Leadership for a World of Religious Diversity

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Bringing Jews to Church

Gateway to Religious Communities




Leslie Hilgeman (RRC, 2013) is spending her one year Multifaith Internship at the Interfaith Center of Philadelphia.

Here are some of her reflections:

Here’s a moment I never expected to encounter when I entered rabbinical school – inviting Jews to come to church!

This year as a rabbinic intern at the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, I am coordinating a program called Gateway to Religious Communities.

Bryn Mawr Presbyterian ChurchEach Fall and Spring members of the public sign up to visit a series of congregations over a few months’ time. Most recently we visited the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, in Bryn Mawr.

At each congregation we visit, we attend a worship service. We meet with a leader before hand who explains the service, and then afterwards there’s a Q & A where we talk about what we saw and experienced. And we talk about faith.

We’ve entered into all kinds of subjects – silence and speech in Quaker communities; ethnic and racial diversity in the Mormon faith; honoring human rights in the Jewish tradition. At Bryn Mawr Presbyterian recently, we discussed the Christian concept of Original Sin as a way to face tragedies such as the Tsunami and nuclear fallout in Japan. The conversations range from interesting to powerful – and they’re never dull!

Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church

What moves me most about the Gateway program, though, is seeing who shows up. While many interfaith programs target clergy and other ecumenical professionals, Gateway is open to the general public - to people of any and all religions and backgrounds.

We’ve had parents come with teen and adult children. We’ve had clergy and lay leaders. We’ve had students, lawyers, social workers, housewives – you name it. Watching this group gather and engage with faith, and with each other, is an amazing experience that teaches me, every time.

Our next stop in the series is a Friday night service at the Main Line Reform Temple in Wynnewood, PA on April 1. That means this time, I get to invite Christians to come to synagogue! And, of course, Muslims and the Baha’i and Hindus as well.

Leslie Hilgeman serves as an RRC Multifaith Intern through the generosity of the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.

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