1 week 1 city 2 films, 2 keynote presentations 4 shared meals 7 panel discussions/workshops Over 15 faith leaders engaged in dialogue 43 events listed on this year’s calendar
hundreds of attendees and participants and thousands of people made aware of this important event happening right here in our city.
On September 13-20, 2015, the community of St. Petersburg, FL celebrated many things — religious tolerance and respect, peaceful activism, deep listening, open communication, leading by example, the building of bridges between people and communities, the healing of deep-seated wounds and historical divides, the planting of new seeds for the future.
In short, the week was an inspiring whirlwind of collaboration and connection that usually happens at conferences and symposiums in towns other than our own. This time, it happened in our own backyard.
Thank you to everyone who participated in Interfaith Week on any and every level. It was truly an honor to be a part of such thought-provoking and mind- and heart-opening activity and dialogue. New friends were made, and we look forward to seeing what grows from the many seeds that were planted.
Here are just a few of the people involved with the planning and production of the various workshops, panel and book discussions, performances, films and keynote presentations that made up this year’s second annual Interfaith Week event.
Imam Abdul Karim Ali, Imam Abdul Q. Aziz, Aiyana Baida, Lisa Brekke, Beverly Banov Brown, Rev. Dr. Lori Cardona, Vandana Dillon, Rev. Jack Donovan, David Enfield, Sepideh Eskandari, Lauren Haddad Friedman, Mayor Rick Kriseman, Erica Leggatt, Bishop Preston Leonard, Cynthia Lukas, Jan Magray, Dr. Kerry McCord, Rev. Doug McMahon, Rev. Russell Meyer, Susan Meyers, Janell Miller-Evans, Eric Rainbeau, Denise Rispoli, Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, Rev. Libby Shannon, Katherine Taylor Robinson, Ruth Broyde Sharone, Ashley Sweet, Dr. Frank Tedesco, Rev. Dr. Grace Telesco, Sarah Trinler, Rev. Shinkyo Will Warner, Denise Whitfield, Robin Whitlock, Martha Williams
Thanks also to this years sponsors and promotional partners: St. Petersburg Interfaith Association, Suncoast Institute of Noetic Sciences, The Bridge and The Connection Partners.
If you’re interested in helping out next year, or getting more involved with interfaith activities in your area, please contact me. We’re always searching for warriors willing to wage peace and build a brighter future.
Joran Slane Oppelt
Founder and Committee Chair, Interfaith Week St. Pete
Watch the mayoral proclamation of St. Pete Interfaith Week.
Each month, we dedicate a section of our circle to intentionally working together to create a “well” of love and healing for our members to tap into any time they need. The idea behind the “Offering of the Stones” ritual is a synthesis of an improvisational Neopagan “reclaiming” ritual, the candle-lighting ritual of “Joys and Concerns” from Unitarian Universalism and traditions as far-reaching as Catholic Taize prayer service and the Quaker “spirit of the meeting.” When we need prayer, meditation or spiritual support, these stones provide a “well” of intentions — a place to hold our stories and our suffering as well as our gratitude, love and healing; a place that may be returned to in our hearts and minds between circles anytime we need. The stones symbolize our connection with each other and the Earth. We offer stones to the collection so we may have a physical representation of the prayerful energy that we support one another with. We encourage everyone to share openly using “I” language, and in order to ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in the circle, we ask that what is shared come from the heart as we speak about our own experience, and we listen without comment to what others share.
We ask participants who have shared at previous services to go first, setting an example for the newcomers.
When a person is finished speaking, they end their share with the word dibarti — a Hebrew word meaning, “I am complete” or “I have spoken.”
The group then responds in unison with the word shamati, meaning “you have been heard” or “we welcome your story.”
The next person shares spontaneously, in no particular order. Those who brought stones have the opportunity to share first. Participants sit and hold their stone (talking stick method) while they are speaking and then step into the circle to offer it to the “well.” To protect the space created within our sacred circle, please keep in mind the following guidelines while you are sharing:
Use “I” language
Avoid using “You” or “We” statements that reference specific individuals in the group or the community in general. Speak about your own experience or how something makes you feel.
