2016 Events and Activities
Events and Activities in 2016
December, year-end Amazing Faiths Overview -- We held more than 20 Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues in 2016, most coordinated by our then Amazing Faiths program director, Jenni Reinke. This included two for students in the UWM Student Union and one for Christian and Muslim older adults at the Wilson Park Senior Center. Because of the commitment to conduct intercultural dinner dialogues with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater in January and February 2017, our regular Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues will gradually begin for 2017 in March and April.
Dec. 6, 2016 -- As part of our collaboration with Rockwell Automation and its Faith Friendly and Allies interfaith employee resource group, we helped arrange for Tonen O'Connor, resident priest emerita of the Milwaukee Zen Center, to give a lunchtime presentation on Buddhism for 50 or more employees. This is part of an ongoing effort in which we are helping to arrange informational sessions and opportunities for interfaith, intercultural dialogue for employees of any faith or philosophy.
Dec. 1, 2016 -- Our 46th annual luncheon drew 230 people of diverse faiths. Ralph Hollmon, retiring Milwaukee Urban League President/CEO, received our Frank Zeidler Award and gave a parting view on local social issues. Ruth Silver, Jewish woman who founded the Center for Deaf-Blind Persons, Inc., received our Mark Rohlfing Memorial Award. Friedens Community Ministries received our Rev. Herbert Huebschmann Urban Ministry Award, which we have given for many years. The late Rev. Huebschmann was a longtime pastor at the former Friedens United Church of Christ, which directly and indirectly started a number of urban service and outreach ministries. His widow, Viv, was present to present the award.One of our Youth/Young Adult Leadership Awards was given to Zeynab Ali, an inspirational Kenyan/Somali refugee teenager who attends Milwaukee’s Rufus King High School and who has founded an anti-human trafficking youth group. Another went to youths and young adults from the Serve2Unite group that Sikhs founded after the fatal shootings of six Sikhs at their Oak Creek temple by a white supremacist.
Jane Elder, executive director of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, who oversees its nonpartisan Waters of Wisconsin initiative, gave a presentation on the critical need for people of faith to know Wisconsin’s inspirational water heritage and to add their voices in safeguarding the waters we all depend upon. Luncheon attendees then dialogued about water and faith at mixed-faith tables while they ate.
Nov. 21, 2016 -- Our Committee for Interfaith Understanding assisted with the opening reception and promotion of a Muslim photo exhibit in Milwaukee City Hall. The exhibit, titled “Capture the Spirit of Ramadan: Bridging Cultures, Inspiring Creativity,” was on a world tour and was brought here by the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition. Our CIU committee helped get speakers of different faiths to offer interfaith prayers, helped with refreshments, and assisted in other ways. The reception and program drew a large crowd.
Nov. 10, 2016 -- City boosts funding for Housing Trust Fund; Interfaith Conference cited for role
(A News Conference was held in the rotunda of City Hall) The Milwaukee Common Council approved a 2017 city budget amendment last week to increase funding for the Housing Trust Fund from $450,000 to $650,000 next year, strengthening the city’s push to leverage the development of housing units to address Milwaukee’s most vital housing needs while stimulating development activity and jobs.
The Interfaith Conference played an important role in creating the fund nearly 10 years ago and continues to have a representative on the fund’s advisory board (Currently Interfaith board member and UWM economics professor Dr. Swarnjit Arora).
Alderman Michael Murphy, who introduced the budget amendment, said that since 2008 the fund has awarded grants totaling just under $6 million leveraging projects valued at $103 million. During that time period, the fund has helped to create or rehab more than 760 housing units, at an average cost of $7,800 per unit. Mayor Tom Barrett said the Housing Trust Fund is playing a vital role in championing smaller projects that produce big results.
Tom Heinen, executive director of the Interfaith Conference, said, “When housing and homelessness arose as heightened issues in 2004, we helped create a broad coalition of community organizations that pushed for the creation of a housing trust fund. We hosted the meetings, served as the fiscal agent, hired a part-time staff person to assist, and were represented by our then executive director. This was truly a community-wide effort. Several people and dozens of organizations played important roles, including private leaders and public officials such as Alderman Michael Murphy.”
