Reachable Moments: Transition-Interfaith Dialogue

April 7, 2014

NOTE: Images in this archived article have been removed.

This post is the first in a monthly series on "UN-LIKELY SUSPECTS – DEEP OUTREACH" by Transition Trainer Pamela Boyce Simms of the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH).

Rabbi Yael Romer of Temple Emanuel in Kingston, NY and Reverend Virginia Carle of Woodstock, NY respectively chanted in Hebrew and recited in English Genesis Chapter 6-7, the story of Noah, to a group of Transitioners from seven New York Transition towns and congregants from a spectrum of faith communities. All anticipated viewing the film Noah following a potluck Resilient Response to Extreme Weather dinner discussion guided by provocative questions.

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The group was assembled as a direct result of a recent, seminal LAUNCH Training for Transition during which outreach to conservative, faith-centric communities dominated the participant discussion. LAUNCH participants challenged trainers to address how Transitioners who find themselves to be a little blue dot of "liberalism" in a vast red ocean of conservative religious fervor might do public awareness outreach. We vowed to find answers to the questions raised.

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Image RemovedThe hundreds of millions of Americans affiliated with organized religion, 40 % of whom self-identify as "conservative," will be as affected as anyone else by accelerated climate change. Yet these good folks rarely attend or engage for long with Transition groups or any similar activity. 

Transition veterans in the trenches now have enough momentum to dig deep and do the difficult outreach which tests and stretches us beyond feel-good comfort zones. Intellectually we know unequivocally that there is little need or outreach-value added to preaching primarily to the choir. Yet we often hesitate to override inertia and consistently, creatively, and compassionately reach out to those who don’t look like us, sound like us, think like us, and who rarely attend Transition events.   

When “Reachable” Moments Emerge: Noah Screening

Image RemovedThe release of the movie Noah offered a perfect Resilient Response conversation-starter overlap (of scriptural derivation) between traditional, organized faith communities and Transitioners. This was an auspicious moment when faith communities would come closer to the Transition orbit. The Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) initiated an event that was replicated in the region entitled: “What Would You Do If You Knew What Noah Knew?” (Click here to download Noah-related extreme weather resilience-driven world cafe conversation starters.)

Image RemovedThe powerful, spontaneous, and joyous release of energy that occurs when faith leaders and Transitioners sit down together, 1) specifically to discuss Resilient Response (i.e. emergency preparedness) and, 2) prompted to compassionately hold the space for divergent worldviews that emerge, is palpable.

MATH has been convening a Resilient Response to Extreme Weather Working Group comprised of Transitioners and clergy in New York State with local iterations throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. The mission of these Resilient Response groups is to develop short and long range inter-network preparedness strategies by "working at the edges" where our interests completely blend.

A revered Baptist Minister who is active in the MATH Resilient Response to Extreme Weather Working Group had this to say about a “Noah-commentary” made by a colleague, and a conversation that took place among his congregants on the way to the theater to see Noah following the MATH potluck discussion:

 "I received [an] e-mail message from a colleague this morning. His comments about the movie "Noah" are reflective and an indication of the buzz that will circulate throughout our communities. 

…..   He gave it a big thumbs-down to his congregation. Following the each-one-reach-one paradigm, that equates to potentially 500+ people who will never see the movie. Imagine this being repeated in churches across the land to congregations that are discouraged from thinking – period. 

         Anyway, [we] were inspired by the discussion and stimulated by the movie. On the way to the movie, we discussed the intellectual limitations of taking too literal a view of anything, particularly biblical topics. We were to look instead for context and to find any relevance or implied messages within the narrative. 

         Well, if the tenor of the conversation on the ride back was any indication, the movie was a success. [We], in [our] individual ways, latched on to themes such as the price of ravaging the earth and the rewards of being prepared. [We are] very motivated to keep this particular ball in play at New Pro [gressive Baptist Church] and possibly beyond." Reverend Dr. G. Modele Clarke, New Progressive Baptist Church, Kingston, NY.

Transitioners are invited to have some purposeful fun checking out Noah with the following in mind: 

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  • T-Initiative inventory: To what degree are we preaching to the "likely suspects" choir? Who are we consistently not reaching in our public awareness raising efforts? Are we reaching faith communities in our area? What has worked and not worked for us in this regard in the past and why? How committed is our initiative to the more uncomfortable dimensions of sustained, "deep outreach?" 
  • What outreach tools can we develop to reach organized faith communities?
  • How does the extreme weather that the US is experiencing give us a handle on reaching the hardest pockets of "unlikely suspects" like faith communities who rarely engage with Transition work?

The time to step-up compassionate, boundary-stretching “Deep Outreach” has arrived with the evolution and continual maturation of Transition movement.

"You can never awaken using the same system that put you to sleep in the first place." –Gurdjief

Pamela Boyce Simms is a Certified Transition Trainer, Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH) of Transition US  ~

Photos from the MATH Resilient Response to Extreme Weather Noah Potluck Discussion and Screening, courtesy of Pamela Boyce Simms (from top): Rabbi Yael Romer and Palestinian Filmmaker Taha Awadallah; Hera and Reverend Dr. G. Modele Clarke of New Progressive Baptist Church, Kingston, NY; Kielawan Ahmed and Larry Ulfik; MATH Resilient Response to Extreme Weather Potluck Discussion participants eating dinner; Sharon Wilber, Daymean Pugh, and Erica Carlson; Rabbi Yael Romer, Pamela Boyce Simms, Reverend Dr. G. Modele Clarke.

Pamela Boyce Simms

Pamela Boyce Simms is an evolutionary culture designer who convenes the Mid-Atlantic Transition Hub (MATH), ─a six-state network of environmental activists. She is a veteran of local, regional, and national resilience-building with the Transition environmental movement, and currently works with international Quaker, Buddhist, and African Diaspora Earthcare networks. Her full bio and CV can be found here.

Tags: building resilient communities, climate change, climate change messaging, extreme weather, Transition movement