Open Space: Take Two

About six months ago, I wrote a commentary regarding an interfaith event on campus: Open-Space. I gave an honest critique of the event and its struggle to gain student involvement. Now, six months later, I am again reflecting on an Open Space event. At the end of this summer members of the DePaul community gave this approach to organizing a “second go.”

Open Space is a method of convening, dialoguing, and planning, but the catch is that the attendees set the agenda; they start the conversation on their own terms. In the context of a University Ministry Leadership retreat, 50 some DePaul students participated in an Open Space. We congregated in a retreat center conference room and students created breakout sessions based on topics they wanted to discuss. Everything from commuter student needs, to an interfaith art exhibit, to post-graduation service opportunities; students gathered to reflect, share, learn and organize. Each session included an individual who wrote down valuable information. Notes taken during sessions were later typed and shared via email with everyone who participated in the event.

The large amount of participants allowed students to experiment and take chances. They more readily used the “law of two feet” and floated between sessions, starting new conversations, and participating at their own desire. In my opinion, this added not only to the diversity of topics, but also opened the door to creative possibilities. Some students even decided to relocate to a local pier for some yoga. What remained consistent (amongst this variety of topics) was the initiative taken independently and collaboratively by students.

The effect of enthusiasm amongst student leaders in conjunction with the support of the University Staff allowed for a prosperous flow of ideas. This exchange was solidified in the group’s ability to document and share information post-Open Space event. An establishment of transparency through this sharing of ideas – and more importantly a commitment to the fulfillment of those ideas – has allowed the energy captivated at the Open Space to carry into the academic year. I hope that future Open Space events, particularly those facilitated by the DePaul Interfaith Scholars, will invite the DePaul Community at large to gather at this forum of possibility. I also hope that we can into serious consideration past pilot programs, such as this second attempt, when organizing future Open Spaces.

Caelin Niehoff – 2013

Interfaith and Higher Education (Part 4): The Better Together Movement

This is the fourth article in a several part series throughout this quarter, written by Nic Cable, focusing on the complexities of interfaith work in higher education. These articles are in conjunction with an academic independent study project on the same themes.

The Better Together Campaign is not about feeding or clothing homeless people; it’s not about raising money to help Haiti or other developing countries; it is and always will be a method of igniting the spirit of humanity, awakening our minds to the deep and limitless potential we share, if and when we choose to recognize it, come together, and work to spread justice and peace throughout the world. Continue reading

Talking the ‘Hereafter’ with atheists and believers

This blog post was submitted by Nicholas R. Lang, a senior at DePaul University. Nick serves as Media Intern for the Interfaith Youth Core and is a resident of the Vincent and Louise House on campus. He is also a co-founder and co-president of DePaul A.V. Club.

A couple weeks ago, I attended the launch of the Faith Project with my friend, Miranda. We sat in the back, in close proximity to the tasty treats, and listened to amazing religious people talk about how their backgrounds inspire them to fight for justice and equality for all. Although we stood in solidarity with these interfaith activists, Ms. Hovemeyer and I came from a far different perspective than our religious compatriots did. We both identify as agnostics, and together, we help make up the Secular Humanist Alliance of Chicago.

And as I expected, one puzzled audience member interrogated us as to our involvement in interfaith. As an agnostic passionate about work erroneously perceived as only involving religious people, I get questions like his all the time: Why do you care about religious work?

Continue reading

Interfaith Dialogue Must Include Atheists

Chris Stedman

This article was written by Chris Stedman, a prominent figure in the national interfaith movement. He is the Managing Director, ‘State of Formation,’ The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue. Follow his blog NonProphetStatus and keep up with him on Twitter.

In my work as an interfaith activist, I’ve fought to bring an end to religious division. Lately this has increasingly meant speaking out against the rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence sweeping America. As a member of the Common Ground Campaign, I’m actively working to oppose those who wish to disenfranchise the American Muslim community. Continue reading

When It Comes To Religion, Language Defines Us

Language is a powerful means of expression that inspires us, it gives us the ability to reach deeper into our spirituality. We can connect to people around us, share what makes us love, what draws our passion, what ideas grip our minds in fascination. It shapes how we think of ourselves and the world. Look to the philosopher Michel Foucault for a better explanation, but let me say that the words we give our ideas become the limits we must test. Continue reading

Embracing Difference

For the first 20 years of my life, a conversation about faith was something I unconsciously avoided.  It was not that I was uncomfortable with questions of my own faith. Rather, it was the understanding that the source of controversy and division between many people in the homeland of my family and friends was the association of religion.  It was my conviction that I would never allow such differences to divide me from the relationships that meant so much in my life. Continue reading

The Lessons of Listening: Experiencing the Beauty of Others

American-Mexican Border

This past December I traveled with a group of DePaul students to Nogales, Mexico with University Ministry’s service immersion program. We were going on this trip in order to learn more about immigration down at the border. Although we met several times prior to the trip in order to prepare, we fell extremely short of actually being prepared. We saw much more than I believe any of us expected. We sat in a courtroom and watched undocumented migrants be prosecuted in large batches, only to learn that this is actually unconstitutional. We slept in migrant shelters. We visited Border Patrol. We spoke with a rancher who lives on the border. We went to a maquiladora factory. We passed back and forth across the border with privilege we were all suddenly much more aware of. We spoke with so many people. It began to feel strange to think that it was a ‘service’ immersion trip. What we were actually doing for most of the time while we were there was listening. Continue reading

The Feeling of a Comfortable Shoe

The feeling of a comfortable shoe. That is how I would describe my visit to www.soulpancake.com. Visiting the site by actor Rainn Wilson (he really does spell it with two N’s) made me feel comfortable inside. I searched the web at 2:30am to see what information is out there on interfaith dialogue and         discussions and I came across Soul Pancake© and took delight in my search. The site immediately hooked me in. It might have been the cute pancake motif to the site, which works surprisingly well, or it could be the color scheme, but it’s probably the caption that runs under on the main web page that really attracted me. The caption changes, but it appeared to me for the first time as: {See. Think. Talk.} and the website is truly filled with challenging thoughts to take on. I believe the practice of talking and thinking is heavily suppressed in today’s world, but it is openly embraced by Soul Pancake© alongside interfaith dialogue. Continue reading

4 Ways of Dialogue

At DePaul we realize that interfaith dialogue is more than a dialogue of trained theologians and scholars. At a diverse school like ours people are participating in interfaith dialogue all the time at different levels. We want to help people appreciate the various expressions of dialogue by providing a language for this dynamic. We find “The Four Ways of Dialogue” helpful in understanding what interfaith dialogue is to each of us and hope that there is a greater understanding of dialogue and diversity at DePaul through this model. Continue reading