Fostering mutual understanding and cooperation among faith traditions
BEGIN is a somewhat informal association of lay people and clergy representing a number of faith traditions in the Brookfield-Elm Grove communities. The organization began in 2001, following the events of 9/11. Its stated purpose is to foster mutual understanding and cooperation among faith traditions. Its members include Baha’i, Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, ELCA, Jewish, LDS (Mormon), Methodist, Muslim, Presbyterian, Sikh, UCC, and Unitarian members. We do not have paid staff andwe charge no dues. A convener normally serves for a couple of years before we ask someone new to take over. In recent years, we have also had a secretary who takes notes of our meetings. In addition, we have a Facebook page. If you are on Facebook, you can look for Brookfield-Elm Grove Interfaith Network (BEGIN)
We gather monthly from September through May, usually at noon. Each month we have a topic to discuss. For example, we might talk about our faith perspectives on God or on rites of passage in our traditions. Occasionally we tackle more difficult subjects, such as faith perspectives on LGBTQ. For this conversation, we set guidelines for respectful listening, as we had widely divergent views. We occasionally have invited speakers, notably staff of the Elmbrook School District, city leaders, and local hospital staff. We use these opportunities to share ideas about how we can support one another.
The week before Thanksgiving, we have an interfaith service that moves around from year to year among our communities. We have also teamed with the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee to host events of common interest. A recent and very successful cooperative venture took a look at the “hard questions” about the Muslim faith. This event included spokesperson from the Muslim, Jewish, Christian and other faith traditions.
BEGIN members were also vocal in their support of the Muslim community when it sought to build a mosque in Brookfield. We have held a number of events at the mosque since its completion, including last year’s Thanksgiving service. The year before, our Thanksgiving service was at the Sikh temple in Brookfield. This annual event gives us an opportunity for cooperative worship and to experience the traditions of each other’s faith community. When the service was at the mosque, those who wished to do so were invited to attend prayer time with the community. When we met at the Sikh temple, we were treated to a full meal after the service, a tradition of hospitality within that community.
Over the 15 years of its existence, BEGIN has been a strong force for good in our community, fostering mutual respect, cooperation and love among its members. We encourage you to explore the possibilities of such an organization in your own community.