News from Costa Mesa, Newport Beach in the Times Community Newspapers
Finding common ground
Geeta Sacred Song, an international peace shaman, shared stories about how she came to have her faith and chanted songs. She sang a Cherokee blessing that translated into "beautiful day, what a beautiful day."
Pastor Dennis Short of Harbor Christian Church in Newport Beach nodded in agreement. Newport resident Susan Gilman of the Bahai faith smiled quietly. Jaimie Day, from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, listened.
For participants at Wednesday's Newport-Mesa Irvine Interfaith Council meeting, this moment was what it was all about -- finding common ground between different religions. After all, a beautiful day for a Roman Catholic is still a beautiful day for a shaman.
"We thought it would be different from the verbal, intellectual sharing that we do," said Short about Sacred Song's presentation.
The group, which has existed for more than 25 years, works to understand different faiths and respect them. Their purpose is not to convert or judge each other, but to learn.
"The key that separates people is ignorance," said Greg Kelley, who stepped down as president last month after four years of service. "There's a distrust of that which we don't know."
The council recently appointed Don Oliver, a Presbyterian chaplain at Hoag Hospital, as its next president. He was out of town and did not attend the Valentine's Day luncheon.
The meeting was attended by about 45 people, including clergy and laypeople. Introductions included each attendee's name and the religious group he or she belongs to. Christian Scientists sat among Sikhs who sat among Roman Catholics.
When Gilman rose to introduce herself, she said, "I'm a Bahai who believes it is vitally important for Americans to embrace shamanism."
When a public prayer was said by Eugene O'Toole, a council director from St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Irvine where the meeting was held, he spoke of God in generalities so that everyone could participate.
Day, who is vice president of membership for the group, said finding common ground helps members to grow closer together instead of further apart.
"It does not make us divided by our beliefs," she said.
Jim de Boom, secretary and executive director for the Interfaith Council and a Daily Pilot columnist, said it is important to understand people of all faiths and backgrounds when trying to do a common good, such as community service.
The council, which holds eight luncheon meetings a year, has organized home-building events for Habitat for Humanity, service fairs and National Prayer Day events in past years.
"When we don't understand, we tend not to tolerate," he said. "We end up hating. When we hate, we have fear and we have war."
The next interfaith council meeting will be held at noon March 14 at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, 2850 Fairview Road, Costa Mesa. For more information, call (949) 660-8665.
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