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The Witches' Voice Inc.



 Witchvox Chapter:   Chapter Page Views: 1,652,552  

The Covenant of the Goddess
&
the Interfaith Movement:


Transforming Our Community, Changing the World (ver. 3)



Part II...

The Future

Neopagans are now welcome in interfaith events all over the world. And it is paying off in increased understanding. In both Cape Town and half way 'round the world in Rio de Janeiro, I didn't meet a single person who didn't know what Wicca is! "Oh, yeah, the Goddess. Earth-religion. I've heard of that!" was the usual response we got. We didn't teach them this, the interfaith groups did.

This is what the Neopagan community gets of the interfaith work of CoG and others. But what we "get" is not what has kept me involved for 18 years -- rather, it's what we have to give.

All over the world, both globally and locally, people of faith are waking up to two facts:

1) if we don't get along, we all die, and
2) if we don't save the Earth, we all die.

Everywhere, religions are struggling to engage these two truths. In many cases, the Neopagan community has the answers and experience they are seeking...

"How can we get disparate religions together to work peacefully?" -- Neopagans have been doing it for decades. We are in a wonderful position to teach tolerance.

"How can we form organizations that preserve local autonomy, but allow us to network?" -- Look at structures like the Covenant of the Goddess.

"How can we connect with the Earth through ritual and liturgy?" -- Can we really ever exhaust what Neopagans have to offer on this?

"Can religion EVER be reconciled with women, with science, with nature?" -- Ahem. We are a living, thriving example of what is possible.

(I addressed many of these points in my comments at the 1999 Parliament in Cape Town. They are available online as "Wiccan Response to the Millennium Questions at http://www.stepchildcoven.org/pwr.html)

I am constantly being asked by representatives of other faiths for my insight and suggestions on ritual scripts, organizational bylaws, public service projects, etc. Just as one example... I served as one of two oversight people for "First Be Reconciled", a $100,000 interfaith project to bring Gay & Lesbian Christians and Conservative & Evangelical Christians into dialogue and cooperative effort. A Witch? Advising conservative Christians? Why? Because 1) we don't have this tension in our own religious community, and 2) we have experience bringing Witches and Christians into dialogue and if WE can do it, anyone can.

Gandhi said, "There can be no peace among peoples until there is peace among religions." The Craft community has not been involved in an armed conflict in living memory. If we truly believe in peace, then we owe it to others to bring our insights to the table and help those who are working to make peace between religions.

The primary reason to do interfaith work is the opportunity it provides for us to live our spirituality on a whole new scale, to work with others for the good of the Earth. AS expressed in the theme of the URI Global Summit 2002 in Rio, "We share the sacred to serve the world."

Through our active involvement with interfaith groups, CoG supports:
  • AIDS education in East Africa
  • Jewish-Muslim dialogue for peace in Israel and Palestine
  • a vegetarian restaurant in Vietnam that serves affordable, fresh food through volunteers to about 200-300 people every day
  • a blood drive in Bali in response to the October 12th, 2002 bombing
  • energy audits in homes and churches in Tennessee & the Carolinas
  • the elimination of handguns in Rio through the "Rio: Put That Gun Down!" program, destroying over 10,000 handguns in 2002 and getting the sale of handguns banned in Rio
  • a youth camp in Sri Lanka where 4000 young people worked together in environmental cleanup programs
  • a program in Malawi to buy school uniforms for orphans
  • another program in Malawi to assist AIDS orphans in their area
  • on-the-ground facilitators for the World Health Organization's "Roll Back Malaria" campaign, aimed at eradicating Malaria in Mozambique in 5 years
  • a program in India that rescued 75 cattle from ritual slaughter and gave them to the poor
  • a program raising money in Northern California for the Humanity Club of Vietnam to provide housing and medical assistance for the poor in Vietnam
  • an orphanage in Uganda caring for over 400 children orphaned due to civil war and AIDS
  • a micro-credit bank for women in Kenya
... and many, many more, some of which are described below.


For me, personally, the bottom line is what I expressed to that crowd in Rio: No significant change happens in the world without people changing their minds. Nothing has as much power to change minds as does religion. A movement to bring the religions of the world together in peace to work for the betterment of all is, potentially, the most powerful force for positive change in existence. As a person of faith, called by my Gods to care for and protect the Earth, how can I not be involved?

Interfaith work is, in my opinion, the best hope for the future of the Earth. Neopagans, especially many from the Covenant of the Goddess, are active at the heart of the global interfaith movement. This is our opportunity to be part of the change we wish to see.

Currently (in 2003) CoG-members serve their communities through active participation in many interfaith groups. A partial list includes...

* COUNCIL FOR A PARLIAMENT OF THE WORLD'S RELIGIONS (CPWR)
--CoG-members Deborah Ann Light & Don Frew have served on the Parliament Assembly.

Another Parliament of the World's Religions was held in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1999. While fewer Neopagans could attend, the three Craft groups from the 1993 Parlaiment were there and the Neopagan representation in the Parliament Assembly was increased by two -- myself and Selena Fox of Circle. The 1999 Parliament again attracted some 8,000 individuals from over 80 countries, and the Parliament Assembly endorsed the Call to Our Guiding Institutions, containing yet more Earth-friendly language.