Oct. 27, 2016 – Our Faith Connections//Values in Action Awards night in a Miller Park lounge during the off-season honored: Major league Baseball Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig; the Brewer’s Community Foundation, represented by its executive director, Cecelia Gore: and Sister Toni Ann Palermo, now a School Sister of St. Francis, who in the 1940s-50s played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League on which the movie “A League of Their Own” was based. These events spotlight values, ethics and faith or philosophy in the lives of prominent leaders from many fields. Our Give for the Glide online “voting” sent Fr. Jerry Herda, the Brewers’ Catholic chaplain and pastor of two east side Milwaukee parishes, down Bernie Brewers’ slide that night as the top donation getter. The event, partly a fund raiser, drew 100 people.
Oct. 27 -- A total of 24 people, including students and facilitators, participated in a second Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue in the UWM Student Union organized by Tom Dake, liaison advisor to the Student Organizations Department at UWM, and the Interfaith Conference. This is an effort to get the campus more comfortable with the notion of interfaith interaction and to raise the baseline on what a person with an interfaith education would be. It is intended to make the campus faith-friendly for a variety of faith traditions. Overall, the two dinners included Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Baha'is, atheists and others. UWM is working with the Jewish HIllel organization in engage Jewish students in this effort. More dinner dialogues are expected to be held in 2017.
Oct. 11, 2016 -- The Interfaith Conference helped the Rev. Bob Wang, pastor of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Burlington, arrange an interfaith event titled "Islam and Interfaith Relations: 9/11 at 15: From Fear to Friendship" in the Veterans Terrace at Echo Park in Burlington. We coordinated with Ahmed Quereshi, treasurer of the Interfaith Conference board of directors and president of the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, who was the sole interfaith speaker at the event. The event, free and open to the public, drew an estimated 150 people.
Oct. 9, 2016 -- The Interfaith Conference organized its 31st annual Greater Milwaukee CROP Hunger walk at Milwaukee’s lakefront to create awareness of hunger, to raise food donations for local distribution, and to raise monetary donations for Church World Service’s international and domestic relief and economic development efforts, and for some other agencies designated by donors. The 2016 walk, co-directed by Norma Duckworth and volunteer Diana Wollach, drew about 350 adults and children from a wide range of faiths and ethnicities. It collected over 11,000 pounds of food for the Hunger Task Force and raised over $24,000 for international and national relief and development.
Sept. 27 -- Ten people, including students and facilitators, participated in an inaugural Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue in the UWM Student Union organized by Tom Dake, liaison advisor to the Student Organizations Department at UWM, and the Interfaith Conference. This is an effort to get the campus more comfortable with the notion of interfaith interaction and to raise the baseline on what a person with an interfaith education would be. It is intended to make the campus faith-friendly for a variety of faith traditions.
Sept. 25, 2016 -- Volunteers and leaders from the Interfaith Conference led about 100 people in interfaith dialogue during the lunch at Plymouth Church UCC's "Reviving Peace" conference at the church, 2717 E. Hampshire St., Milwaukee. We used our appreciate inquiry model to give them a taste of our ongoing Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues. Plymouth's two-day event featured several speakers of diverse faiths. The event's mission statement was: "We aim to inspire people from many spiritual traditions, and those who do not identify with any faith tradition to: Create space for honest interfaith discussions of what divides and connects us; Broaden our understanding of diverse religions and spiritual practices; and Move forward together in mutually respectful ways to wage peace."
Sept. 22, 2016 -- Interfaith Executive Director Tom Heinen joined other religious and civic leaders for a lunchtime presentation and discussion titled "Responses to Violence: How We Transcend Conflict and Choose Reconciliation." The featured speakers were Robi Damelin and Bassam Aramin, an Israeli woman and Palestinian man who each lost an adult child to conflict and who now represent the Parents Circle, which describes itself as a grassroots organization of bereaved Palestinians and Israelis supporting peace, reconciliation and tolerance as an alternative to hatred and revenge.
