Interfaith Council is all about community | Interfaith | Jan. 21

I was raised in Bremerton, went to school at the University of Washington and, apart from the two years my husband and I lived and taught in Japan, I’ve lived most of my life in this area. My family and I moved to Bainbridge Island from Seattle eight years ago.

This is home to me. I really love it here and feel blessed to be able to live in such a beautiful part of the world.

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I’ve served as a delegate to our Bain-bridge Island/North Kitsap Interfaith Council for the past six and a half years. This year I am honored to serve as the council’s president.

I didn’t really know what interfaith work was before I moved to the island. I think in Seattle it’s very easy to live a more isolated life, but here it’s easier to live a more integrated and community-involved life.

One of my first volunteer church jobs when we moved here was as Activities Committee chair. My job was to work with our committee in organizing social activities for our congregation. Part of my responsibilities included representing our congregation at the Interfaith Council.

Within the IFC I found a diverse group of interesting people dedicated to making this community a stronger, healthier, happier, more unified place; a group devoted to sharing the good that we have here with our other brothers and sisters throughout the rest of the world.

Beyond just enjoying being with this great group of people, I experienced over and over again the life lesson of loving others through serving them and with them.

When we commit ourselves to meeting new people, to meeting with people that we might see as different from ourselves, to being open to listening to their ideas and to sharing ideas with each other, and committed to building a trusting relationship, then we will love and care for each other, celebrate together our joys, and stand together in our sorrows.

I am dedicated to interfaith work because it makes me a better person. It opens me to new ideas, new perspectives, and new ways of doing things. Learning about others makes me consider why I think and do what I do. It makes me realize that I need others and they need me. I am dedicated to interfaith work because I truly believe I am a sister to all who live here on Earth.

We have common problems: hunger, illness, homelessness, poverty, alienation, loneliness, despair. These are not problems that exist only in another country, or another state, or another city. I know that by working together to solve these problems I will be doing what I feel my Father in Heaven wants me to do, and my community will have more hope, more innovation, more creativity and more friendship.

Through my congregation’s participation in the Interfaith Council, I have found many more people who whole-heartedly and joyfully participate in our food drives, our school supply drives, our hunger walks, our vigils, our commemorations, our Thanksgiving services and music festivals and Earth Day service projects.

I am grateful for our Interfaith Council, for this opportunity to learn more about each other, to value each other, and to learn that we are more alike than we are different. I invite you to join our work. We are sisters and brothers and we share this one planet and this earthly experience. Let us choose to make it a good one.

Patricia Lahtinen is president of the Interfaith Council of Bainbridge Island/North Kitsap.

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