MnMN’s Network Council

Linda Shapiro reports on a MnMN Network Council meeting.

The Network Council’s Background and Purpose
The Minnesota Multifaith Network Council is the lifeblood of the Minnesota Multifaith Network (MnMN), growing from a transitional steering committee that founded the network and giving direction to MnMN’s work.

The Network Council exists to provide guidance and support for MnMN’s aspirations, playing a critical role in its development – to include ideas, wisdom, connections in and knowledge of multifaith communities, expertise, and passion for multifaith work. Network Council Chairperson Rabbi Adam Stock Spilker says that, in keeping with MnMN’s strategy of convening and communicating, the Network Council’s primary task is to advise MnMN’s Board of Directors while the council meetings help council members build relationships with more and more people.

Network Council Members
MnMN’s Network Council represents diverse religious traditions and multifaith organizations from throughout the state of Minnesota. Participants often have particular leadership positions within the community or are selected to speak for certain organizations that are critical to MnMN’s multifaith character. All strive to model the best in interfaith dialogue and collaboration. Network Council members range from lay people committed to multifaith ideals to faith leaders from congregations and large organizations. Currently, the Network Council is meeting online six times a year and consists of 38 members.

A Recent Network Council Meeting
The Network Council’s March 2022 meeting was convened by Rabbi Spilker. He talked about the importance of members connecting with and getting to know one another, “whether that be through concentric circles, spirals, or wavy lines.” The rabbi counseled everyone to engage mindful listening and to be curious about what they heard.

Since an important function of the Network Council is to give various groups a platform to present ideas, the March meeting began with a report by Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs and Rev. Pamela Ngunjiri, Co-Directors for Racial Justice at Minnesota Council of Churches, who presented an overview of their work. They spoke about their efforts to create programs focusing on racial justice, and using platforms of truth telling, education, and reparations to zero in on American Indian and African American communities. Rev. Ngunjiri told of launching truth telling sessions that drew 300-400 people and of efforts to get these storytelling events into greater Minnesota.

Rev. Jacobs shared that in the reparations work they are not moving too quickly, but instead are being deliberate and thorough in their approach. They have identified work groups including organizations in academia and church groups from African and Native American communities to detect avenues of reparations and include marginalized voices in that effort. He said that meetings and having conversations with various individuals has sparked
new ideas. “We didn’t have a set format or idea at the beginning, but we’re constantly being inspired creatively by these conversations.”

In answer to the question, “What does support look like?” Rev. Jacobs replied, “Support can look like anything from opening a new space, helping sponsor and finance various events, pollinating, advertising, moving to outstate. We are currently looking to sponsor events in Rochester and Duluth.” He asserted that they don’t want to appear as if “we are the racial justice experts speaking to you. We want to find the local voices doing the work and see how we can support and uplift them.” He also spoke of the deeper work that needs to be done to educate and demonstrate how intimately tied Christianity is to, for instance, the taking of Indigenous land by the early settlers. That historical legacy must be addressed, Rev. Jacobs emphasized, since many churches now reside on Indigenous land.

A question was raised about Christian nationalism infiltrating various organizations and the subtle inroads it is making. Rev. Jacobs replied that there can be vast differences in rural Minnesota where we can’t assume everyone is a progressive Christian.

Rabbi Spilker wrapped up that part of the meeting by emphasizing the Network Council’s goal is primarily to support MnMN’s efforts for a more just and loving community. Rev. Ngunjiri thanked the Council for their attentiveness. “I appreciate the candidness of folks saying let’s keep this real and helping us think about how to genuinely and honestly do this work.”

Next, Rabbi Spilker asked Network Council members to think about MnMN’s Fall 2022 convening and what will have the most impact; that is, “what would people be passionate about?”. In the breakout sessions that followed, discussions ranged from relationship building and networking to convening. Possible topics for future convenings were presented for feedback, including:

  • Racial justice—hybrid videos/personal perspectives
  • Arts show where art and multifaith initiatives intersect
  • Boarding schools for Indigenous people: honoring those lives
  • Convening with a purpose: action, to do something with people you don’t normally do it with
  • What do covenants have to do with connections?
  • Fusion Party
  • Democracy being threatened: role of faith communities with preservations or destruction of democracy
  • The preservation of democracy with respect to one’s own faith community’s view of democracy, gender equity, climate change, and voting rights

In conclusion, Rabbi Spilker urged Network Council members to unite their communities around progressive issues and get them to think about how their faith is going to show up around those issues.

Contact
Please contact Rabbi Spilker at [email protected] with additional questions about the role of MnMN’s Network Council or to share interest in becoming involved.

Find a current list of Network Council members:
https://mnmultifaith.org/about/#staff

Article by Linda Shapiro
Linda Shapiro is a former choreographer who co-founded New Dance Ensemble. She is currently a freelance writer with published articles, reviews, and essays on dance, architecture, design, and other subjects for numerous publications in Minnesota and New York City. She is also a published fiction writer.

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