Interfaith Encounters Day 5


Our morning began bright and early at Philabundance.

Philabundance was created in 1984 with the simple belief that no man, woman or child should go hungry. Its growth and eventual integration with the Philadelphia Food Bank in 2005 has made Philabundance the region’s largest hunger relief organization. They are now able to address hunger through direct service programs and a network of 500 member agencies, as well as contribute to a broad spectrum of social services through food cupboards, emergency kitchens, shelters, daycare and senior centers and beyond.

Philabundance implements both emergency relief and also long-term strategies to strengthen the hunger safety net. There is no quick fix, but the organization [with the help of donors, organizers, and volunteers] seeks to create innovative programs and support to agencies that make nutritious food accessible to all.

We spent our morning in the freezer! I’m not kidding; it was cold.


We also met up with students and their leaders from both Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia.

virgphil  philabund

In fact, we worked so hard [and so fast] that we became blurry.


Day 5 Part II: Workshop on Advocacy

Once we slowed down and thawed out, we headed back to Haverford College for lunch and then a workshop with Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger.

Julie Zaebst, Policy Center Manager, led us in a workshop about advocacy related to food security.

workshopWed (2)Julie directs the Coalition’s advocacy agenda and works with local state, and federal advocates and government officials on policy initiatives to reduce hunger in the Philadelphia region.

First off, she shared with us various ideas about how advocacy can look in regards to helping those who do not have adequate access to proper nutrition.

Then, Julie asked us to move around the room according to our perspectives about the effectiveness of government policy; lobbying local, state, and federal politicians [i.e. SNAP and other hunger-related policies]; and our attitudes about how we can or cannot make a difference.

It was interesting to see the wide variety of opinions in the room.

We then split up into small groups and tackled some case studies related to advocacy.
For sure, there are no easy answers. At the very least, though, I think each one of us gained some insight into our own perspectives about how to best care for and stand with those who do not have access to food.

This issue affects everyone.

 Day 5 Part III: Samarpan Hindu Encounter

twindeitiesIn the evening, we experienced the wonderful hospitality of the people who are part of  Samarpan Hindu Temple.

We were greeted warmly by Dipak Patel and brought into the temple setting to learn about the practice of Hinduism, the Deities, and the various symbols all around us.

Dipak, two priests, and other members of Samarpan’s community were very generous with their time as they shared their perspectives about Hindu and Jain practice–both historically and today.


The Deities represented at Samarpan are:

  1. Ganesh
  2. Mahavir Swami
  3. Shiv-Parvati
  4. Radha-Krishna
  5. Durga Ma
  6. Ram Darbar
  7. Hanumanji
One of the major misconceptions about Hindus is that they worship many, many gods. In fact, as Dipak shared, Hindus believe in one eternal consciousness. The Deities represent the many, many forms of this Consciousness [referred to by others as God].
After this time of learning, the two priests led us in some singing of songs for worship. The cymbals, drum, bells, conch shell, and voices echoed through the temple. It was joyous and celebratory music.
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Afterwards, we had some more time for Q&A. There were some great questions! Mina Patel also shared about her practice as a Hindu and emphasized that the Vedas [scriptures] promote the equality of men and women.

 Then, we went downstairs where members of Samarpan had prepared some amazing food for us.


IMG_6296 IMG_6300 IMG_6301What amazing hospitality and welcome!


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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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