The next Parliament of the World's Religions will be in Barcelona, Spain, in 2004, July 7-13, and I know many CoG-members who will be there. The theme will be "Pathways to Peace: The Wisdom of Listening, The Power of Commitment". The Parliament Assembly will meet at the monastery of Montserrat for the three days preceding the Parliament. Carrying forward the work of the previous two Assemblies, this Parliament will focus on engaging four areas of critical concern: access to fresh water, refugees, ending religious violence, and cancellation of third-world debt. CPWR is expecting 12-15,000 people and the Parliament will be the highlight of a 141 day Universal Forum of Cultures in Barcelona. We look forward to, once again, collaborating with Circle and EarthSpirit to maximize the Neopagan presence at the Parliament.

For more info on the Parliament, go to www.cpwr.org

* Wiccan Youth Interfaith Essay Contest
--CoG-member Rowan Fairgrove created and coordinated this project.

The Covenant of the Goddess is offering a grant opportunity for a young Wiccan to attend the Parliament of the World's Religions in Barcelona, Spain in July 2004. The Interfaith community has many avenues for youth to get involved and is open and encouraging of the participation of young people. There will be special programming and many opportunities to interact with young people of all the world's religions in Barcelona. The Covenant would like to see Wiccan youth involved in this historic occasion. In order to award this grant the Covenant sponsored an essay contest. (Details are on the CoG website.)

Update: December 22, 2003

The Covenant of the Goddess is pleased to announce the winner of the Wiccan Youth Interfaith Essay Contest - Ms. Michelle Mueller of Bryn Mawr, PA submitted the winning essay. Ms. Mueller will be awarded a grant in the amount of $2,675 and a membership in the Parliament of the World's Religions in Barcelona.

Eight excellent candidates from around the country submitted essays. The Covenant would like to thank all of the candidates and wish them well in their interfaith endeavors. We hope that you will consider working with Covenant of the Goddess in the future. COG will be sending out letters to all candidates in the near future.

For more info on the essay contest, go to www.cog.org/interfaith/Youth_Essay.htm

If you would like to support CoG's Wiccan Youth Interfaith Essay Contest, please send checks made out to "CoG" to:
     Covenant of the Goddess, PO Box 1226, Berkeley CA 94701
or you can donate online at:
     www.guidestar.org/partners/networkforgood/donate.jsp?ein=23-7456553
(Note: in either case, please indicate that this is a donation for the Youth Interfaith Essay Contest in particular.)

* Goldin Institute for International Partnership and Peace

"The Goldin Institute for International Partnership and Peace is an annual forum to bring grassroots peace activists together from current and potential Partner Cities to consider the methodologies, tools and mutual support needed to enhance the movements for peace, justice, and sustainability in their communities. These encounters and conversations are the cornerstone of the emerging Partner Cities Network of the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions." (from www.cpwr.org/what/programs/dginstitute.htm)

The 2003 Goldin Institute was held at the Cova de St. Ignatius in Manresa, Spain, October 19th-25th. There were 75 people from 20 cities, including Abuja (Rwanda), Birmingham (UK), Cotabato City & Manila (Philippines), Harare (Zimbabwe), Jerusalem (Israel), Kerala & New Delhi (India), Kiev (Ukraine), Makurdi (Nigeria), Manresa & Barcelona (Spain), Montreal (Canada), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Taipei (Taiwan), several US cities, and more. I was part of the San Francisco team, including:

     * Dr. Nahid Angha, International Association of Sufism
     * Fr. Gerry O´Rourke, Archdiocese of San Francisco
     * Rt. Rev. David Ponedel, Church of Divine Man

The the event was an extremely worthwhile opportunity -- to preview of the venues for the Parliament and the culture of Catalonia, to spend time with old friends and make new ones, to learn about local interfaith efforts around the world, to expose new folks to Wicca.
* LOST & ENDANGERED RELIGIONS PROJECT (LERP)
--Don is LERP's founder & Director.

This is a project of the Parliament Assembly and is under the fiscal sponsorship of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio. LERP is focusing on 5 projects right now:

* Copying and returning the sacred scriptures of the Yezidi to their immigrant community in Kansas.
* Arranging, in collaboration with the Silk Road Working Group at UC Berkeley, an academic conference in Spring 2004 on the ancient, Pagan, unexcavated, and endangered city of Harran in southeastern Turkey -- "Harran: At the Crossroads".
* Preparing to restore the lost oral traditions of the Todas, an indigenous tribe in South India, collected in the early 20th cent. and preserved in wax cylinder recordings.
* Arranging the recording (for the first time) the temple rites of the Araiyars, a patrilineal tradition of ritual performance maintained in only three Sri Vaisnava temples in South India, to help them preserve their practices for future priests in training.
* Pursuing funding for a grassroots, tape-recording project to preserve oral traditions in marginalized and endangered cultures around the world, starting with the indigenous Naxi people of Yunan province, China.

