|April 3, 2017 • VOL. 55, NO. 7 • Oakland, CA|
Women of six different faiths gather in Brentwood
Women from six different religions will share how their faith has made an impact in their lives at the Interfaith Women's Panel on April 22 in Brentwood.
Both of the women had sons right out of high school, and Olson recalled the Muslim woman said to her, "I love the gift that is this great relationship with God. I wish I could give it to him," but "He has to earn it himself."
Olson said the "heart to heart conversation" showed they have more in common and left Olson wanting more.
She had worked with Sandy Heinisch, a parishioner at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Brentwood, six years ago on the interfaith blood drive, which brought Mormons and Catholics together to help bolster blood banks.
"I learned more about my faith through her," Heinisch said, and she learned about Olson's faith.
Heinisch values the strong family structure exemplified by the Mormons. "We both believe Jesus is God," she said.
Last summer, when Heinisch put on an event at her parish on sex trafficking, Olson brought some of her friends. The event brought together Brentwood police, a Contra Costa County deputy district attorney and advocates for young people who have been victims of sex trafficking.
Then, while attending a wedding at Byron United Methodist Church, Olson met Rev. Christine Shiber. She invited Shiber to join her and Heinisch to explore the possibility of an interfaith women's group in the eastern part of the county.
As they planned an event, Olson said they found "people longed for this sharing."
Heinisch said, "We just invited friends from the neighborhood or parish. … Three, six, 10. … Now we're up to 50."
They began meeting monthly. At the mosque, the people "are so warm and friendly. … They opened their home to us," Heinisch said. "We had 50 people eating a meal that began with a reading from the Koran."
Olson talked about the concept of "holy envy," finding something in another's religion to build your own faith.
Each month the meeting begins with one of its members describing the tenets and practices of the religion.
Some past topics: How has God helped you through your dark hours, and when have you been an instrument in God's hands to touch someone else's life?
"Our answers were so much the same," Olson said.
After the April 22 event, the interfaith group may embark on a service project, and may dedicate some of its time toward protecting religious freedom.
They will stay true to their mission statement: "Strengthening our faith and our community through promoting understanding and friendship among women of diverse faiths."
No doubt the conversation will continue.
"It has become a sisterhood," Heinisch said.
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