The Shared Meal
and other opportunities for creating
multicultural, interfaith communities
Diverse and inclusive communities are not bound together by common creeds or shared histories.
They are bound together by shared meals, music, storytelling, and acts of loving-kindness.
How can we become a multicultural, interfaith community?
It helps if we share food together and tell stories. The Miller Center Community Meal at Hendrix College provides a model.
We do not need to have the same stories. We just need to listen to each other, attentively and respectfully, as we tell them.
It also helps if we listen to music together and maybe even make some music together. Isn't music wonderful?
And it helps if we design and implement community service projects in which we all participate. We don't want to be an insulated community that is isolated from a world in need. We want to be compassionate community that helps heal a broken world.
Food, music, storytelling, and shared acts of loving-kindness: these are the key.
In these activities we are creating relationships, creating connections. It's not as if we are on common ground before we come together; we create the ground in our coming together.
Sometimes, as we interact, we hear similarities and sometimes we hear differences. At first we may lean toward the similarities, thinking commonalities are essential. But soon we'll come to love the differences as much as the similarities. We would miss them if they didn't exist.
Our new community is diverse and inclusive, multi-faith and multi-cultural. It renews itself, again and again, from the repetition of shared activities.
Of course always we must be open to novelty. New perspectives, new experiences, new ideas will come to the fore. Sometimes there will be conflicts and we must not hide from them. But the conflicts are resolved the same way the storytelling unfolds: with attentive and respectful listening.
Some say that community emerges through the proclamation of unique and fixed identities. This is not true. Identities are in process, too, including religious identities. We change ever so slightly with each conversation, each shared meal, each act of kindness. In the beginning -- and we are always beginning -- is the listening.
The Miller Community Meal
"The Miller Community Meal offers a place where students from all religious, spiritual, and philosophical traditions can share a homemade meal, build community with one another, and think about how our many traditions can help us lead meaningful lives and contribute to the well-being of the world."
-- Miller Center, Hendrix College, Conway, Arkansas