Kellan Weyer, Pastoral Intern
Prairie Lutheran, Eden Prairie MN
Project: Our Neighbor’s Faith
Why was this project subject of interest to you?
Interfaith relationships are something every Christian Public Leader should be interested in and actively pursuing. As the world becomes more globalized and religious demographics shift, learning about our neighbor’s faiths is an important aspect of loving them, as Christ commands us to do.
Why was your context a good fit for this project?
Interfaith activities have been a significant part of Prairie Lutheran’s identity. Each year Prairie hosts an event called “Our Neighbor’s Faith,” in which members of Prairie Lutheran visit different faith communities in the area to observe their worship spaces and talk to their members. This year, due to logistical reasons, we were not able to have the event, so we opted for the next-best thing. This way, interested congregants could share in the opportunity to hear from other faiths, just at PLC instead.
Why might this project be of interest to your fellow interns?
Event organization and planning are an important part of church leadership, as are ecumenical and interfaith relationships, advertising, and recruitment of volunteers. Hosting this event helped me to exercise these capacities, and hosting similar events may help future interns.
“How Do I Love My Neighbor” was a panel discussion involving interfaith speakers from the Eden Prairie area. I wrote discussion questions ahead of time, and moderated the event, asking the speakers questions about their faith, their interfaith relationships, and how different faith groups can interact with one another in healthy and appropriate ways.
I invited three speakers in from the Eden Prairie area: Lakshmi Nandyal (who spoke about Hinduism), Saleem Adam (who spoke about Islam), and Trish Vanni (who spoke about ecumenical Catholicism/Christianity). Saleem and Trish are members of Interfaith Circle, an organization in Eden Prairie, dedicated to fostering interfaith relationships in the community.
We hosted the event in the basement of Prairie Lutheran in an area called “The DEC,” which seats about 50. We had several round tables that could seat 7 each with treats provided at each table. It lasted from 7:00-8:30pm on May 3rd (a Thursday night). One hour was spent on panel discussion and 30 min. was spent on audience questions.
The purpose of the event was to get the attendees thinking about what it means to love our interfaith neighbors. By hearing from interfaith members of the Eden Prairie community, the goal was to hear ways in which different faiths can interact with one another in love.
That audience members would leave with a renewed sense of purpose in engaging in interfaith relationships. Especially interested audience members might join organizations such as Interfaith Circle or participate in similarly-themed future events.
Share the Outcomes and Transformations the Internship Context experienced:
Several members of the congregation expressed how much they had gained from the event on the following Sunday, citing how much they had learned about Hinduism and Islam, as well as new Christian perspectives for engaging in Interfaith relationships. This event also caused a renewed interest in hosting another “Our Neighbor’s Faith” event, which is currently slated to be held in June.
Share the Outcomes and Transformations you experienced:
I think the main transformation I experienced was a renewed sense of self-confidence. I realized that yes, I can plan an event from start to finish, reaching out to community members, doing set-up and advertising, and recruiting volunteers. I learned that even small events like this can make a difference in how people view other faith groups in a positive way.
What “image” exists in your memory from your internship project experience?
Most of the event was dialogue-focused, and the way I was positioned meant that I was looking out into the audience for most of the event. One image that sticks with me is all the people who nodded their heads or let out an audible “Hmmmm” along with an eyebrow raise when they heard something from one of the speakers that they did not know. It was interesting and fun to see people learn about other faiths by sitting down and hearing from them directly.
How might this project experience influence your ministry in a settled ministry call?
I would definitely host more events like this in the future, whether they be on interfaith relationships, faith and science, or Biblical archaeology. It was fun and enlightening to gather with members of the congregation on a weeknight and explore a topic in-depth, and hear their questions and reactions on a given topic.