Sept. 20, 2016 -- Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen was among about 20 religious leaders and representatives of faith-based organizations who attended a breakfast meeting at Milwaukee's North Division High School with Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Darienne Driver as a follow-up to a previous meeting regarding ways that congregations and others can partner with MPS to offer hope and help to MPS students and families.
Sept. 15, 2016 -- Working with representatives of the interfaith employee resource group at Rockwell Automation, we helped craft discussion questions on food from a faith, family and philosophy perspective and held lunchtime dialogues for employees using our Amazing Faiths dialogue format. This is part of an ongoing collaboration with Rockwell as a pilot project that we hope to bring to other businesses and corporations. The workplace is one of a diminishing number of areas in society where people of diverse backgrounds come together.
Aug. 10, 2016 -- Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen attended the Milwaukee Jewish Federation's annual meeting, at Congregation Sinai, where Federation CEO/President Hannah Rosenthal gave a year-in-review report and Elizabeth "Betsy" Brenner, recently retired president and publisher of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, spoke about her participation in a Federation-coordinated trip to Poland and Holocaust sites.
Aug. 6, 2016 -- The Interfaith Conference set up and staffed interfaith display tables at the Sikh community's annual 6K Chardhi Kala run/walk, which starts and ends at Oak Creek High School's football field. The event has three purposes. It commemorates the six Sikhs who were fatally shot by a white supremacist at the Oak Creek temple on Aug. 5, 2012. It raises money for scholarships for young people of many faiths throughout the metro area who exemplify community service. And it helps build community unity while celebrating the benefits of diversity. It is organized by the Serve2Unite group that was formed by Sikh youths and young adults after the shooting to foster interfaith understanding and strengthen community. The Interfaith Conference has assisted with this event in various ways since it began in 2013.
July 13, 2016 -- More than 50 employees at Rockwell Automation, a global corporation headquartered on Milwaukee's south side, participated in a lunchtime dialogue on the topic of water at mixed-faith/philosophy tables. Representatives of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee assisted and participated. Several people then toured the expansive "green roof" at Rockwell, where 48,500 square feet of plantings help dramatically reduce storm water runoff into the sewer system. These workplace dialogues are a collaboration of the Interfaith Conference's Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue Program and Rockwell's Faith Friendly & Allies Employee Resource Group, which is overseen by Susan Schmitt, Senior Vice President for Human Relations at Rockwell. The president of the faith-friendly employees' group is Rockwell employee Rahul Dubey, who also is one of the area Sikh community's representatives on the board of the Interfaith Conference. Amazing Faiths Program Director Jenni Reinke, who is on a leave of absence to attend a graduate school program, has been working with Rockwell to develop workplace interfaith dialogues as a pilot program. Interfaith staff member Kirsten Shead, who is the director of our Interfaith Earth Network and is on the Amazing Faiths leadership team, trained several Rockwell employees to serve as moderators for this July 13th luncheon and did a brief reflection on the importance of water in faith and science before giving dialogue instructions to the participants. Amazing Faiths volunteer Marge Krupp moderated one of the tables, as did Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen, whose wife, Katie, also participated in the dialoguing.
June 16, 2016 -- Ten senior citizens from the Wilson Senior Center and the Muslim Sakina Center came together for an Amazing Faiths Dialogue lunch at the Wilson Center's site in Wilson Park as part of a collaboration between the Interfaith Conference and the Interfaith Older Adult Programs. The older adult programs started in the early 1970s from a task force that the Interfaith Conference created and has been a separate, independent organization ever since. They are striving this year to help their staff and clients become more knowledgeable about other faiths and cultures amid the county's increasingly diverse population. Our Amazing Faiths program director, Jenni Reinke, coordinated this lunch with Morgan R. Morgan at the Wilson Senior Center. Donna Neubauer, one of our most experienced Amazing Faiths volunteers, moderated the luncheon. She is a member of Congregation Sinai.
