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Prevention vs. Intervention: 2017 Table of Faiths Report by Ed Chasteen

Prevention vs. Intervention
2017 Table of Faiths
5-10-17 by Ed Chasteen

Some 400 of us gathered for Tables of Faith recently, with twenty nearby faith communities represented. Long tables set up by each faith community lined the back wall and both side walls of the giant room. Each table was adorned with information about that faith and peopled by persons of that faith to talk with those who come by, as we all do when first we come into the room. In alphabetical order, these are the 20 faiths: Alliance of Divine Love, American Indian Spirituality, Baha'i, Buddhism, Christian Catholic, Christian Orthodox, Christian Protestant, Christian Science, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikh, Sikh-Darma, Unification Church, Unitarian Universalist, Unity, Vedanta.

Round tables for eight filled the room, and as the program began we find the table of our choice and take our seat. Rev. Kelly Isola calls us to order with prayer and leads us in reciting in unison the words with which the Greater Kansas City Interfaith Council begins all its meetings. Then comes the food to each of our tables: a green salad, vegetable lasagna, a plate of cookies, food acceptable to all faiths. And water to drink. And while we dine, we talk to one another.

The Dialogue Institute was the recipient of The Table of Faiths Award; Dr. Sofia Khan received the Steve Jeffers Award.
The theme for the evening was,  "Faith Food and Our Future Together." And the program was named Community Table. After first describing the recent rise in popularity of community tables in restaurants, long tables for as many as ten folks who are strangers to one another to sit together and eat and perhaps strike up a conversation, such a table was spotlighted on stage. Two people come separately to the table. Then another comes. Then another. Then two. All six are unknown to one another. All are drawn to speak by something another says. And the table earns its name.

Table of Faiths drew to a close as Kelly Isola lead us in a unison recitation of the words always spoken at the end of each GKCIC meeting. Clusters of folks stood around to talk for long minutes after.
This gathering of a few hundred does not merit the lead on the nightly news and may not earn even a mention in the morning paper. Such is the lot of those people and those organizations in which prevention is the goal. Who will ever know what tensions between faiths were prevented by this gathering, and ones like it over the years, here, and in other places? Who, then, is there to persuade the skeptical that such a night as this is vital in our common quest?
Perhaps we are always destined to focus on intervention, able to engage only after a thing has become a problem, unable to see what might have been done earlier to prevent the occurrence of the problem. So a reading of history seems to make clear. The sound of the siren rushing to the scene of the crash may always drown out quieter voices praising simple gifts, calling us to turn round right, into the valley of peace and delight.

If that is to be our lot as humans on this earth, let us not go quietly into this good night. Let us rage against the dying of the light. And let our rage be expressed almost in secret by our unyielding commitment to continue coming together for Table of Faiths and then basking in the friendships we have found here in this place. Then back to our individual faith communities we go, and, having made friends with folks from other faiths, thereby enlarging and deepening our faith, we are made more valuable to those with whom we worship.

Having read this thus far, you hopefully understand why HateBusters bought 50 tickets and invited folks from my church and my college to come to Table of Faiths. I seek to prevent the hate that seems so easily to spring to life from ever doing so. Coming together for three hours once a year for Table of Faiths may seem too little too late. So to the unaided eye does the earth appear flat. But to those of us who believe there is more to life than this world dreams of, this moment in time we share together is precious beyond measure and bestows on each of us as persons and on all of us assembled a richness, not in any other way attainable.

HateBusters issued a blanket invitation to all members and friends of Second Baptist Church and William Jewell College, both in Liberty. Then by name, I invited 95 folks to come as HateBusters guests. Sixty-four came. Others wanted to come but had other obligations. They were here in spirit. I told them so. All get this story.