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BEGIN group celebrates faith differences

March 8, 2011

Leaders of a diverse mix of local religious communities are striving to learn about each others' faiths while growing stronger in their own.

The Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network, or BEGIN, brings together Christian, Baha'i, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim and Universalist faith leaders with a common goal: understanding.

"We don't need to resolve our differences. It's more important for us to find what we have in common, know where we're different and do something positive with that," said BEGIN convener the Rev. John Horner-Ibler of Cross of Life Lutheran Church.

Arleen Spanier, cantor of the reform Jewish Congregation Emanu-El, said, "The group is all about sharing with each other - ideas, spirituality and information that we can share with our congregations."

That premise echoes the beliefs of Mina Khorshidi, who practices the Baha'i faith.

"We believe that all the world's religions are valid and are in fact progressive stages in the unfoldment of humanity's relationship with God," she said. "That we at BEGIN are able to freely express our beliefs and communicate with each other in a spirit of love, respect and understanding is indeed priceless."

BEGIN brings religious leaders together monthly for lunch and also organizes an annual Thanksgiving service.

"The Interfaith Thanksgiving service held each year is so moving," Spanier said. "It's great to share prayers and music with each other and learn something new."

BEGIN recently held a public symposium on how God is reflected by various traditions in prayer and worship.

"There are tons of similarities. There are also lots of differences," Horner-Ibler said. "Knowing that is important because rather than being judgmental or afraid of the differences, you have a better chance of understanding where they come from."

On the Web

Visit www.youtube.com and search for "BEGIN dialogues" to hear local religious leaders talk about how God is reflected in their tradition's prayer and worship at a symposium hosted by the Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network.

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