They call themselves the “interfaith amigos.” And, while they do sometimes seem more like a stand up comedy team than a trio of clergymen, they know they have a serious challenge in making a case for interfaith understanding in a country reeling after 9/11.
Pastor Don Mackenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon and Imam Jamal Rhaman maintain they became close not by avoiding or glossing over their conflicts, but by running straight at them. They put everything on the table: the verses they found offensive in one another’s holy books, anti-Semitism, violence in the name of religion, claims by each faith to have the exclusive hold on truth, and Israel.
What distinguishes the “amigos,” who live in Seattle but make presentations around the country, is a unique approach to what they call “the spirituality of interfaith relations.”
Mackenzie, 65, is a minister in the United Church of Christ, recently retired from leading a large congregation in Seattle.
Falcon, 67, is a Reform rabbi with a doctorate in clinical psychology who founded synagogues in Los Angeles and Seattle that meld meditation with Jewish tradition.
Rahman, 59, is a Sufi, focused more on spiritual wisdom than strict ritual. He co-founded a mixed-faith congregation in Seattle.
The minister and the rabbi met in a Christian-Jewish dialogue group, and the rabbi and the sheik met later when they were both on the board of a fledgling university. After Sept. 11, Falcon reached out to Rahman. They conducted several workshops, and for the first anniversary of the attacks, Falcon invited Mackenzie to get involved, and they began to meet weekly for spiritual direction, combining mutual support with theological reflection. In 2009, they wrote a book, Getting to the Heart of Interfaith and more recently, What We Found at the Heart of Interfaith .
The Interfaith Amigos will speak Nov. 3 at 7:30 p.m. as part of a local interfaith symposium organized as part of the Shuswap Inclusion Project and supported by community faith groups, Salmon Arm Savings and Credit Union, the Van Dusen Fund, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Embrace BC. The Amigos will conduct a workshop on interfaith free dialogue at 12:45 p.m. on Nov. 4 at First United Church in Salmon Arm. It is open to believers of all faiths and non-believers alike.