For more info, go to www.crseo.ucsb.edu/~frew/private/lerp/
If you would like to support this effort, please send checks made out to our fiscal agent "ICP" to:
     Interfaith Center at the Presidio, 2107 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 300,
     San Francisco CA 94109

* UNITED RELIGIONS INITIATIVE (URI)

The URI now has over 200 member groups, called "Cooperation Circles" (CCs), in 47 countries, making it the largest multinational, interfaith, nonprofit on Earth. The first Global Assembly of the URI just concluded in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where its first elected Global Council was sworn in. Don was elected to serve as one of three Trustees from North America. That is, the URI members of North America -- people of many, but mostly mainstream, religions -- elected a Witch to represent them! And while in Rio, Rowan and I made contacts and friendships with representatives from tribal religions all over Latin America. Alejandrino Quispe, an Incan shaman from Peru, said that he would go home and tell his children that "the Wiccans are people just like us!" The next Global Assembly of the URI will be in 2005 in either Seoul, South Korea, and in Nairobi, Kenya in 2008. Both will present opportunities to connect with yet more local and indigenous Pagan traditions.

For more info on the URI and many of the groups below, go to www.uri.org

* Global Council (GC)
--Don serves as Asst. Secretary of URI's Global Council (i.e. Board of Trustees).

The URI's Global Council met for 5 days in early May at the Bishop's Ranch near Healdsburg in Northern California. It was one of the very best conference/retreat centers I have ever seen. Check it out at www.bishopsranch.org 31 out of 38 Trustees made it from 21 countries. With the staff, there were about 50 people in the meetings. It was a lot like a CoG Grand Council, but with most of the time dedicated to bonding and visioning, with serious administrative and business decisions made on the last day.
For more info on the URI Global Council, go to www.uri.org/abouturi/globalcouncil/

* North America Trustees (NA)
--Don is one of three North American Trustees on the GC.

Heng Sure (Buddhist / Berkeley CA), and Kay Lindahl (Christian / Los Angeles CA), and I are focusing on:
     1) organizing the 2004 Regional Assembly for URI North America, and
     2) creating infrastructure, in the form of a Regional Coordinator assisted by sub-Regional coordinators, to keep the many URI groups in North America in fruitful contact and collaboration,

For more info on URI North American activities, go to www.uri.org/regionalnews/namerica/

* Organizational Development Committee (OrgDev)
--Don serves on this GC committee.

OrgDev looks at how the URI can adapt and change as a decentralized, grassroots organization. Currently, it is wrestling with issues of youth involvement, affiliate members, sponsorship policy, inactive member groups, the need for an archive for organizational memory, etc. All of these issues will benefit from input regarding how CoG has addressed these issues in the past. More and more, the organizational structure of the URI looks just like CoG.

* Philanthropy Committee (PhilComm)
--Don serves on this GC committee.

The economic downturn has affected all non-profits and the URI is no exception. Its planned $2.2million 2003 budget has already been reduced to $1.6million. It now costs about $106,000 a month to run the global organization. A lot of time at the GC meeting this May was devoted to fundraising issues. The primary focus was on helping the Regions (especially those outside North America and Europe) to be financially self-sufficient. The less the "hub" in San Francisco has to underwrite the Regions, the less the "hub" has to raise. Don, noting that several GC members had brought traditional crafts from their countries to sell, suggested the creation of an International CC Marketplace on the URI website. This would benefit both the "hub" and the local CCs in the Regions. PhilComm will look into how to make this and other suggestions from GC a reality.

PhilComm is also coordinating "72 Hours for URI", observing the anniversary of the signing of the URI Charter each year on June 26th with local fundraising efforts for the URI.

* URI/PWR 2004 Working Group
--Don represents North America on this GC committee.

Representatives from the CPWR made a presentation to the GC suggesting that we collaborate on the Barcelona Parliament. Their idea is that a whole evening at the Parliament would be dedicated to the URI Regions. Folks attending the Parliament from each Region would be able to meet folks from home and learn about opportunities for interfaith involvement in their own Region. The CPWR would like the URI to organize this. The GC was torn between the tremendous opportunity for networking and outreach this represents and the significant allocation of time and resources. A working group was formed to explore the concept with the CPWR and report back to the GC on the feasibility of such a collaboration.

* Multi-Regional Cooperation Circle Support Multiple CC (MRCCSMCC)
--Don is the Coordinator of this newly forming CC.

In addition to the seven geographic regions into which the URI's Coperation Circles are organized, there is an eighth "region" called "Multi-regional", for those groups whose focus and membership extends beyond a single region. At this last GC meeting, several of the Multi-regional CCs met and decided that, in the interests of increasing our connectedness and networking, and at the same time reducing the financial burden on the San Francisco "hub", we would organize a Multi-Regional Cooperation Circle Support Multiple CC, consisting of those Multi-regional CCs that wish to join and that these CCs would fundraise to pay for our own Regional Coordinator.

* Spirituality & the Earth CC (S&ECC)
--Deborah, Rowan, Don, and CoG-members Catherine Starr, Diana Paxson, and Katya Madrid are members of this Mutli-regional CC. Don serves as Coordinator.