June 16, 2016 -- Milwaukee’s Episcopal cathedral was filled to near-capacity the evening of June 16 for an interfaith service of remembrance and hope in response to the fatal shooting of 49 people by a Muslim man at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fl. The evening event was co-sponsored by the cathedral and the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee.
It was a time for people of many faiths, philosophies, lifestyles and ethnicities to come to come together in unity to grieve for the deceased while refusing to be divided or defined by hate. They shared scripture, prayer, reflection, healing and fellowship. The Milwaukee Children's Choir provided moving, uplifting choral song, while the tolling of All Saints' Cathedral's largest bell for each of the victims as their names were read was a poignant and personalized reminder of the loss.
A number of television stations covered the service, including Today's TMJ4, which did a detailed report. See it at: TMJ4.
After welcoming comments from the Very Rev. Kevin Carroll, dean of the cathedral, and Tom Heinen, executive director of the Interfaith Conference, several lay and ordained representatives of faiths offered scriptural readings, prayers and thoughts, including:
- Rahul Dubey, from the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek
- Janan Najeeb, president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition
- Elana Kahn, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council
- The Rev. Timothy Kitzke, Vicar General for Urban Ministry for the Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee
- Steve & Jeanne Lowry, from the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Milwaukee
- The Rev. Deborah Block, pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church
The Rev. Kevin Stewart, Missioner for Community Engagement for the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, read the names of the 49 people who were killed in the Orlando nightclub. After each name was read, the cathedral's largest bell was tolled once. The Rev. Debra Trakel, an Episcopal priest and director of client services for the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, offered a compelling personal reflection on the events in Orlando that challenged and inspired the crowd as the service drew toward an end.
Since its founding in 1970, the Interfaith Conference has consistently denounced hate crimes and any form of ethnic, racial or religious violence while striving to counter ignorance, prejudice, fear and hate. The mission of the Conference is to uphold the dignity of every person. We represent the regional leaders and adherents of 17 member denominations and faiths, and we also work closely with nonmember faiths.
June 9, 2016 -- IFC Executive Director Tom Heinen represented the Interfaith Conference at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Jewish Community Relations Council, held at the Jewish Home & Care Center on Milwaukee's East Side. The guest speaker was Darryl D. Morin, co-founder of the Latino-Jewish Alliance.
June 2, 2016 -- IFC Executive Director Tom Heinen staffed an Interfaith Conference display, and two representatives of the IFC's Interfaith Restorative Practices Coalition -- Coalition chair Betsy Gonwa and Jon Olsen -- staffed an adjacent display for the ministry fair at the 2016 Annual Assembly of the Greater Milwaukee Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, at Carthage College in Kenosha.
May 17, 2016 -- Our Interfaith Earth Network of Southeastern Wisconsin continued its monthly Faith & Ecology Conversation Series inspired by Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment. The May 17 session was titled, "Integral Ecology: Everything is Connected." It highlighted Buddhist and United Methodist perspectives. These gatherings are held at the Urban Ecology Center in Riverside Park.
May 12, 2016 -- Kirsten Shead, director of our Interfaith Earth Network of Southeastern Wisconsin, gave closing remarks at the Milwaukee Water Commons' “Confluence” gathering, which drew a packed house of more than 300 diverse people at the historic Pabst Best Place, N. 9th St. and W. Juneau Ave.
The event unveiled Water Commons' 2016 Water City Agenda and its six initiatives. This plan was produced by a two-year effort in which over 1,300 people provided input in-person and online, in large gatherings and small groups, on the street with a mobile “water cycle” and in workshops. They helped shape a vision of Milwaukee as a true water city -- a city in which everyone would participate in the care and enjoyment of our waters. Water Commons believes that "everyone, everywhere has a vital role to play" and has intentionally reached out in urban and suburban areas to engage people of color, artists, indigenous peoples, faith groups and others.
Kirsten, who serves on the Water Commons advisory team, ended the event on a high note by reflecting on what had been said throughout the evening, by bringing people back to the question of where this effort goes from here, and by then sending people forward to take this work back into their communities.