This is not a time to teach or preach. It is a time to connect with your own body and mind and speak openly about how you are feeling. If a participant gets too caught up in storytelling, they are moving away from their own bodily awareness, and may need a prompt from the facilitator to return.
Crosstalk refers to people speaking out of turn, interrupting someone while they are speaking or giving direct and unsolicited advice.
Offer a specific intention
Ask for direct prayers through a difficult time.
Celebrate an event or obstacle you’ve overcome.
Speak from the heart. This intention is a contract for you and Spirit-in-Action!
Be mindful of time
Try to limit the share to less than 2 minutes, especially for large groups, to give everyone an opportunity to share.
The “Offering of the Stones” is not a space for dialogue, response or debate.
When a person is offering their stone, it is their turn to speak
If a previous member’s share inspires you to speak, share how you feel personally, and avoid singling them out by name or referencing their story.
If a member wants to discuss what someone else has shared, he/she should approach that person after the service and ask their permission.
The beginnings of the stone collection at the very first service held at Straub Park in 2013.
The collection circa 2015. It now contains stones, shells, crystals, fossils and dinosaur bones from around the world, including Florida, California, New York City, Austin, Albuquerque, the Berlin Wall, France, Spain, Scotland, Belgium, Amsterdam, The Chapel at Chimayo, the cave of St. Francis of Assisi, and the Glastonbury Thorn Tree.
This photo was submitted to Integral Church as a long-distance offering via e-mail.
Stay motivated and accountable to yourself and to others by attending the Resolution Revolution event on Monday, December 15. This event is designed to help you create clarity around your goals and a blueprint for achievement.
Don’t make resolutions this year … make decisions. This powerful event will help you map out your major objectives for the year and provide you with the tools to successfully move forward with the right ATTITUDE and ACTION.
Learn how to:
Set realistic resolutions and keep them.
Get fit using wellness wisdom from around the world.
Prepare yourself for greater financial well-being.
Give your body, mind and spirit the motivation it needs.
Learn from the best in the field:
Dr. Joel Bennett, President of Organizational Wellness & Learning Systems, author of 4 books including Raw Coping Power, and developer of effective wellness programs including “The Wellness Retreat” and “Team Resilience.”
Alina Hall, certified yoga teacher, dancer, marketer and Reiki practitioner, teaches at several Tampa Bay studios and offers a variety of wellness classes and workshops through her company New World Martial Arts and Yoga.
Gary Loper, a recognized Twitter expert, Mindset Coach, motivational speaker, trainer, radio host, life and business coach, and entrepreneur, helping people master the business of life.
Joran Oppelt, author, marketing and media professional as well as an interfaith minister with 20 years of community-building and event experience.
Unity Campus • Friendship Hall 460 46th Ave. N., St. Petersburg, FL 33703
5:30 – 6:30 (Networking and Dinner); 6:30 – 9 p.m. (Program)
$15 in advance, $20 at the door
*Dinner included in ticket price (courtesy of Rollin’ Oats)
Limited seating. Get your tickets today!
In 1981, the United Nations General Assembly designated September 21 as International Day of Peace, a day of cease-fire and peace building activities to be celebrated around the world.
33 years later, the St. Petersburg Interfaith Association is keeping the tradition alive, and invites the community to participate in free, fun family activities; interfaith dialogue; and meet with community groups and organizations working for peace.
On Sunday, September 21 from 2-4 p.m. you can bring the entire family to South Straub Park in Downtown St. Petersburg to the UN International Day of Peace and enjoy music, activities and special guests. South Straub Park is located at 198 Bayshore Dr. NE. St. Petersburg, Florida 33701.
It’s a celebration of global peace, harmony and justice.
It’s a concert in the park that is free and open to the public.
It’s a chance to hear local leaders share their vision of peace in St. Petersburg.
Speakers include: Karl Nurse (Councilman for 6th District), Assistant Police Chief Luke Williams, Professor Bill Felice (Eckerd College), Janel Miller-Evans (president St. Pete Interfaith Association) and more.
