Interfaith Trainings: Grassroots Community Work

As MnMN builds a wider multifaith network across the state of Minnesota, we support the development of new interreligious connections and alliances – including training faith leaders to be interfaith leaders. Read this article to learn about the benefits of an interfaith training for your community.

Lee Burdge, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serving as an area interfaith specialist for Minnesota, had received a number of calls from leaders looking for guidance to connect with other faith leaders, develop relationships to strengthen communities, protect religious freedom, and increase understanding of other religions. Additionally, Cara Widman, Area Communications Director for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, knew that other communications directors were interested in learning more about interfaith work, developing relationships with other faith leaders, and finding ways to become involved in interfaith activities in their own communities. After reaching out to the area authority for Lee’s church, Elder Kerr, to get his approval and support, Lee and Cara met with MnMN’s Tom Duke to talk about the purpose, goals, and hopeful outcome of an interfaith training. “Tom Duke was generous with his time and preparation. He prepared an outline of the training, answered questions, made adjustments, and was very willing to work within our timeframe and level of understanding of interfaith work,” according to Cara.

Tom Duke, primary operations lead at MnMN and retired Lutheran minister, led the training on November 7, 2021. Its scope included information about what interfaith work is, why interfaith work is important, and how to get started doing it. Lee reported that, “Elder Kerr had personally invited 24 people from all around the state to attend. We had 100% attendance that evening.” Cara explained, “The material Tom presented was practical and useful. He shared his own experiences and connected them to the basic principles of interfaith work he was teaching. There was a spirit of patience, understanding and humility from Tom. He was the perfect teacher. Many of the attendees made comments and sent emails after the training to express gratitude for the time Tom spent preparing and training.”

With encouragement, knowledge and new ideas, attendees are now empowered to guide change within their own communities. Elder Kerr’s enthusiastic testimonial is, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Minnesota looks forward to working together with our friends from other faith organizations to serve our communities and to promote the benefits of religion and church activity.”

When asked if Cara would recommend that others arrange such a training for their own faith organization, her response was absolute. “This training is valuable not only for individuals and organizations that are just starting interfaith work, but those who have more experience too. Developing and building interfaith relationships are important and vital to our communities as they provide safe places of understanding, expand the feelings of mutual respect and kindness, and strengthen unity.” Lee seconded Cara’s thoughts by sharing, “I would recommend any faith group looking to get involved with interfaith work to sponsor an event like this one. I believe that everyone who attended went away with a greater understanding of how important it is to learn more about others’ beliefs; how together we can do much more to help our community/neighbors. They also went away with some great ideas on how to get started.”

To inquire about an interfaith training from MnMN, please contact Tom Duke at [email protected].

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