other topics or themes would you like to see explored/presented?
In other words, what do you want to hear about?
January 25, 2015 -- Jeanne Mantsch, a United Church of Christ member of our Interfaith Earth Network's Steering Committee staffed a display about IEN's programs and interacted with the public at the Churches’ Center for Land and People “Markets & Meals for Hope” at Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church in Bay View. We are striving to have a presence at all of these winter farmer's markets, which provide small-scale farmers the chance to sell their products in the off-season. Most often they feature a brunch using local food supplied by the farmers and prepared by volunteers under the director of the congregation’s chef or an outside professional. Farmers help farmers by building connections with each other and by donating ten percent of sales to the Harvest of Hope emergency fund with 100% of the donations given to farmers in need.
January 22, 2015 -- We were mentioned prominently, and Interfaith Executive Director Tom Heinen was quoted in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story on January 22 about the Wisconsin Council of Church's release of a new statement on interfaith relations and its encouragement of interfaith dialogue statewide.See: Journal Sentinel story For the WCC's "Loving our Neighbors" statement and information about its effort, see: WCC Interfaith Outreach
January 20, 2015 -- Our Interfaith Earth Network hosted the first of six Faith & Ecology Conversations exploring Water. This first conversation focused on Water Words. It included reflection and deep sharing on water consciousness and how faith and spirituality intersect with the natural word. These conversations take place at 7 p.m. every third Tuesday at the Urban Ecology Center, Riverside Park.
January 18, 2015 -- The Interfaith Conference assisted Milwaukee's St. Mark AME Church in promoting and selling tickets for a special screening of the movie "Selma" at Mayfair Shopping Mall on January 18, followed by a discussion in the movie theater and a talk-back at the church the next day. We acted as the fiscal agent on short notice and, in barely two days, sold nearly $700 worth of tickets online through our PayPal account on our website. Nearly 100 people attended. The Journal Sentinel's coverage of church-sponsored screenings of the civil rights movie on January 21 included a large color photo of St. Mark's talk-back and a reference to the Interfaith Conference in the story. See: Journal Sentinel story
January 14, 2015 -- Four Interfaith Conference leaders and a representative of MICAH (Milwaukee Innercity Congregations Allied for Hope) had a nearly two-hour informal conversation with U.S. Attorney James Santelle about police community relations in Milwaukee and Mr. Santelle's efforts to address concerns, including his desire to create a revitalized police community relations commission. Participating from the Interfaith Conference were Rob Shelledy, chair; Cabinet members Ahmed Quereshi and Rev. Dr. John Walton, Jr., and executive director Tom Heinen.
January 12, 2015 -- The Interfaith Conference Cabinet (our board of directors) unanimously approved the Milwaukee District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church as a new Cabinet member, bringing our total number of member denominations and faiths to 16. The vote was taken via email between Dec. 19, 2014 and Jan. 12, 2015. Their representative, the Rev. Joseph Baring, was officially welcomed at the Jan. 22 Cabinet meeting. He is pastor of St. Paul AME Church in Madison, which is part of the denomination's Milwaukee District. He previously served in ministry in Milwaukee and continues to have connections here.