May 12, 2016 -- Several members of the Interfaith Conference Cabinet and our executive director attended Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's Ceasefire Sabbath kick-off breakfast at Way of the Cross Missionary Baptist Church, 1401 W. Hadley St. The mayor and police chief are urging religious leaders to help "galvanize our community in the mission to reduce violence, to promote peace and to extend a hand to those whose lives have been affected by crime and disorder."
May 10, 2016 -- Kirsten Shead, director of our Interfaith Earth Network of Southeastern Wisconsin, was a member of the 13-person team that did the visioning and planning for “Science, Policy & Water,” a dynamic, bipartisan summit held by Waters of Wisconsin (WOW) at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. The summit took an unblinking look at the ongoing disconnection between science and public environmental policy in Wisconsin despite the state's long history of being a national leader in balancing environmental and economic impacts while protecting waters and wetlands.
The summit sought to improve communication and tear down walls of mistrust and ideology. Kirsten is part of the Waters of Wisconsin Steering Committee. The capacity attendance of about 250 included people from Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Washington, DC, and all over Wisconsin. Panelists included current and form Republican and Democratic legislators along with scientists, business people, educators and representatives of nonprofit environmental organizations. Attendees came from Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Department of Administration, Legislative Commission, State Legislature, Public Service Commission, and other state agencies, as well as UW-Green Bay, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Madison, and many other midwest research institutes.
Waters of Wisconsin (WOW) is a program of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, which hosted the event.
April 2016 – More than 150 people -- most of them between the ages of 19 and 25 -- participated during the month of April in Generation Waking Up Experiences presented by Kirsten Shead, director of our Interfaith Earth Network of Southeastern Wisconsin. These dynamic workshops empower young people "to wake up to a clear sense of identity and purpose as members of a generation-wide movement for a thriving, just, sustainable world." Known informally as "WakeUps," these are three-hour, interactive, multimedia, peer-led workshops. "Through inspiring multimedia presentation, dynamic group interaction, and engaging dialogue, the WakeUp takes participants through a transformative exploration of the critical questions facing young people and society today." These workshops, some of which are open to adults of any age, are being made available to organizations, congregations and individuals through a generous grant from the High Wind Association. The April sites and participants:
- April 10 -- Siena Retreat Center, near Racine. Organized by the retreat center in collaboration with our Interfaith Earth Network, it drew 25 people of mixed generations and faiths from southeastern Wisconsin.
- April 22 (Earth Day) -- Held at United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County offices, 225 W. Vine St., Milwaukee. A racially diverse group of 32 young adults from Public Allies participated. They are serving in the AmeriCorps Ally Program that identifies diverse young adults and prepares them for leadership through paid full-time nonprofit apprenticeships and rigorous leadership training.
- April 29 -- More than 100 young adults working with at-risk students in high-poverty areas through the City Year AmeriCorps program participated in a "WakeUp" experience we held at the MillerCoors University facility in the MillerCoors corporate headquarters on Milwaukee's near west side.
April 27, 2016 -- An energized crowd of 240 people from Mequon and other parts of the metro area listened, asked questions and applauded vigorously at an interfaith event on the evening of April 27 that was titled "Exploring Islam: Addressing Difficult Questions. An interreligious conversation from Muslim, Christian and Jewish perspectives." Many lingered for refreshments and conversation afterwards.
Held at Crossroads Presbyterian Church in Mequon, the event was co-planned and co-sponsored by the church and the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee's Committee for Interfaith Understanding (CIU). The panelists were the Rev. Scott Hauser, Crossroads' senior pastor; Janan Najeeb, a founding member and president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition; and Rabbi Ronald Shapiro, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Shalom in Fox Point, the largest Jewish congregation in the Milwaukee area.
This was a follow-up to a similar event on Islam that the Interfaith Conference co-organized in February with the Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network (BEGIN). For that event, we rented the Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove and filled its 300 seats to capacity. Some latecomers had to be turned away.