What: St. Pete Interfaith Association presents UN International Day of Peace When: Sunday, September 21, 2-4 p.m. Where: South Straub Park, 198 Bayshore Dr. NE. St. Petersburg, Florida 33701 More: Free and open to the public. All ages. Parking and restrooms available along Beach Dr. http://un.org/peaceday #peaceday
Thank you to everyone who attended or participated in our panel discussions and opened their campuses and communities up to those seeking to learn more about other faiths and forms of worship.
There were some great conversations, and many new friendships were started, but this is only the beginning.
Hopefully these new relationships and ongoing conversations can create a lasting effect in the greater community, whereby individuals and groups begin to see their own faiths, communities and cultures as part of a pluralistic whole. Something that exists in relationship to others, and depends on those others to give (and reinforce) meaning to their own beliefs.
Below are videos of the mayoral proclamation, the Interfaith Service at Crisp Park and a slideshow of images from the entire week.
Please keep checking back for more interfaith events.
Mayoral proclamation of “Interfaith Week” before St. Petersburg City Council on 7/17/14.
“Faith, Hope, Love” by Ed Woltil
Ed Woltil and Swami Jinendra Kothari were special guests at the Third Sunday Interfaith Service at Crisp Park.
On July 13-20, the City of St. Petersburg will officially recognize “Interfaith Week,” and we would love to see you out and about, visiting new communities, making new friends and learning more about the way our city celebrates the sacred.
Interfaith Week is a chance to see how others practice religion and spirituality in an open, educational setting. During Interfaith Week, individuals and families are encouraged to visit the many churches, temples, mosques, synagogues, meditation centers and spiritual communities in St. Petersburg to gain a better understanding of the people, values, philosophies, practices and cultures that make up our beautiful, historic city.
The week will also include free panel and roundtable discussions at different campuses and venues including such topics as: religious literacy, dialogue and listening, social work and charity, good and evil, definitions and expressions of spirituality, and more.
St. Pete Interfaith Week was inspired by “Other Religions Week,” founded in 2003 by Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, and like similar events (i.e. Louisville’s “Festival of Faiths“) seeks to become an annual happening that promotes a message of compassion and pluralism and holds up our city as an example of a community based on mutual respect, cooperation and collaboration.
If you would like to volunteer to help out at an Interfaith Week event, please contact us. If you would like your spiritual community to participate, there are a few different ways we can work together, and all of them are listed below.
We can list any events you already have happening that week, from your normal worship, prayer or meditation services to evening classes, music/dance performances or talks.
2. Participate in a discussion
We’re looking for people from all walks of life (academia, community service, faith-based organizations) to participate in this important and valuable conversation. If you (or a representative of your organization) would like to participate in a public discussion about interfaith relations on the topics listed above, let us know.
3. Host an event / Organize a panel
If you would like to host or organize an event, performance or interfaith panel discussion, we would be happy to feature this event on the website and help you promote it.
We’re very much looking forward to the beginning of what will surely be an annual event that showcases the rich fabric and diversity of our community and that continues to grow year after year.
Alchemy Fest is St. Petersburg’s 9th annual family-friendly event featuring live music, interactive arts and crafts, food, an organic vendor marketplace, kids games and activities, dance performances, yoga, meditation, massage, workshops, magic and more! Bring the whole family and enjoy a beautiful day packed with music, art, education and fun!
Entertainment confirmed so far includes Hymn For Her, Good Graeff, Red Feather, Rebekah Pulley and Luxury Mane, plus the Noisemakers All Stars, Revolutions Dance, playshops by Rising Light, live art by Jerry Cahill and an opening ceremony featuring Jennifer Real.
There will be seven “Transformation Stations” set up throughout the event. To be entered to win the grand prize, containing donations from our sponsors and vendors, attendees must visit all stations and submit their completed “Green Cards” before the end of the day!
