We love receiving feedback from participants in our programs, especially when it is positive. But sometimes the feedback makes us stop short and remember why this work of developing religious literacy is so important.
We recently received a lengthy email from a participant and we asked permission to share parts of it. While we certainly appreciate the positive comments, what really moved us was how well they expressed both the trepidation around discussing religion and the gratitude for being seen and understood.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have spent my life keeping this part of me private. There were moments I laughed right out loud and others when I burst into tears. Not out of sadness but you nailed it. Listening to you speak and explain things I do as part of my daily life, validated me, my beliefs and reassured me others are becoming sensitive and open to different ways.”
Wouldn’t it be great to hear that at more places of work? At more schools? There is a cultural shift happening regarding the importance of nurturing inclusivity, equity and diversity in our schools, workplaces and institutions but I think we can agree there is still much to do – this email brings home the value of continuing that work. Employees, students, friends and colleagues who feel seen and safe can bring their whole range of experiences to their work. And by doing that, they create space for others to do the same.
At a recent event I attended, we heard from the Manager of Employee Resource Groups at a major consulting firm. Their Employee Resource Groups include faith and belief based communities providing support for atheists and Unitarians to devote Muslims, Christians, Hindus and Jews and many more. I was intrigued listening to the manager speak about the ways these groups create community not only within the groups but by reaching out to other groups as well. They meet for networking and charitable events or cross team collaborations. Faith has become a way to connect colleagues and organically build the kind of diverse and inclusive workplace so many of us strive for. While not all organizations or schools can support such a comprehensive program, we can start by expanding our own religious literacy, and by inviting open and honest conversations into our schools and organizations.
If you would like to expand your own religious literacy and can’t join at our Discovery Week in May then I recommend the following resources as great places to start: The book God is Not One by Stephen Prothero is one of my favourite resources to recommend. His book is like having a great conversation with the guy next door. The information is excellent but with no pretense. It’s eminently relatable and accessible.
The second is a podcast called Keeping it 101: A Killjoy’s Intro to Religion hosted by professors Megan Goodwin and Ilyse Morgenstein Fuerst. They are quick, funny, and occasionally sarcastic. They talk about the ways religion intersects with our daily lives in ways that will help you learn a lot while also nudging you to think broadly about religion and its role in society.