These events are part of our continuing effort to counter hate, fear, prejudice and anxiety with interfaith education and personal contact that leads to understanding, tolerance and friendship.
April 23, 2016 -- IFC Executive Director Tom Heinen staffed an Interfaith Conference display, interacted with attendees, and also served as the volunteer official photographer for the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Southeast Association of the Wisconsin Conference, United Church of Christ, at Greendale Community UCC, 6015 Clover Lane, Greendale.
April 19, 2016 -- Our Interfaith Earth Network of Southeastern Wisconsin continued its monthly Faith & Ecology Conversation Series inspired by Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment. The April 19 session was titled "The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis: Preventing Disaster by Caring for our Common Home." Islamic and Presbyterian perspectives were highlighted. These gatherings are held at the Urban Ecology Center in Riverside Park.
April 18, 2016 – Kirsten Shead, director of our Interfaith Earth Network of Southeastern Wisconsin (IEN), participated in the final session of a series of monthly lunch discussion groups at Mount Mary University on Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home. The university specifically invited her to share an interfaith perspective and reactions to the encyclical from other faith traditions. The group of professors and students included two vowed women religious (Catholic sisters). This is another example of how Kirsten and our Interfaith Earth Network are increasingly being sought by faith-based and secular organizations as one of the area’s most prominent resources for providing a faith and interfaith perspective on environmental matters.
April 14-15, 2016 – Our Interfaith Earth Network of Southeastern Wisconsin (IEN) set up and staffed a display at the annual Sustainability Summit and Exposition in Milwaukee. Our emphasis was on IEN’s Generation Waking Up program, specifically the 3-hour interactive multimedia, peer-led workshop “that empowers young people to wake up to a clear sense of identity and purpose as members of a generation-wide movement for a thriving, just, sustainable world." There was significant interested from younger people attending the summit. Multiple members of IEN’s Steering Committee staffed the display over the two days.
March 31, 2016 -- Jenni Reinke, director of our Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues Program, collaborated with the Faith-Friendly & Allies Employee Resource Group at Rockwell Automation to hold a workplace interfaith dialogue for approximately 50 employees during the lunch hour. The dialogue was based on the Amazing Faiths model and adapted for the corporate setting. It was the first in a series of four interfaith dialogues the Interfaith Conference and Rockwell will be holding this year. Through this collaboration, the Interfaith Conference is developing a workplace interfaith dialogue model that can be used by other corporations and organizations. Jenni trained Rockwell employee resource group leaders to serve as moderators. To supplement them, she and Executive Director Tom Heinen also moderated, and she also brought in experienced Amazing Faiths volunteer moderator Marge Krupp.
March 22, 2016 -- 50 area employees of the Interfaith Older Adults Programs participated in an interfaith/intercultural training session arranged by the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee in the Washington Park Senior Center. Dr. Michael Donahou, assistant professor of religious studies at Cardinal Stritch University, gave an engaging and informative presentation on Islam. He will be returning to focus on other faiths in one or more subsequent sessions. Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen, who asked Donahou to do the presentation, spoke briefly about the Conference's history and current programs. People often confuse the two organizations because we both have "Interfaith" in our name. Actually, the older adults program started from a task force that the Interfaith Conference started in the early 1970s but has been independent ever since. The Interfaith Conference office fields misdirected calls every week from people trying to reach the older adults program, and we direct the callers to the correct telephone number.
March 22, 2015 -- Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen joined two dozen religious leaders for a Pastors Breakfast and brainstorming session with Darienne Driver, Milwaukee Public Schools superintendent, at Tabernacle Baptist Church, 2500 W. Medford Ave. Her invitation stated, "...I am all too familiar with the problems and issues that our children and families face on a daily basis. From violent crimes, to homelessness, unemployment, hunger, and mental health issues, the problems that are plaguing our community are continually seeping into the lives of the students and families at MPS. These issues are making achievement a goal that is becoming extremely difficult for our students. The district is working diligently to help address many of these issues by offering an abundance of wrap-around services to our students and families, but I recognize that we cannot solve these problems alone. For years, the faith-based community has been on the front lines battling the adverse conditions that affect our families and students....I am requesting your assistance in helping MPS address these issues. You are cordially invited to lend your expertise as I convene a small group of local faith leaders to join me in brainstorming and discussing areas of concern."