The S&ECC exists to foster and facilitate communication and cooperation between all those who feel a spiritual connection with the Earth. We bring together those who follow indigenous, tribal, pagan, nature-based, and Earth-centered spiritualities; reach out to spiritual traditions and groups (especially indigenous and tribal) who have not been involved in the process before; share information and resources; and bring our combined wisdom to bear on the needs of the Earth and all livings beings. The S&ECC has 23 members on 4 continents, representing 10 Earth-centered religions.

At the Cape Town Parliament, S&ECC member Bob Walter (Taoist / Mill Valley CA), who is Director of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, organized an ad hoc meeting of indigenous traditions called "Calling from the Corners of the World". It was a great success. The S&ECC is organizing a more substantive and pre-planned gathering of indigenous traditions at the Barcelona Parliament.

As our contribution to the URI's "72 Hours for URI" the S&ECC has raised almost $1000 to pay for an English course for Rosalia Gutierrez (indigenous / Argentina) and is working on raising more. Rosalia has been the only GC member who doesn't speak English and this has severely limited her participation. She has completed Level 1 and has learned an amazing amount of English in the last 10 months, but budget cutbacks at the URI endangered its funding. This will be a way for the S&ECC to assist in empowering the Regions and so lowering the costs of the "hub". Rosalia wrote to us:

Dear brothers and Sisters:
     I am very happy to know that soon I will be able to speak with you in the language of the URI family. I am also ready to teach my indigenous brothers/sisters, they also would want to communicate in the language of the majority of the URI family.
     At any moment, I will send information about what we are preparing with our MCC. ... Here we will be celebrating and feeding (the Earth) much so that the fruits of URI will be abundant, here we say that the more we give the more we have.
That is why the Kollas prepare themselves to honor the Earth. We say that she gives us much -- the air, the sun, the rain, life. This is how we think and live in harmony with Mother Nature. ...
     I will go out now like everyday in the morning. I go to sell arts and crafts, that is how I continue this task, accompanied by a great sun like a great flower.
     Blessings, Rosalia

If you would like to support this effort, please send checks made out to the "URI" to:
     United Religions Initiative, P.O. Box 29242, San Francisco, CA 94129
(Note: please indicate that the donation is for the S&ECC for Rosalia's English lessons.)

* Expressing the URI in Music & the Arts CC (EURIMA)
--Rowan, Don and CoG-member Laurel Mendes are members of this Multi-regional CC.

EURIMA published an Interfaith Songbook that is in use all over the world and continues to collect material for the next edition.

Its new project is the Interfaith Sacred Space Design Competition. This is an international competition inviting architects and others to imagine what genuinely interfaith sacred space would look like. I serve on the organizing committee for this project. The announcement went out in June 2003; the call for submissions in September. The submissions will be displayed for a month in February 2004 in San Francisco and then judged by a Jury consisting of three architects, one landscape architect, two artists, and four interfaith representatives. The jurors will be advised by a Religious Scholars Advisory Group (RSAG), representing 12 religious traditions. Former CoG First Officer Diana Paxson will represent Neopaganism on the RSAG. The winning designs will be displayed in an exhibit at the Barcelona Parliament. (As of December 19, 2003, we had 200 registrants from 25 countries!)

For more info on the Interfaith Sacred Space Design Competition, go to www.uri.org/designcomp/

If you would like to support this effort, please send checks made out to our fiscal agent "ICP" to:
     Interfaith Center at the Presidio, 2107 Van Ness Avenue, Suite 300,
     San Francisco CA 94109
(Note: please indicate that the donation is to the "Designing Sacred Space" competition.)

* Gifts & Resources CC (G&RCC)
--Don & Katya are members of this Multi-regional CC.
Formed in Rio de Janeiro, this is a "thinktank" for URI fundraising. My project to make a promotional video out of one-and-a-half days of interviews filmed in Rio fell apart when someone in Rio lost the tapes (Sigh). So, videographer and CoG-member Katya Madrid came up to the GC meeting in May and shot a new one-and-a-half days of interviews. This footage will now be turned into a promotional video to help in the URI's fundraising efforts.

* Spiritual Alliance for Earth CC (SAFE)
--Don serves on the Board of this North American CC.

SAFE exists to connect faith communities with environmental groups for mutual education and support. SAFE held its annual Interfaith Earth Day Service & Environmental Fair on Sunday, April 27th 2003 in the Port of Oakland. About 150 people attended and the service was heavily weighted with Pagans, including Native Americans, traditional Africans, practitioners of Shinto, CoG-member Diana Paxson representing the Heathens, and Rowan representing CoG. We all blessed tule boats that were set adrift in the San Francisco Bay. CoG-members Anna Korn and Macha NightMare staffed a CoG info table in the Environmental Fair. The 2004 Interfaith Earth Day Service & Environmental Fair will once again be held at the Port of Oakland, celebrating its shoreline restoration project

For more info on the 2003 Earth Day, go to www.uri.org/regionalnews/namerica/safe.asp

If you would like to support this, send a check made out to "SAFE" to:      
     SAFE c/o Don Frew, PO Box 4243, Berkeley CA 94704

* the Bridge CC
--Rowan, Don, and CoG-member Nancy McKinney are members of this North American CC.

