Additional News Stories from 2007
- FAITHS Foundation to be honored
- Religious Freedom Takes Center Stage
at International, Interfaith Gathering
San Francisco Foundation FAITHS Program
Being Honored at Interfaith
Chapel’s Gathering of Blessings
The Interfaith Center’s annual Gathering of Blessings, scheduled for Sunday, October 7, starting at 4:00 pm, this year honors The San Francisco Foundation. The Foundation will receive a “Bay Area Interfaith Treasure” award acknowledging the remarkable achieve-ments of its FAITHS Program. The public is cordially invited to attend the reception at 4:00 pm and the celebration at 5:00 pm at the Main Post Interfaith Chapel in the Presidio.
In 1993, The San Francisco Foundation began the FAITHS Initiative, as it was called then, on the premise that congregations and other faith-based organizations should be among philanthropy’s strongest partners in the effort to build strong, healthy, and equitable communities. This marked a new understanding by philanthropy of the critical contribution faith-based programs make to strengthening communities.
By taking an inclusive, interfaith approach, The Foundation provided a model for promoting non-sectarian community service and civic engagement programs that include diverse traditions. “FAITHS has been a pioneering effort for the philanthropic community,” says Mrs. Rita Semel, founder of the San Francisco Interfaith Council. “Starting with The San Francisco Foundation, then partnering foundations joining in, FAITHS began supporting dozens and then hundreds of congregations and community organizations. That’s never happened before, and it makes a huge difference in Bay Area neighborhoods.”
For 14 years FAITHS has built an interfaith network of more than 600 congregations, faith-based agencies, and community organizations to address critical community issues in the Bay Area. FAITHS provides technical and financial assistance, educational briefings, and trainings for leaders in local faith communities from dozens of different traditions. FAITHS workshops and mini-grants focus on issues such as affordable housing, disaster preparedness, immigration reform, inter-group relations, job training, senior services, and youth development.
The first Gathering of Blessings was held Sunday, October 1, 1995, the day after the U.S. Sixth Army concluded its chaplaincy at the Presidio. The ceremony commemorated the transition from military to civilian stewardship of the Presidio’s Main Post Interfaith Chapel and since then has been an annual celebration of inter-religious activity in the Bay Area and beyond.
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Freedom Takes Center Stage
at International, Interfaith Gathering
NAIN’s (North American Interfaith Network) 2007 Connect was nestled into Virginia’s rolling hills at Roslyn, an Episcopal retreat center outside of Richmond. The beautiful setting was punctuated by the historical markers dotting Virginia highways and country lanes, reminders that the freedoms we discussed as interfaith brothers and sisters were paid for in blood shed in these same hills.
The theme for the July 12-16 Connect was Religious Freedom. About 90 participated. A direct descendent of Thomas Jefferson showed up at the opening banquet in 18th century dress, and we heard Tom’s words, his story, with an emphasis on the idea of ‘religious freedom’ in the United States and the struggle to establish it.
Highlights this year included the langar, a blessed lunch that the greater Richmond Sikh community prepared and gave everyone – an interfaith concert at a beautiful Baptist church (including a welcome and blessing from its pastor) – and Charles Haynes’ superb keynote about teaching religious freedom in public schools.
A strong opening panel addressed “Current State of Religious Freedom, Nationally and Internationally.” Through the next several days, more than two dozen workshops unpacked religious freedom from all sorts of angles. A number of distinguished presenters were well received, including a young adult panel reflecting on Virginia Tech’s recent mass murder by asking “Where Was God in Times of Tragedy?” A group of four Muslims from different backgrounds and a Christian moderator offered a layered, complex set of insights into “Islam & Democracy,” the final plenary session.
Sharon Clayton, Midge Falconer, Lynn Johnston, and their team from the InterFaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington and Interfaith Council of Greater Richmond were the heroes, leaving those who attended informed, refreshed, and happy to have been with old friends and new.