The kids are alright

Where are the young people? That’s the question we’ve been asking at the Center for Interfaith Cooperation recently. In its first five years, the Center has done a great job building relationships with established religious, community, and business leaders in central Indiana. With that accomplished, the next goal is much more difficult. We need to get the people of my generation interested and involved in the work we’re doing.

One of the things I’ve noticed about millenials is that by and large they’re more likely than any other generation to identify as spiritual but not religious. In fact many are wary of, if not hostile towards, organized religion. So how do we reach them to get them involved in interfaith work? One method that has been working for the Center already is service. The Center runs the Immigrant and Refugee Service Corps, which brings AmeriCorps volunteers to serve vulnerable populations in our community, much of which is done by faith groups.

People of my generation have an acute sense of what is wrong in the world and a desire to fix it. We can see that it isn’t right for anyone to go hungry, to live without a home, to die because they can’t afford insulin. What I think many young people don’t realize is that there are many religious groups who want to solve those same problems, and they could accomplish so much more by bringing their energy together with the resources that established religious groups can offer.

Tonight we’re screening a film at Butler University. Most of the audience will probably be students there to get extra credit. I did that plenty when I was in school. Hopefully we can show them what we’re about and get them interested in interfaith work, as long as we have a captive audience.

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Dis-Orientation

We are now three days into our week-long orientation, and to be totally honest, I wish I was back home. Not home in Alabama, or home in Ohio, but Indiana, my Indiana. I haven’t even moved into my house yet, and I already consider Indy my home. Outside of places I’ve actually lived, Indianapolis is the city I’ve spent the most time in over the years. I feel like I know the city, and I know the people. I feel anchored there, in a way I really don’t feel here at orientation. I know that what we’re doing here is important, and I know that we’re building community that helps sustain us. But I’m ready to get started. I want to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

We’re headed into the city tomorrow. We’re supposed to learn something from this experience, though I’m not sure what. It seems like all the groups are headed to gentrified or gentrifying neighborhoods. The East Village is our designated spot, and I will admit I’m somewhat excited to maybe catch a glimpse of punk rock history.

We have to be here for such a long time, and our days are so long. I know it’s preparation for our YAV year, but it strikes me as a little more intense than is necessary. Maybe my attitude will change once I get off this campus and into the city. Further updates to come!

Edit: We came back from the city, and I came back with some things to think on. The others in my group all said they felt like they were intruding on a space that didn’t belong to them, when we were walking through primarily non-white neighborhoods and parks. Maybe it’s male privilege, but I’ve never felt like I was unwelcome to exist in a public space. I understand that there are certain places that aren’t for me, but I never considered that those would include city streets and public parks. I certainly don’t feel like those are spaces that belong to me, but I don’t feel guilty about existing in them.

And when we came back to debrief, two of the groups came in bashing Riverside Church. Now Riverside may be affluent, but they’re definitely on the side of the good guys. Riverside has been at the forefront of every major social justice campaign of the past 80 years. They’ve given their platform to Dr. King, Cesar Chavez, Nelson Mandela, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Every social initiative that a church can be involved in, Riverside is there. If you’re looking for enemies, there are plenty of real ones. You don’t have to invent one out of Riverside.