The purpose of this CC is to be a bridge between the URI and the CPWR. In the past we have done events promoting the Global Ethic (a CPWR project) and in October 2002 we hosted an interfaith dialogue based on the URI document "A Vision of Peace Among Religions". We talked about the teachings and practices from our respective religions and spiritual traditions that have been used or can be used to promote inclusion, tolerance and peace, and those which have been used or can be used to promote exclusion, prejudice or violence against "the other". When we split into groups of 3-4 of the same religion there were as many Pagans, as Muslims and Christians! (7 each). We were able to split into a Wiccan group and an "other Pagan" group for the discussion. Surely a first! Rowan was the coordinator/MC for this event within the Bridge.

Our next project is a series of three pre-Parliament events in the Bay Area, in three different regions. The Bridge was trying to give people as "taste" of what Barcelona will be like by modeling a day of plenary talks, followed by intra- and interfaith discussions, sharing ritual, eating together and listening/participating in music and dance. The idea is to attract more people to attend the PWR in Barcelona. The Barcelona Parliament will be focusing on four themes - Water, Refugees, Violence and Debt Cancellation. For our first event in July we focused on Water, in November we plan to focus on Refugees. The last even will probably focus on Debt Cancellation. Interfaith isn't just about peace among religions -- social justice issues and environmentalism are both important parts of the interfaith movement today.

For more info, go to www.uribridgecc.org

* Dialogue with Conservative Christians

Following up on the dialogues I coordinated in the 1980's between the Covenant of the Goddess and the Spiritual Counterfeits Project (a Christian research group focusing on cults and the occult) , I have been engaged in informal dialogue with conservative, Evangelical Christians opposed to the URI and interfaith work. Significant progress has been made, aiming towards a more formal dialogue between the URI and its Christian opponents.

* Season of Nonviolence

This year Rowan participated in the international observance of the Season of Nonviolence (the 64 days between the anniversary of the deaths of Gandhi & King). Each day has a daily meditation and there were several interfaith lists for the Season. For the last day, April 4th, in San Jose, CA, there was an interfaith walk for peace sponsored by the Center for Spiritual Enlightenment. Rowan took part in the walk and made contact with members of various South Bay interfaith groups.

For more info, go to www.agnt.org/snv02.htm or http://groups.yahoo.com/group/season-for-nonviolence/

* Peace Leadership workshop with Louise Diamond, author of the Peace Book.

In November 2002, the URI sponsored a Peace Leadership workshop at the Berkeley Buddhist monastery. Rowan took part with about 30 participants of many faiths and levels of activism.

For more info, go to www.peacebook.com

* INTERFAITH CENTER AT THE PRESIDIO (ICP)
--Don serves on the ICP's Board of Directors.

Another group that formed, at least in part, out of the enthusiasm generated by the 1993 Parliament was the Interfaith Center at the Presidio (or ICP). The ICP is supported by a consortium of 17 San Francisco Bay Area interfaith councils and organizations:
  • Ahimsa
  • Alameda Interfaith Network
  • Berkeley Area Interfaith Council
  • California Institute for Integral Studies
  • The Cultural Conservancy
  • Graduate Theological Union
  • Ik Onkar Peace Fellowship
  • Institute of World Religion
  • Interfaith Council of Contra Costa County
  • Japanese-American Religious Federation
  • Marin Interfaith Council
  • National Conference for Community & Justice
  • Northern California Interreligious Conference
  • Oakland Coalition of Congregations
  • San Francisco Interfaith Council
  • Tri-Valley Interfaith Fellowship
  • Vietnamese Interfaith Council of Northern California
The ICP is also a North American CC of the URI. Created as a permanent site for ongoing, daily interfaith work, the ICP is housed in the Main Base Chapel in the Presidio, maintaining it as an interfaith Chapel, open to all faiths. Representatives of 36 diifferent religions, spiritual paths, and indigenous traditions participate in ICP services!
  • African Traditional Religionists
  • Afro-diasporic Religionists (Lucumi / Ile Orisha / Umbanda)
  • Baha'is
  • Buddhists (Theravadan / Tibetan / Zen)
  • Christians (Catholic / Church of Divine Man / Gnostic / Mormon / Orthodox / Protestant)
  • Hindus (Brahma Kumari / local temples / Vedanta)
  • Interfaith Spirituality
  • Japanese Religionists (Konkokyo / Shrine Shinto)
  • Jews (Liberal / Reconstruction / Reform)
  • Muslims (Shi'a / Sufi / Sunni)
  • Native American Religionists (Central / North / South)
  • Neopagans (Celtic Reconstruction / Druid / Heathen / Wiccan)
  • Sikhs
  • Taoists
  • Unitarians
  • Zoroastrians
CoG-members hold meetings at the ICP, serve on its Board of Directors and various committees, and participate in interfaith services, fairs, and other events. The ICP hosts over 1000 events each year!

