by Rabbi Nancy Kasten
Last week someone asked to meet us at our location. We had to explain that Faith Commons is not a brick and mortar operation. Our location is outside of sanctuaries and religious schools, in places where you need to look, sometimes pretty hard at first, to find God’s presence.
But once you start, you can’t stop. Meeting people where they are. Listening to the story under the story. Asking questions. Being willing to consider new approaches to intractable problems. We are beginning a new year at a time when what was once familiar has become strange, what once felt safe no longer seems that way, and it’s hard to feel hopeful about the state of humanity. But we have an antidote. At Faith Commons the world opens up through connections with people you didn’t know before, and places you never visited before. Comfort and calm enter hearts and souls again.
When George founded Faith Commons, he did not know that a tornado would soon rip North Dallas neighborhoods apart, or that a global pandemic would send us into exile behind walls and screens, or that a winter freeze would isolate food deserts from essential services and supplies. When we planned a “What Makes This Land Holy” trip to Israel/Palestine, we did not know Hamas would brutally attack southern Israel two days before the tour was scheduled to begin, rupturing assumptions and alliances that, until then, had knit families, communities, and nations together.
But the animating spirit of Faith Commons is a conviction that there will always be forces, in the world and in ourselves, that will attempt to separate us from one another. And given that reality, faith calls us to find and reveal the transcendent presence that unites us nonetheless. God’s holiness is constant, even when hidden in people, ideas, and circumstances that are foreign, disturbing, or even gut-wrenching. Our role as human beings in partnership with God is to confirm that presence, and to reflect it as best we can. When grief, fear, and anger threaten to paralyze us, or turn us against each other, faith challenges us to look elsewhere for our next best step. Faith is not a solution to a problem. Faith is a way to make our way forward when we are overcome by the morass of darkness, disappointment, and despair.
At Faith Commons we make our way forward by seeking out our neighbors, both proximate and remote, and developing authentic relationships with them.
- Our Good God podcast lifts up the work that people throughout our community and beyond it are doing to refasten ties that bind neighbor to neighbor.
- Our monthly newsletter, Thoughts from the Commons, features written reflections on current events, along with links to resources that expose readers to other reflections on the same or related events.
- We bring public figures like Valarie Kaur to Dallas to share tools for how to see the other as a part of ourselves we do not yet know.
- We bring together leaders from different sectors of our community who are addressing needs such as better access to healthy and sustainable food, access to the polls, and access to essential health care, so they can do their work more effectively and comprehensively.
Faith Commons offers a perspective that never denies differences, but affirms and insists on interdependence. We see diversity as a manifestation of the divine, rather than an aberration to be controlled or accommodated. And in our work as an organization we encourage others to do the same.
So as this new year begins—a year when global, local, and interpersonal conflict is impacting each and every one of us physically, emotionally and spiritually—we invite you to join us. We may not have the power to directly influence leaders or foot soldiers who are literally blowing up the world and its foundations, but we do have power over our own thoughts and actions. We do have the ability to seek out new and different perspectives, perspectives that might connect us to individuals and groups we did not know before. We do have the power to speak and act in ways that affirm human dignity and protect human life and limb.
Some of us may be asking ourselves (with good reason) “What will become of us in 2024?”
The answer, in a nutshell, is, “It’s up to us.” This year and every year we can be healers and unifiers, true to our faiths and the Source of all faiths.
Faith Commons will continue to provide suggestions and tools for how to do this. We are sharing some of them below. And we welcome you to share with us those you find.
Getting To Know The Concerns Of Your Neighbors:
Meet Immigrants and Unhoused Persons:
Spend Some Time Somewhere You Haven’t Been Before:
Changing The World Begins With Changing Our Minds:
Transforming Minds, Mind & Life Institute
What Does It Actually Cost You To Be Kind?
Compassion vs Empathy:
That Numbness You’re Feeling? There’s a Word for It, The New York Times