Interfaith Encounters Day 3

March 19th, 2013

The morning was wet and cold! So our first project was postponed until Thursday. But we took advantage of our free time together by engaging in a case study activity about the Wren Chapel controversy at the College of William and Mary.

Students discussed what they would do if they were president of the college. They also creatively displayed possible solutions to the controversy via “snapshots” that they acted out.

Soon after, we were joined by Bryan Miller, director of Heeding God’s Call. Heeding is a faith-based movement to prevent gun violence, uniting people in a sacred responsibility to protect. They embrace Dr. Martin Luther King’s hope for peace and safety;resist apathy to the epidemic of violence; and unite to bring God’s vision of a peaceable kingdom.

After an orientation with Bryan, the students split up into two groups to learn about and engage in advocacy on the streets of Philadelphia. The groups held signs and started conversations in front of Delia’s Gun Shop on Torresdale Ave. and Mike & Kate’s Sports Shopp on Oxford Ave.


Part of the focus of their week is to learn about interfaith advocacy groups in Philadelphia–experiencing the work that people of all faiths [or no faith affiliation] are doing together to better their communities and promote peaceful change.
Though picketing was out of the comfort zone of some students, the group as a whole did an excellent job of being open and participating in the protest. Some students even had a long conversation with one of the gun shop owners.

After loading up the bus again, the group encountered another faith community: the Won Buddhist Temple of Philadelphia.


Won Buddhism is considered a reformed Buddhism in that it embraces the original Buddha’s teachings and makes it relevant and suitable to contemporary society. It revitalizes and modernizes Buddhism, so that an ever increasing number of people can use Buddha’s teaching for practical and useful purposes.
The name Won Buddhism (Won-bul-kyo in Korean) is a compound word meaning the universal truth, enlightenment, and teaching. Won means unitary circle, which symbolizes the ultimate truth; Bul means enlighten to the Truth; and Kyo means to teach the Truth. Won Buddhism is a religion that teaches the ultimate Truth so that people can awaken to this Truth and carry it out in their daily life.

The members of the Won Buddhist community embrace and accept those of other faiths and have made a lot of effort in inter-religious dialogue to create the UR (United Religion) to build peace on earth.

Once inside the temple, we were greeted by members of their community and Rev. Sungsim Lee. Strikingly, Won Buddhist temples do not have a statue of the Buddha inside the prayer space. Instead, they have, at the center of the temple, the Il-Won-Sang, a circular symbol representing the origin of all beings in the universe, the truth that all buddhas and sages enlighten to, and the original nature of all living beings.


The community was very welcoming to us. We participated in chanting and then silent meditation.


Afterwards, as is their custom, we shared some light refreshments, tea, and wonderful conversation. Rev. Lee gifted us with dharmas on decorated bookmarks to take home as keepsakes.

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Josh grew up in the Midwest before completing a B.A. in Theatre at Northwestern College [IA] and a Masters of Divinity [M.Div.] at Princeton Theological Seminary [NJ]. An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ [UCC], Josh has lived and worked in the Midwest, East Coast, Hawai’i, and Mexico. He is the co-founder and Executive Director of The Welcome Project PA, host of the Bucks-Mont PRIDE Festival, and he is Pastor of Love In Action UCC, an open and affirming congregation featured in a Vox Media episode of Divided States of Women with Liz Plank and in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Josh has 20+ years of nonprofit experience, including leading workshops and training in corporate, medical, and academic settings, focused on diversity & inclusion, grant writing, fund raising, and program management. Josh is a fellow of Interfaith Philadelphia, and designs and coordinates HS and University student groups for interfaith immersion service-learning weeks. Josh also co-facilitates Ally trainings for LGBTQIA+ inclusion and interfaith cooperation. He is a founding member of The Society for Faith & Justice, and a Collaborator for Nurturing Justice, and a member of the Driving PA Forward team via New Sanctuary Movement. He also performs regularly with the dinner theatre company, Without a Cue Productions, and has developed theatre arts curriculum for use in religious and secular settings. Josh also enjoys running, singing, traveling, learning languages, or making strange and funny faces. He lives in Center City Philly.

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