For more info on the ICP, go to www.interfaith-presidio.org

On April 5th, the ICP hosted a concert at the ICP called "Moonrise: Songs of Love, Magic and Other Mysteries". Moonrise is Robin Dolan, DJ Hamouris & Denise Castleton, who are involved with both CoG and Reclaiming. The concert featured such Pagan standards as Every Woman Born, Spring Strathspey, Heretic Heart, Thru All the World, and more and was recorded for their new CD. Members of the Boards and Staff of the URI and ICP attended. A reception following the concert was hosted by Anna, Katya, and Arlynn Camire of the Interfaith Pagan Pride Parade (see below). Everyone was very impressed, most of them hearing our music for the first time, and there have been several requests for more Pagan concerts at the ICP.

For more info on Moonrise, go to www.ninshibar.com

* Interfaith Academy (IA)
--Don serves on the IA Steering Committee.
Providing interfaith training for "seminarians" (loosely defined), the IA will be launching its two first courses in the next few months:
1) a class on the history of interfaith and how to do interfaith work at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. I will be a lecturer for this course.
2) a short class for those going to the Parliament that will meet for 3 weeks before, during the event, and 2 weeks after. Students will qualify for academic credit at several Bay Area colleges.

For more info on the Academy, go to www.interfaith-presidio.org/academy.html

* Asilomar Conference

On July 25-27, 2003, the Pacific Network for Mission Education (PNME) held its annual conference at Asilomar on the California coast. This year, the theme was "Healing the World -- An Interfaith Quest for Peace and Justice in a Warring World". For the past 89 years, the conference has been restricted to Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, and the United Church of Christ -- 100% Protestant Christian. (You can find out more about PNME at www.pnme.info) This year, the organizers felt that the time had come to open up the conference to other faiths and they approached the Interfaith Center at the Presidio to help them reach out to the interfaith community.

About 200 people attended -- about 2/3 Christians, the rest mostly Jews and Muslims, a couple of Buddhists, a Sikh, a Baha'i, a Native American, a Hindu, and me... the sole Neopagan. This conference was different from any other interfaith event I have gone to in that, not only was it overwhelmingly Christian, but most of those Christians were encountering -- actually speaking with -- followers of other faiths for the very first time. This was made a little less daunting by the fact the most of those few Christians attending who DID have interfaith experience (as well as almost all of the non-Christians) were friends of mine from other interfaith events.

The conference included many conversations around the subject of peacebuilding, with a choice of afternoon workshops to attend.

I was asked to be the "Worship Leader" for the Saturday night session. When I introduced myself and said that I am "a Wiccan priest, also called a Witch, from Berkeley, California."... at the word "Witch", an audible gasp spread through about a third of the audience and I suddenly realized that they hadn't made the connection between "Wiccan" and "Witch" before that moment! I gave a brief introduction to Wicca and then lead a fairly standard grounding & centering / tree roots & limbs / four directions & elements sort of meditation. The rest of the evening included Masankho Banda, storytelling with drum and song (check him out at www.ucandanc.org/) and the Sufi music group Taneen (www.taneen.org/Samples.htm -- click on "Ecstasy" and Ya Salaam" to hear music from that night).

At the end of the conference, we were passed out little lengths of ribbon to tie on another person in gratitude for something they had given us. A man in a wheel chair wheeled up to me. He introduced himself as a Presbyterian, and, he said, "I would like you to tie a bracelet on me because you represent everything I fear, but last night I couldn't find a single thing to disagree with in what you said. Thank you for opening me to this!" It was a distinct pleasure to tie the ribbon on his wrist.

While this was very different from other interfaith events in which I've participated, it was fun and I think it was very productive. I think that the many Christians with whom I spoke (about 40, most of them clergy) were surprised to find themselves enjoying religious discussions with the "other" (i.e. non-Christians), especially with an "other" that was as "other" as me. These folks will go back to their congregations and organizations and say good things about interfaith and about "Wiccans", and look forward to next year's conference. As will I.

* BERKELEY AREA INTERFAITH COUNCIL (BAIC)
--Don serves on the BAIC's Executive Committee.

CoG has been a member of the BAIC since 1975, and that long history of interfaith involvement has opened many doors for us, but the BAIC suspended its regular activities a few years ago -- too many members of its Executive Committee had become too involved with regional, national, and global interfaith efforts. Many old-time BAIC members and new interfaith friends have started meeting to revive the BAIC as an East Bay Cooperation Circle (EBCC). Several local CoG members are involved.

* PANTHEACON At the 2003 Pantheacon, Rowan and I were joined by Rev. Paul Chaffee, a UCC minister and the Director of the ICP, to do "Paganism & the Interfaith Movement -- A Conversation". Paul presented the history of Neopagan involvement in interfaith, as seen from the point of view of the dominant religions, and interviewed Rowan and Don. About 50 people attended the program. Paul brought with him Rev. Susan Strouse, a Lutheran minister new to the ICP staff. They both had a wonderful time.

At the 2004 Pantheacon, Rowan and I will present "Pagans in Interfaith Dialogue: Making the Global/Local Connection" (on Saturday at 3:30pm), discussing successful techniques for engaging in interfaith dialog, and describe the exciting local, national, and global interfaith opportunities for Pagans, focusing on the next Parliament in Barcelona, Spain.

