; charset=UTF-8" /> ECUMENICAL AND INTERFAITH NEWS – July : Connecting Voices
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Submitted by the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee of the Pacific Southwest Region (Disciples of Christ) and the Southern California Nevada Conference (United Church of Christ)

EIRCInterfaith World Peace Pilgrimage: Saturday, September 6: “Hope is in the Mixture”

Members of the DOC and UCC have been invited to join adherents of many other faiths in the sixth annual World Peace Pilgrimage up one of Southern California’s most beloved and inspiring peaks: Mt. San Antonio, affectionately called Mt. Baldy: a mountain considered holy by some of the Native American groups who lived in this land before us.  The place of departure is easily accessible by road to the east of Claremont.  Information on registration at the sight and on time of departure is available at (323) 465-9652.

Prayers are offered from three separate locations on the way up the mountain, to allow for all levels of hiking ability.  Ski lifts are available for parts of the climb.  Whether you are less or more nimble, you will want to walk as far as possible,  for (1) the benefits of physical exercise (2) breathtaking views of both the green valleys to the south and the Mojave Desert to the north and (3) most important, opportunities to meet, converse, and then share in sacred and spiritual moments with religious believers of many faiths.

Christians, Buddhist, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Christian Scientists, Brahma Kumaris, Bahais, adherents of indigenous religions, pagans, and various other spiritual communities will be joining one another for the climb up to one of the prayer stations.  It will be a gathering of many hundreds.  One of the contemporary T-shirts worn by interfaith types shows symbols of the various faiths with the words, “HOPE IS IN THE MIXTURE.”  May our UCC and Disciples people exhibit our commitment to and belief in the unity across religious lines which is offered and created by God by joining in this exciting and, yes, healthily strenuous pilgrimage for purposes of praying together for the peace which our planet so desperately needs.  Those wanting more details can call Jeff Utter at (626)794-1839.

Churches for Middle East Peace Pursue a Daunting but not Hopeless Task

Recently the director of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), Ambassador Warren Clark, spent a week in UCC and Disciples congregations in Southern California helping our people understand the dynamics of the region, especially the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  Mr. Clark is a veteran of the foreign service, having served in several consulates abroad, including in the Middle East.  The organization he leads includes 23 different Christian bodies, including many Protestant denominations including Disciples and UCC, but also the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church.

At the CMEP program at the UCC congregation in Fullerton, Mr. Clark laid out the very complex history by which the State of Israel came into being, as a somewhat arbitrary response by the great powers to the Zionist movement, which recognized the goal of a national homeland for the Jewish people, given the oppression the Jews had suffered in Europe, but did not deal sufficiently with their being already many non-Jewish people living in the area to be designated as Israel.  He also described the history of conflict and of peace efforts between Israel and Palestine.  Thanks to the presence at this gathering of some Jews who feel strongly about the threats to their people in Israel, including the recent murder of several Jewish boys, emotions rose during the subsequent discussion.  The evening ended with a time of silent prayer which helped to put these feelings in perspective and offer them to God.

Nancy Fowler of the DOC did an outstanding job of arranging Ambassador Clark’s itinerary among us.  Nancy also has a prominent role in the trips to the Holy Land organized by our joint DOC-UCC Global Ministries Committee.  Hopefully many of us can pray for the Spirit’s action in somehow creating new and peaceful and just connection between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Who Are the “Nones”?

“None” might soon be the dominant label that U.S. adults pick when asked to describe their religious identity.  But those who characterize themselves this way include many more believers in God than atheists, and they show an increasingly diverse racial and ethnic mix.  Americans are now about 20% Roman Catholic, 20% “white evangelicals,” and 20% nones.  Other groups, such as African-American Christians and liberal Protestants (like DOC and UCC) constitute much smaller percentages of the population.  All Protestants together still make up a plurality (48%) of Americans, but there are huge actual differences in belief and practice among Protestants.

But the “nones” are clearly growing as a share of the population.  “It’s a big, important, fundamental change in U.S. society, regardless of what’s causing it,”  according to Greg Smith, director of religion surveys for the Pew Research Center.”  This does not necessarily mean that communities of people who identify themselves as Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, etc., are less healthy than they used to be, but it certainly does mean that America is not the clearly defined “religious country” that it used to be.  Today’s young adults, in particular, are starting out more unaffiliated than any prior generation.  What does this mean for the mission and ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ?

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