O.F. High Schoolers Practice Being Christian Courageously & Respectfully in an Interfaith World

O.F. High Schoolers Practice Being Christian Courageously & Respectfully in an Interfaith World

We, the Christian ‘Walking the Walk’ retreat community of December 2011, ARE COMMITTED TO:
– ‘Love one another’, as Christ has taught us.
– Know our religious neighbors and walk with them, without the intent of changing them.
– Open ourselves to the possibility of mutual transformation.
– Risk being honest about who we are and what we believe.

This was the pledge that the participants in the Interfaith Center of Philadelphia’s “Walking the Walk” developed and signed at the end of their December 10-11 weekend together at Kirkville Retreat Center in Stroudsburg, PA.

Rebecca, Samantha, Trixie, Billi and Michael joined youth and adult leaders from 8 other congregations, representing the UCC, the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA), the Lutherans (ELCA), United Methodists, Baptists and Roman Catholics. This retreat was deliberately developed for Christians– to help us develop skills at articulating our faith in ways that are honest and straight-forward, therein a blessing to us and possibly a blessing also to someone else — without the baggage of trying to convert others from their religious beliefs or non-religious stances.

The retreat was part of a larger program of the Interfaith Center called “Walking the Walk” that brings together Christian, Jewish and Muslim students for a year of relationship and respect building on the way towards greater understanding all around. The program aims to raise up young leaders for interfaith work in our ever-shrinking and increasingly mixed and complicated world.

While the days and the meeting spaces at Kirkville were awfully chilly and the sleeping accommodations were very warm… nonetheless, the discomforts paled in the face of the good company and engaging programming around a topic of great importance. While we realized, that those who came were already adherents of interfaith respect (yes, it was a bit of preaching to the choir!), the opportunity to think about what respect means for our faith and our behavior were really helpful…

Hear what our youth experienced:

Rebecca: “I can’t say I was thrilled to ‘give up’ a weekend during the most hectic month of the year. But in reality, I didn’t ‘give up’ anything, and only gained new friends, thoughts and experiences. When we arrived at Kirkwood, we read the Bible, ate ‘puppy chow,’ and played Uno. The theme for the retreat was interfaith relationships. The discussions about the theme were insightful and genuine; this attitude carried over into the prayer time. I was particularly warmed by the sharing during the prayer time that created a supportive and close environment for the remainder of our all too-short retreat.”

Samantha: “I must admit, waking up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday to come and spend my weekend in the woods was not a delight. I even considered backing out. But I’m glad I didn’t. It was cold. I was surrounded by strangers and trees. Ok, at first, I was ready to go home. Then we sat down and started talking; I felt at peace. We had a great time. At least I know I did. This weekend opened up my eyes and relaxed my senses. Being away from all the drama at home and with my friend and coming to meet new, cool and interesting people was a great idea. I also got to build my relationship with God by seeing others relationships with him.”

Trixie: “I really enjoyed this weekend because I got to play fun games, meet new, interesting, fun people and talk about faith in a non-embarrassing and non-judgemental setting. “