Who We Are
Indianapolis Interfaith Conversation Network: Director, Adam Hayden
Indianapolis Interfaith Conversation Network: Community-building focused on relationship and peace through dialogue: A network of small-group conversation where friends confront their faith for individual learning and growth to benefit the community.
Sharing My Story
My dad’s a pastor. I’m right out there with that: I’m a PK. In fact one could call me a PGK, too, that is, a “preacher’s grandkid,” because dad’s dad was also in the ministry. Let’s not stop there: I have two uncles on that side of the family and guess what they do? Oh yeah. Men of the cloth, all of them.
Fortunately, at least in my eyes, they were each ordained in the United Church of Christ, UCC, and except for granddad who passed away a decade+ ago, all are active in the UCC today. I say fortunately because the UCC is a progressive denomination—you will soon see why this is important to me: An open and affirming denomination, the UCC supports the LGBT community, and furthermore, the denomination advocates for women in ministry, takes on social justice issues, and most importantly grounds itself in a non-creedal theology that claims God is still speaking. That is, our relationship with the Divine is always changing, evolving, growing, and transforming. These values are consistent with my own.
There is more to the story, however.
In my late teens our family became aware of a connection we have to Judaism. As an 18 year old skater punk from a grounded, intellectual upbringing I found myself too rule-following for the rockers, too oddly dressed for the in-crowd, and lacking athletic prowess for the jocks; thus, I was in search of community. Judaism opened a door into a new world of foreign custom, mysterious ritual, but above all, a blood-line connection I thought sure to affirm my place in this community.
Of course. Lineage or not, it’s hard to feel at home in new communities. Ask any army kid who changed schools every year.
My search for community was not fulfilled, but my desire to explore the theology of Judaism was a newly ignited passion. I spent the first half of my 20’s reading everything from those 12th century Spanish guys, Rambam and Ramban, through Heschel, Lerner, Telushkin, and Diamant.
I can talk a lot about theology—and I do, just ask my wife, she’ll be more than happy to let you know. What’s interesting, though, is that up until a couple years ago I really didn’t find my place in community. Like the rule-following punk rocker of my youth, I didn’t relate to the worship format and tenants of mainline Christianity, yet I didn’t know the Jewish customs well enough to fit in at shul.
Last year I started facilitating small group discussion really for no other reason than to build my own community—I was getting a little lonely. Many of the friends who started with me then are still with us today, but guess what? We’ve grown! Friends started inviting their friends to our group, and before you knew it, we had 30-some people on our Facebook group page.
This is my ministry. This is my tikkun olam.
Why This Is Important
As I write for this blog America is actively engaged in four known combat operations: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Yemen. The Arab Spring is toppling dictators throughout the Mid East. The right-wing Israeli government continues to occupy Palestinian land. In America security fences trace the Mexico-American border. Our serving President continues to fall under criticism from the fringe groups, saying he’s not American by birth, and his religious outlook is questioned.
In response there is an interfaith groundswell in both our global and local communities. Earth House and Locerkbie Central, Interfaith Hunger Initiative, and the Interchurch Center are actively working for peace in our community. The Indianapolis Interfaith Conversation Network is my response, and the response of those in the group, who, when faced with the dogmatic status quo, say:
There can be peace. There can be understanding. We will grow and benefit as individuals and as community from tearing down barriers both physical and imagined, and it starts here. With you and me. One conversation at a time.