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Hosting an Interfaith Harmony Breakfast

by Rabbi Rami ShapiroJanuary 13, 2012
The first week in February is World Interfaith Harmony Week. The week was proposed by the Jordanian delegation to the United Nations and established by the UN General Assembly in 2011. In response Rev. Tim Miner and I (Rev. Tim is the creator of the Big I conference we are hosting in Nashville on February 4-5) began to promote World Interfaith Harmony Week Breakfasts around the globe.
Last year there were numerous breakfasts on every continent, some large some small. This year we are hoping to see the numbers increase. To help with that let me provide a simple outline for hosting such a breakfast.
First, think small and local. If you have a church, mosque, synagogue or other institution to work with that might lend itself to a larger breakfast, but even if you a few friends get together it is worth it. You can meet in a home or a restaurant if that better suits your situation.
Second, set a fixed time to gather. We run our breakfast from 8 to 10 in the morning.

Third, charge a nominal fee. Resist the impulse to make this free. Charging a fee helps people take the event more seriously. In Nashville we charge $15 to cover our food and room rental expenses. We had 100 people for breakfast last year, and hope to add a dozen or so this year.
Fourth, advertise. Depending on how many people you want in attendance do more or less advertising. Let your local newspaper you are doing this, and they will probably interview you for a story. Post it on your Facebook page if you have one. Call some friends and invite them to breakfast if you don’t.
Fifth, do something during the meal. This can be simple such as asking people to share what they like most about their personal faith path (some groups also ask that people share what troubles them the most about their faith, and what they “envy” in other faiths). This year in Nashville I will unveil our Compassionate Nashville campaign (rooted in Karen Armstrong’s Charter of Compassion movement), and we will engage each table in identifying examples of compassion in Nashville and areas that need addressing.
Sixth, follow a simple structure. Begin with a statement of welcome. Then invite people from different traditions to bless the gathering and the meal. Allow people time to eat and talk informally, and then spend a good 45 minutes or more talking about whatever it is you choose to have as the formal topic of conversation. End with another series of blessings from traditions not represented in the opening.
This is obviously a very brief outline of what can be done. I hope it helps to get you motivated to host a breakfast. If you do, please let post it on our Facebook page:

Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, "Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler," addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more.

His newest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art: Shattering the Illusion of Control and Falling into Grace with Twelve-Step Spirituality.

He has this to say about religion: “To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence.”

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