I will also present "Paganism & Islam: The Legacy of Harran" (on Saturday at 1:30pm). This presentation will examine the basis for positive Pagan/Muslim relationships in the history of late antiquity, the Qur'an, the Muslim encounter with India, and the contemporary interfaith experience. Special focus will be placed on the role and legacy of the "lost" city of Harran and the endangered nature of this site that is so important to the history of Paganism & Islam.

For more info on Pantheacon, go to www.ancientways.com/html/convention.html

* INTERFAITH PAGAN PRIDE PARADE (IPPP)
--Don was Parade Marshal in 2002; Rowan & her husband Russell were Parade Marshals in 2003; Diana Paxson will be Parade Marshall in 2004.

While there are many Pagan Pride events around the US, this is the only "interfaith" one, and this year's parade definitely lived up to that. It was held Sunday, April 13th, 2003 - Berkeley, California, starting at People's Park and marching up Telegraph Ave. About 900 people participated. In addition to Wiccans, Heathens, and Thelemites, there were indigenous North Americans, Aztecs, indigenous Filipinos, indigenous Africans, indigenous Tibetans, and more.

Check out the photos at http://ppp2003.magiclamp.net and www.m-ee.net/paganprideparade

For more info on the IPPP, go to www.paganparade.com

* BALTIMORE REGIONAL INITIATIVE DEVELOPING GENUINE EQUALITY (BRIDGE)
--CoG-member Laurel Mendes (formerly of CA, now of MD) is a member of the education task force.

This is a Baltimore City MD interfaith organization that has been in place for two years. It exists to work toward a more level playing field in the state of Maryland in terms of the availability of education and state services. It has chosen three issues to address: fair and affordable housing, equal education for all, and reducing crime. So far, its focus has been housing and education. There is a task force emerging to address the crime issue, but it has not yet met.

At its first large meeting, 1300 citizens were in attendance, 15 local politicians, and 11 state officials, including a couple of senators and members of the House of Delegates. It was a successful, though predominately Abrahamic gathering.

Laurel works with the education task force. The education task force is in discussion with members of the House of Delegates and the Senate in MD about equalizing funding for the schools. The schools in the outlying counties of Baltimore City receive the lion's share of education funding, while the inner city has to make do with what remains.

* MARIN INTERFAITH COUNCIL (MIC)
--CoG-member M. Macha NightMare is a member of the MIC.

* Women Faith Leaders of Marin: Voices of Hope & Healing in a Troubled World

On February 15, 2003, the Marin Community Foundation, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Dominican University Leadership Institute and Humanities Department, and Sufi Women Organization sponsored a day of music, prayer and inspiration which was the culmination of a year-long project called Women Faith Leaders of Marin: Voices of Hope and Healing in a Troubled World at Dominican University in San Rafael, California. The project identified the major religions practiced in Marin County: Independent voices representing those exploring faith from alternative directions and spiritual expression as well as Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Thirty-four women, identified by the project director, Roberta Swan, as "cultural creatives," those people who question existing social structures and find new means of expression, were interviewed and profiled. These women included a Sufi leader, Catholic nuns, Jewish rabbis, Buddhist teachers, a Lutheran minister, a Presbyterian pastor, a Buddhist abbess, a hospice chaplain, a police chaplain, a housing advocate, a Tibetan lama, a Quaker activist, an Episcopal priest, a choir director, a Witchen priestess (Macha, called a "Pagan ambassador"), and many others. The day opened with an African American Christian choir, a Sufi choir sang just before lunch, and the day concluded with The Charge of the Goddess and a Buddhist chant.

A book about the project, containing all the interviews, photographs and prayers, was available for purchase at the symposium. Copies can be obtained from Roberta Swan, P.O. Box 2460, Mill Valley, CA 94941; 415-389-0566; fax 415-383-8210; e-mail raswan@attbi.com

* The Biodiversity Project Spirituality Working Group
--Macha is a participant in this group.

The Project recently published a book. Called Ethics for a Small Planet: A Communication Handbook on the Ethical and Theological Reasons for Protecting Biodiversity, the book is comprehensive, accessible, practical, thorough and attractive. In addition to the text, it also contains a comprehensive list of resources, including speakers, a glossary, a bibliography, journals, organizations, videos and websites.

If your coven, tradition or other Pagan organization wants a copy of this excellent publication, contact The Biodiversity Project, 214 N. Henry Street, Suite 201, Madison, WI 53703; 608 250-9876 phone; 608 257-3513 fax; www.biodiversityproject.org

* Center for Multifaith Education of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City

On April 3, 2003, about 20 invited guests gathered for lunch and a text study sponsored by the Center for Multifaith Education of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City [www.auburnsem.org]. Drawing from pre-selected and pre-read Talmudic texts, this group, comprised of four rabbis, Protestant ministers, a Catholic nun, a Catholic sociologist, a Protestant documentary filmmaker, four Witches and other religious scholars, discussed the meanings of Biblical prohibitions against necromancy, soothsaying, sorcery and magic-working, as well as various references to witches, sorcerers and miracle-workers.

