Religion | Article published Saturday, August 2, 2003
Toledo couple establish council to draw faiths together
Association seeks to foster understanding and acceptance
A Toledo couple known for their efforts in promoting interfaith programs have launched a new organization, the Multifaith Council of Northwest Ohio, to better facilitate understanding and acceptance among the area’s diverse religious communities.
"What’s so different about us? We’re all God’s children even though we may take different spiritual paths," said Woody Trautman, a retired electrical engineer who co-founded the MCNWO with his wife, Judy Lee Trautman.
The council held several organizational meetings last month in which a 10-person executive board was elected, with officers representing 10 different faiths, Mr. Trautman said, including a Hindu, Moslem, Jew, Protestant Christian, Roman Catholic, Baha’i, and Christian Scientist.
Mr. Trautman had helped organize several annual banquets for Toledo’s Interracial Religious Coalition and two Workshops on World Religions classes sponsored by Metro-Toledo Churches United (that group has since changed its name to the Toledo Area Council of Churches).
But the TACC is an ecumenical group for Christian churches only, and the IRC decided it needed to get back to its original focus, which is racial justice.
"There was some concern expressed by members of the IRC that the multifaith work was consuming tremendous amounts of time and energy," said the Rev. Dr. Gary Blaine, IRC president and pastor of Toledo’s First Unitarian Church.
With the blessing of IRC leaders, the Trautmans in January spearheaded efforts to form a regional group whose sole purpose is to bring together people of all faiths.
"We have all the major faiths represented and four or five minor faiths, depending on what definitions you use," Mr. Trautman said. "All together we have about a dozen faiths involved."
A major turning point came in May, he said, when the Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity completed a multifaith building project in which representatives from 14 faiths had participated.
Members of the Multifaith Council were touched to see so many people of different religious backgrounds working peacefully together toward a common goal.
Part of the success of that construction project was widely attributed to a series of teamwork-building sessions held before anyone picked up a hammer or saw.
As on the Habitat project, Mr. Trautman said, "we start off with a ground rule that when we assemble together we agree to respect each other’s positions. Each is as equally valid as our own. We try not to get into any debates."
Members of the Multifaith Council have drafted a covenant that says, "I vow to consciously grow in the understanding and compassion that will encourage me to live peaceably with all my neighbors," and a vision statement which reads: "Drawing together diverse faiths, in mutual respect, friendship, cooperation, and service."
The first public event planned by the Multifaith Council is a workshop series titled "Patterns for Peace."
The sessions are to be held at the Heatherdowns Library each Tuesday in October, with identical programs in the afternoon and evening, featuring local religious experts discussing their faith’s policies and efforts to promote peace.
Mr. Trautman, a Unitarian, and Mrs. Trautman, a Sufi, know firsthand how interfaith programs can lead to positive results. The couple met while working on the Multifaith Council’s Web site, got to know each other better through interfaith volunteer work, and were married last March 9.
In their wedding ceremony, they included rituals or symbols from eight different religious traditions, Mr. Trautman said.
Membership in the Multifaith Council of Northwest Ohio has been set at $10 for individuals, $15 per family, or $20 for an organization.
Houses of worship are asked to also include an in-kind donation, such as hosting a meeting or providing use of a copy machine, Mr. Trautman said.
Information is available on the Internet at www.multifaithcouncil.org.
- DAVID YONKE
©Copyright 2003, Toledo Blade (OH, USA)
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