Originally founded in 2004, Interfaith Philadelphia strives to establish hope and reconciliation amongst communities. This organization unites people of varying religious backgrounds as they “get to know each other as people and to learn how to value and respect the ‘other’ while maintaining (and often strengthening) their own religious identities,” Interfaith Philadelphia explained. In light of this mission, the organization is providing a six-session course titled, “Exploring Identity: How Faith and Race Shape Us and the Ways We Lead”.
The development of this course has involved the collaborative work of Interfaith staff, Rev. Dr. Phaedra Blocker, Trina Gary and Asheq Fazlullah. Dr. Blocker, an affiliate professor at Eastern University, and Gary will serve as facilitators for the course. The curricular team started with a retreat in which they examined aspects that are important for people “to know and experience on a journey to religious and cultural literacy, and then took those pieces and began to work — separately and together — on a format and sequence,” Dr. Blocker stated. Eventually, this course will become a part of a larger certificate program through Interfaith Philadelphia’s Leadership Institute.
Expectations for participants of the course include the opportunity to “explore their own stories and the influence of life, experience, culture, race, spirituality, and social context,” Interfaith Philadelphia explained. Participants will be encouraged to consider how they create space to delve into and appreciate the identities of other people.
Dr. Blocker hopes that this course will have profound impacts on participants. First, Dr. Blocker hopes that people will exit the course knowing themselves better. “As I teach my spiritual formation students, it’s important that, as we seek to be transformed by God, we have a good sense of who the person in that process of transformation is,” Dr. Blocker stated.
Second, Dr. Blocker believes that, as Martin Luther King Jr. stated, we must “learn to live together” rather than “perish together as fools.” In doing so, people must nurture a profound sense of dedication to honor our collective humanity. “This requires that we learn to look beyond — and I don’t mean ‘look over,’ but ‘look through’ — the labels and categories and rhetoric that we sometimes apply to those different from us, to really see and appreciate each person (including ourselves) as a cherished and individual image of God,” Dr. Blocker explained.
Participants will meet each Tuesday from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. throughout the time frame of Feb. 22 to March 29. For aspiring participants of this course, further information can be retrieved at https://www.interfaithphiladelphia.org/exploring-identity.
Photo: Interfaith Philadelphia
“Exploring Identity” will involve deeper engagement with others and insightful reflection.