The four Witches who participated were CoG-member Macha, Katrina Messenger from Washington, D.C., Judy Harrow of Proteus Coven in New York, and Grove Harris of the Harvard Religious Pluralism Project [www.fas.harvard.edu/~pluralsm/]. Both Judy and Macha teach at Cherry Hill Seminary [www.cherryhillseminary.org].

That evening panelists spoke about 15 minutes each on the topic "The Divine Feminine: Intersections and Collisions Among Judaism, Christianity and Earth-based Religions." The panel began with Macha, followed by Rabbi Jill Hammer of Ma'yan, the Jewish Women's Project at the JCC of Manhattan; Judy; Anne Barstow, a Presbyterian minister and author of Witchcraze; and ending with Katrina. Each speech was different from all the others and added to the richness of the entire evening. The overriding wish of all participants in the Divine Feminine event was for world peace. Participnats collaborated collaborated on a ritual to end the evening. The Rev. Lee Hancock, a Presbyterian minister; Professor Janet Walton, a Roman Catholic nun; Rabbi Jill Hammer; Katrina, Judy; and Macha I designed a brief ritual for peace that we concluded with a slow spiral dance.

* INTERFAITH PRIDE SERVICE
--CoG's Live Oak Local Council in Austin TX is a sponsoring faith community for this event. CoG-member Ellen Friedman serves on the organizing Multifaith Pride Council.

Live Oak LC is a sponsoring faith community for the Interfaith Gay/Lesbian/Bi/Trans Pride Service, observing Pride Month in Austin, TX. CoG-member Ellen Friedman was invited to bless the sacred space in the beginning of the ritual by inviting the elements, Lady/Lord and the All. About 500 people attended this event.

* AUSTIN AREA INTERFAITH MINISTRIES
--Live Oak Local Council works with this group.
Live Oak LC recently worked with 1 Episcopal and 3 Methodist churches to remodel a home for an event sponsored by the primary interfaith organization in Austin (Austin Area Interreligious Ministries). Recently, Ellen was a guest speaker at AAIM's interfaith book club, where they were discussing "The Spiral Dance".


Conclusion

As you can see, CoG's interfaith plate is very full and we are a very visible presence in the interfaith world. All of us who do interfaith work for CoG are very grateful for the ongoing support of the Covenant. Three final thoughts...

First, an unexpected dividend of the interfaith work has turned out to be international public relations. We have commented before about how in Cape Town, South Africa, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, everyone knew what Wicca was and was favorable disposed towards us. I think it's important to realize what's happening here. The interfaith movement is growing rapidly all over the world. The two largest interfaith groups, most engaged at the local, grassroots level, are the CPWR and the URI. Both feature Wiccans and use our symbols in their promotional material. People all over the world are asking "Who are the Wiccans and what do they believe?" And the local CPWR and URI representatives are telling them about us, without any "devil-worship" baggage attached! People all over the world are hearing about a faith tradition that cares for Nature, that honors women, that respects science, that not only tolerates but encourages and revels in diversity, that has no history of instigating violent conflict... and they like what they hear. The interfaith work may lead to an unexpected explosion in Wicca around the world. We may want to start thinking about this.

Second, thanks to the interfaith networks, indigenous people are connecting as never before, and every day were are more and more accepted and welcomed by them. The idea of "indigenous tradition, but not indigenous people" seems to have caught on. Over dinner after the Global Council conference a few weeks ago, Rosalia Gutierrez, an indigenous Argentine and one of the three South American Trustees, told me that she often draws strength from my presence in the GC meetings, knowing that I have the same concerns as she and her people, but that, as an English-speaking Westerner, I will be better able to ensure that those concerns are voiced and integrated in to the URI's organizational structure

Third, many of those in the more "mainstream" religions who do interfaith lament that they sometimes feel that they are the liberal fringe of their respective faiths and compare notes on how best to convey the interfaith experience back to their faith communities. It is with great pride that we representing the Covenant of the Goddess can say that we do the interfaith work with the full support of our community. We couldn't do the work if we didn't know that you were all there with us. Again, a heartfelt "thank you" and...

Blessed Be,
Don Frew
co- National Interfaith Representative
with Rowan Fairgrove and Deborah Ann Light (Emerita)

* If you would like to support CoG's interfaith efforts, please send checks made out to "CoG" to:
     Covenant of the Goddess, PO Box 1226, Berkeley CA 94701
or you can donate online at:
     www.guidestar.org/partners/networkforgood/donate.jsp?ein=23-7456553
(Note: in either case, please indicate whether you are donating to the Interfaith Fund in general or CoG's Youth Interfaith Essay Contest in particular.)

Biography

Don Frew is an Elder in both the NROOGD and Gardnerian traditions of modern Wicca, and High Priest of Coven Trismegiston in Berkeley CA. He has been very active in interfaith work on behalf of the Craft for over 18 years and is one of three National Interfaith Representatives for the Covenant of the Goddess (the largest Wiccan religious organization on Earth). He serves on the Executive Committee of the Berkeley Area Interfaith Council, the Board of the Directors of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio, the Global Council of the United Religions Initiative, has participated in the Parliament Assembly of the Parliament of the World's Religions, and is active with over a dozen interfaith groups.




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