March 17-20, 2016 -- Portions of a blog/essay by Kirsten Shead, director of our Interfaith Earth Network of Southeastern Wisconsin, helped inspire and were featured in an original production by DanceCircus titled "Confluence...down by the riverside." Kirsten also participated in a talk-back after one of the performances.
Created by choreographers Betty Salamun and Janie Boston, it included dancers, singers, writers and musicians in a dance-music-theatre performance focused on life in the watershed of Milwaukee’s rivers – Milwaukee from the north, Menomonee from the west and Kinnickinnic from the south. Fifteen artists collaborated in a celebration of the beauty of rivers and their impact on our communities.
Kirsten's writing, titled "Down to the River to Pray," was based on an African-American spiritual and American folk song by the same name. She originally wrote it for Waters of Wisconsin (WOW), a project of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters. Her piece reflected on people of various faiths and philosophies going down to the river to pray at a national event she attended, and how water flowed through their lives and their faith traditions. Betty Salamun, who drew from that piece for the title of this production, recited portions of Kirsten’s writings while performing. The performances were held at Next Act Theatre, 255 S. Water St., Milwaukee, just three blocks from the confluence of the three rivers.
March 15, 2016 -- Our Interfaith Earth Network of Southeastern Wisconsin continued its monthly Faith & Ecology Conversation Series inspired by Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment. The March 15 session was titled "The Gospel of Creation (Sacred Text): Revelation and Creation, Respecting and Sharing God's Gift." It highlighted Unitarian Universalist and Quaker perspectives. These gatherings are held at the Urban Ecology Center in Riverside Park.
March 13, 2016 -- More than 100 people remained for a post-performance panel presentation organized by the Interfaith Conference at the Skylight Music Theatre's presentation of the Gospel musical "Crowns" on March 13. Women from six different faiths who cover their heads for religious and/or cultural purposes talked about the reasons for doing so, how that affects them and the reactions they get from others. Crowns was crafted around the tradition of African American women wearing elaborate hats to church services. The Skylight said, “In this jubilant Gospel musical, a teenager finds strength in a community of wise women who share powerful stories and songs connected to their magnificent church-going hats (aka Crowns).” Calvary Baptist Church, the oldest African American Baptist Church in Milwaukee, co-sponsored the talkback. Panelists included:
- Sheri Williams Pannell – The show’s director and a member of Calvary Baptist Church. Calvary is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin, and its senior pastor, the Rev. Dr. John R. Walton, Jr., is a member of the Interfaith Conference board and its leadership executive committee.
- Janan Najeeb – A founding member and current president of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition
- Dana Margolis – A member of Congregation Beth Jehudah, an Orthodox Jewish congregation, and a Senior Lecturer in the Hebrew Studies program at UWM.
- Shauna Singh Baldwin – An award-winning Canadian-American novelist of Indian descent who attends a Sikh Temple here
- Sister Zipporah Marigwa -- A Roman Catholic School Sister of Notre Dame from Kenya who is studying at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee
- Rev. Suzelle Lynch – Minister of Unitarian Universalist Church West, Brookfield, who has created special hats to wear for religious services and other church-related occasions, and who has studied the practice of head covering across faith traditions. The Unitarian Universalist Congregations of Southeast Wisconsin are one of 17 member faiths and denominations of the Interfaith Conference.
- The moderator was the Rev. Nancy Lanman, a United Methodist Deacon and chair of the Interfaith Conference's Committee for Interfaith Understanding.
March 13, 2016 – Barbara Richards 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 United Methodist Church of Whitefish Bay.
March 10, 2016 -- Ten people participated in an Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue hosted by Rev. Christie and David Melby-Gibbons in Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood.
March 6, 2016 – Katie Heinen 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 St. Sebastian Catholic Church in Milwaukee.
