By Janis Fontaine
Most people, at one time or another, ponder the big questions: Why am I here? What’s my purpose? Is there one God, many gods or no god at all? What happens when I die? Is there a heaven? Are there dogs there?
Even people who are deeply committed to their faith have questions and, sometimes, doubts.
Faith almost demands you have doubts in its very definition: belief in the absence of proof.
For many, these ruminations take place in our heads.
But a group of deep thinkers has a safe place to discuss hard questions. It’s called the Interfaith Café and it’s a free program offered by the Interfaith Coalition. All are welcome.
The Interfaith Café meets monthly at the South County Civic Center on Jog Road —neutral ground.
“We used to meet at a different church every week, but the Civic Center seemed to work better,” Jane Faysash said. She is one of the original members and she represents the Buddhist faith.
Linda Prior, who finds speakers and organizes the programs each month, is a Christian. Other members represent the Mormon, Jewish, Catholic, Muslim and Baha’i faiths. Some call themselves spiritual, some agnostic and others label themselves as atheist.
But in the café, those labels melt away to reveal our common humanity: love, pain, forgiveness, shame, gratitude. Topics are more philosophical than theological, and meetings are civil and respectful.
Most meetings attract between 30 and 50 people with open minds, which keeps discussions from dissolving into arguments.
People with literalist views or rigid thoughts will not enjoy the café.
“We connect on a deep personal level,” Faysash said. “We can be open here.”
Prior, whose home church is First Presbyterian in Delray Beach, cares deeply about people who have no attachment to a church or a religion or even a belief system. She has seen the discussions at the café change people.
She knows that the universal desire to congregate comes from our longing for community, connectedness, to be a part of something greater, to belong somewhere.
Feeling isolated and alone and excluded is a touchstone for disaster.
Musician Cecilia St. King will speak and perform at the Jan. 17 meeting. She knows a little bit about disasters.
She was in New York City during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Instead of leaving town, she stayed and performed for the firefighters, construction workers and search and rescue personnel. She wanted to lift them up, and she would do it again.
But it came with a steep price: throat cancer, possibly from breathing the poisonous air around the site.
St. King will perform on guitar her signature blend of American roots music, rock, blues, folk and spirituals (and a grain of jazz) to express the Tao’s ageless wisdom teachings in song.
She has traveled the world as a performer, but she settled down in Delray Beach recently.
She has been quick to lend her support where needed. She performed and counseled children after the Parkland mass shootings and raised $15,000 for students to go to the March on Washington. She sang at a vigil for gun control in Delray Beach and performed at the “Together We Remember” vigil for Holocaust remembrance in Boca Raton.
The Interfaith Café takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. Jan. 17 at the South County Civic Center, 16700 Jog Road, Delray Beach. The meeting is free.
For the February meeting, the topic will be “courageous conversations,” with tips on how to tell someone that you find their jokes, insults, ethnic stereotypes and disparaging comments about religion inappropriate and hurtful. Allan Barsky, who has a Ph.D. in social work, will speak.
For more info, visit meetup.com/Interfaith-Cafe.
Janis Fontaine writes about people of faith, their congregations, causes and community events. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.