Interfaith Meditation Group Brings Religions Together

By Michelle Basch (WTOP.com) – October 23, 2012

WASHINGTON - Whether familiar with meditation or a first-timer, a unique program in the region may be worth checking out.

The Interfaith Meditation Initiative puts together free meditation programs that are open to the public."We're a 501(c)(3) public charity that brings together religious leaders from diverse traditions to share their tradition's meditation practices with one another and with public audiences in churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, universities and community centers," says Founder and President Andrew Stern. "Our primary purpose is to provide transformational interfaith programming across religious lines."

At Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Arlington Monday night, a group of about two dozen people gathered to participate in a meditation from the Christian point of view, and a guided meditation from the Buddhist tradition.

Ven. Bhante Pannawansa, a Buddhist monk from the Washington Buddhist Vihara, led the Buddhist part of the program. Nicole Meister with Our Lady Queen of Peace led the Christian part.

Stern says people of different religious backgrounds may have different beliefs, but meditation is something that can bring them together for a shared experience in the same room.

"So one person may be experiencing Christ, whereas a Buddhist may be experiencing Buddha-nature or universal spirit. Someone who's Jewish might be having a connection with Adonai," says Stern.

"This is not about asking anyone to convert to another faith, or even asking those who are unaffiliated with any particular faith to adopt a certain faith. And similarly, we are not espousing a unity of all religions," Stern adds.

According to The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (2008), four in 10 adults said they meditate at least once a week, nine in 10 Americans said they believe in the existence of God, and most Americans have a non-dogmatic approach to faith.

Stern says these results show meditation may be a natural conduit for bringing together those affiliated with a religious tradition and those unaffiliated with a particular religious tradition.

Anyone is invited to take part in other similar programs happening this month and next in the region. The next event is Sunday, Oct. 28 at the Baha'i Center in Northwest and will feature Baha'i and Buddhist meditations. Find an event schedule on the Interfaith Meditation Initiative's website.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Religious Leader Work Together to Offer Meditation Sessions

By Kristi King (WTOP) – October 21, 2012

WASHINGTON - Start talking about a gathering that includes an imam, rabbi, pastor, and Buddhist monk and folks might be waiting for a punch line.
But a group called the Interfaith Meditation Initiative includes religious leaders who are working together to offer meditation sessions to try and help people relax.

"In one program there might be a Jewish meditation and a Hindu meditation, and in another program there might be a Buddhist meditation and a Muslim meditation," says Andrew Stern, founder of the Interfaith Meditation Initiative.

Stern says in addition to relaxation, the meditations can enhance empathy and compassion for other faiths and cultures. They also can help people connect with a higher power, including "Christ, Allah, Adonai, Truth, Love, Mother Nature or Universal Spirit," Stern says.

The first of five area meditation programs is 7:30 p.m., Monday in Arlington at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church on 19th Street.

WTOP's Kristi King contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

Six Interfaith Meditation Teams Gather in D.C.

By Adam Helfer (Washington Times) – Monday, October 22, 2012

Washington - Interfaith teams from six faiths are scheduled to share authentic meditations with public audiences this Fall in the DC area. Ordained and lay religious leaders from diverse traditions will facilitate the gatherings at churches, synagogues, mosques, temples, and universities.

There are no required fees to attend.

People of all faiths, and of no specific faith, are invited to enjoy the pre-Thanksgiving stress-free gatherings. The primary intention of the meditation series is to enhance individual and collective wellness across traditional religious lines.

The Fall schedule includes: [omitted here by IMI for brevity]  
U.S. Interfaith Group Focuses on Meditation

By Dawn Cherie Araujo (Ecumenical News) – Friday, April 5, 2013

The U.S. Interfaith Meditation Initiative spring schedule is launched by Rabbi Becca Gould and the Rev. Carol Cook at First Christian Church in Baltimore.
The Interfaith Meditation Initiative, located in Washington, D.C., has organized interfaith meditations since 2010 and, in that time, more than 1,200 people have joined faith leaders from seven faith traditions.

Andrew Stern, the organization's founder, said meditation is an important part of interfaith work because of its psychological benefits at Thursday night's event.

"Clinical research from the University of Wisconsin is revealing that meditation can promote empathy and compassion, including for strangers," he said. "According to a Stanford University study, even a few minutes of meditation can increase connection among strangers."

Gould, rabbi at Congregation Beit Tikvah and a religious mentor for Interfaith Youth for Climate Justice, has been leading interfaith meditations since 2005. She said interfaith meditation helps people to realize the necessity of their oneness.

"We are no longer living in a time when peoples can be separate," Gould said.

"We must expand our belief systems to embrace the diversity of faiths while honoring our own traditions and our own relationship with divinity. One way to do this is through meditation because everyone experiences meditation in a unique way."

Gould's co-leader, Carol Cook, pastor at First Christian Church, agrees.

Thursday was her first time leading an interfaith meditation, but she has a well-established devotion to interfaith worship.

"As much as I am a Christian, I think we are called to love all of God's creation," she said.

In that vein, Cook has opened her church building to three other Christian congregations (First Christian is a Disciples of Christ congregation) as well as a synagogue.

First Christian and Beit Tikvah regularly worship together and held a special joint worship after 9/11.

"Interfaith work is very important because we become too categorized and isolated, I think, in our faith," Cook said.

"And it's really important to recognize the gifts that other faiths also bring and how similar we are in so many ways. It takes away that fear of the other when we spend time with one another."

Gould said her practice is to bring meditation participants to a place where they can reflect upon the Torah, Jewish written law, which Cook appreciates.

She believes the silence and individual reflection allows participants to take whatever theme has been given and bring it into their own faith life.

"And doing it together, with people of other faiths is that way of strengthening our ability to accept one another," she said.

"While there may be irreconcilable difference on the level of religious creed, the universality of meditation across religious traditions is a path forward for deep reconciliation across religious lines," Stern said. "What has divided us can dissolve. Our shared humanity can be realized."

The Interfaith Meditation Initiative will host three more interfaith meditations in April, and two more in June - the final one at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. on June 25.




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"I've co-led two interfaith meditation events, each time with Jewish and Muslim faith leaders...I connected with the devotion of my colleagues, and the language of their meditations became a portal for me to a place beyond words.” Reverend Randy Lord-Wilkinson, Episcopal Church of the Ascension, Maryland; IMI meditation co-leader