Feb. 28, 2016 -- Eight people participated in an Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue hosted by Mayank Mital in Greendale.
February 28, 2016 – Jeanne Mantsch 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.
Feb. 21, 2016 -- Ten students participated in our first-ever Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue held in Kenosha. It was hosted by Dr. Long and Carthage College's Theta Alpha Kappa honors fraternity, which recognizes the achievements of theology and religion students.
February 21, 2016 – Katie Heinen 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 Wauwatosa Presbyterian Church.
Feb. 18, 2016 -- A capacity crowd of slightly more than 300 people filled the Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove the evening of Feb. 18 for an Interfaith program with the provocative title, "What do we really know about Islam? Answering the difficult questions." This was an attempt to reach out beyond our normal "choir" of supporters to include people who have concerns, anxieties or skepticism. So many people came that we exceeded the theater's seating capacity and had to turn some away, inviting them to attend a similar event we are planning to hold in Mequon on April 27. The response was tremendous; the mood of the crowd inquisitive and peaceful.
People from at least 25 different faiths came from 43 different communities, some from as far away as Pleasant Prairie, Fond du Lac, West Bend, Baraboo, Hartford and Illinois. Of the 284 people who completed survey forms, 103 said it was the first interfaith event they had attended.
The event was organized by our Committee for Interfaith Understanding in collaboration with the Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network (BEGIN), It included a Q&A session. Two Muslim speakers had the most time for presentations.
James Santelle, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, wrote afterwards, "I write to congratulate you and all of your board members and staff for organizing and presenting Thursday evening’s genuinely outstanding community gathering at the Sunset Playhouse. From start to finish, the program was informative, thoughtful, reflective, inspiring, and even humorous—striking precisely the right balance of education and encouragement for the challenges of our times. I appreciate your continuing focus on and commitment to this supremely important work..."
Our moderator was Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi. Our speakers and welcomers included:
- Janan Najeeb, a Founder and Current President of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition (MMWC), based in Greenfield, who the prior week became the first Muslim to lead the Wisconsin State Assembly in prayer prior to the start of a legislative session
Rabbi Jacob Herber, Past President of Wisconsin Council of Rabbis, Spiritual Leader of Congregation Beth Israel Ner Tamid in Glendale. Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem
Imam Noman Hussain from Islamic Society of Milwaukee West, the mosque that opened in Brookfield last year
Rev. Dr. John R. Walton, Jr., Senior Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, the oldest African-American Baptist Church in Milwaukee
Rahul Dubey, Representative of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek and the Sikh Religious Society of Wisconsin in Brookfield
Rev. Nancy Lanman, Chair of Interfaith Conference’s Committee for Interfaith Understanding, and United Methodist representative on Interfaith Conference Cabinet
Rev. Suzelle Lynch, Deputy Convenor of Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network (BEGIN) and Minister of Unitarian Universalist Church West, Brookfield
Tom Heinen, Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee
Feb. 16 through July 19, 2016 -- Our Interfaith Earth Network’s monthly Faith & Ecology Conversation Series for the first half of 2016 has been inspired by Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical, "Laudato Si: On Care for our Common Home."
The encyclical is referenced in the title “Praise Be: Reflecting on Faith Traditions' Statements On Care for our Common Home” and in some of the content. Using questions derived from the encyclical, speakers are sharing 11 different faith’s teachings on the environment. These sessions are held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month at the Urban Ecology Center in Riverside Park.
The opening session on Feb. 16 was entitled "What is Happening to our Common Home? Pope Francis says 'Facts are more important than ideas.' " Roman Catholic and Baptist perspectives were shared.
Feb. 16, 2016 -- Seven people participated in an Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue hosted by Rev. Reirin Gumbel and the Milwaukee Zen Center on the East Side.
February 7, 2016 – Terry Wiggins 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 Party Lutheran Church in Milwaukee.
Jan. 26, 2016 -- Ten people participated in an Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue hosted by Sr. Margaret Kruse, Sr. Helen Mertes and the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in St. Francis.