NYC- There’s Just Your First Time

Adventure, did someone yell “ADVENTURE?” I fell that these days I hear it everywhere! And, apparently 2015, so far Alhumdulillah, can be summed up in that single word. Being the de facto theme for this year. Its my first visit, to New York City, can you imagine that? (Then on to Boston and a camping trip to Acadia National Park. Its a lot to jam into ten days.)

Unlike my unplanned visit to Central America, this one came about because I had been introduced to New York City’s Union Theological Seminarys’ Millennial Leaders Summer Conference (check out the cohort here). Conference participants are gathering in New York City to examine the significance of spirituality to their various forms of social justice activism. For some, activism is an expression of their spirituality, but for me, and like the participants, activism is their spirituality. 

I see this as a means to look at my activism in new ways, to network and build relationships with activists from across the country, and develop strategies to sustain the work I want to engage in over the long term.  In particular I hope to get involved in a space that will allow me to examine the relationship between not just my spiritual tradition and social activism, but also other faith based organizing. 

Being a lay leader in my faith community, I grapple with the fact that I can’t engage in deep theological reflection because I lack the training, but also because I have all these other practical concerns.  I engage with my faith because its what I like to do in my free time. That doesn’t make me fully trained to deal with the heavy activism and religious interpretation. What’s great is that Union Theological Seminary is a world class theological training center that has a long history of progressive religious activism. This is important on many levels to me.

Its what I saw in my experience as a California Democratic party Assembly Delegate. It informed me about the dire need to rebuild the Religious Left as a political force. The Right – Evangelicals, fundamentalist- they don’t have a direct line to God, nor to the religious teachings. To me, the best outcome of this conference is to gain insight into how I can constructively play a role in this effort.

To that end, the MLP is a good fit because it “…aims to help build bridges that support a broad movement to address the many forms of social and economic inequality that divide the world today.” Union faculty, as well, have been playing a prominent role in putting forward a progressive religious voice in the public square–from Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich to James Cone, Serene Jones and Cornel West. They represent a connection to a history of Religious Left work that goes back to the founding of this nation, so to be connected to this reality is important to me for both a sense of legacy and direction toward a future.

What an awesome way to move forward after a month of intense spirituality during Ramadan!

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