What: Alchemy Fest 9 When: Saturday, April 26; Noon – 6 p.m. Where: First Unity Campus, 460 46th Ave. N., St. Petersburg, 33703 Who: Live music by Hymn For Her, Good Graeff, RedFeather, Luxury Mane and Rebekah Pulley, plus the Noisemakers All Stars, Revolutions Dance, playshops by Rising Light, live art by Jerry Cahill and an opening ceremony featuring Jennifer Real. Tickets: $10 in advance at enlivenwellnessworks.com, $12 at the door, Kids 10 and under Free; Parking available on 46th Ave. N., all ages, plenty of parking and restrooms, stroller and wheelchair-friendly
This year, our 8th annual Alchemy Fest event was held at First Unity Spiritual Campus in St. Petersburg and as expected, this year’s event was the biggest and best so far, doubling past records at well over 4oo attendees.
This year’s event committee – Lorrie McMurrian, Jennifer Oppelt, Christa Leonard, Jessica Respondek, and Shanna Gillette – did an amazing job pulling together a much more ambitious event than we’ve done in years past – including live music, dance performances, workshops, a vendor marketplace, and 7 interactive “Transformation Stations” which included everything from guided meditation and chair massage to hula hooping and face painting.
We’re also very grateful to our huge crew of volunteers (Jake Respondek, Dan McMurrian, Tanya Sharkey, Lil Reisman, Sarah Davis, Charlie Forsyth, Ashley Butler, Chelsea Greene, Trina Hill, Dwayne Scheuneman, Joel Conrad, Catherine St. John and Gina Smith), as well as the amazing staff at First Unity (Denise, Neil, and Sharon).
Shanna captured some amazing photographs of the festivities as well as performances by RedFeather, Geri X, Sons of Hippies, The Gita and Rise of Saturn. Check out the gallery below.
If you were there and have stories and/or feedback from the event, please share it in the comments section. I can’t express how thankful I am to everyone that has helped grow this event into such an amazing and meaningful annual gathering for our community. Every one of you have my sincere thanks and profound gratitude.
President, Integral Church
Video of the Opening Ceremony, featuring Joe Terrana and Raihan Alam
ou know that moment when the sand at the bottom of the hourglass starts to cave in toward the center? And it seems like suddenly the grains start to quicken, to pick up speed. But it’s an illusion, right? They don’t really move any faster, do they? Time doesn’t speed up if we have less of it. Or does it?
2012, The Year of the Dragon (my birth sign) is coming to a close and I was told to expect both profound “promise and demise.” Looking back on this year, I suppose both of those things are true. On one hand, I wasted most of the year — beating around the bush, hesitating out of fear, trying on old habits, instead of taking a deep breath and stepping onto the end of the diving board. And on the other hand, I also took my time and I meditated. I’ve finally come to a decision, deliberately and purposefully, about what my next steps should be. Something in me has been building steam for quite a while, and it’s high time that I tell everyone what I’ve been up to. Not just to share the news with you — my friends and family — but in hopes that by giving voice to my intentions, by articulating my plan, I will help to further realize it in my own heart and mind.
I am forming a non-profit, religious organization called the Integral Church. Something that is, in the eyes of the Internal Revenue Service, a brand new religious denomination. Something that until very recently, hasn’t existed.
Religion means so many things to different people, that for our purposes here, we should make an attempt to define it. “Religion,” in my opinion, is not just dogma, doctrine or creed — which all refer specifically to passages of scripture, koans, mythology, mantras, law, ethics, etc. These are parts of religion, yes. But they are not the whole story. Religion, to me, relates to the way an individual understands their own consciousness, it is the method in which they are self-aware, and it is the way that person struggles with or attempts to answer life’s big questions. The big questions like, “What is my purpose,” “What (or who) is God,” “Where did the universe come from,” “What is the nature of time,” etc. These questions can be tackled by personally investigating the nature of the self and the universe — by doing the experiment and seeing with your own eyes, they can be contemplated and interpreted through mythology and storytelling, or both. But the big question is usually centered in the “I.” How do I relate to the universe/God? What happens when I die? And it’s through the exploration of these questions that a spiritual practice and ways to honor the cosmos or God are consciously developed (or not).
You don’t have to tell me — religion has been a less than perfect solution for a lot of things. But that’s why now, more than ever, we need to build something new. Something that the world has never seen before.
The reason for starting a religious organization, and not simply another community non-profit, is the next logical step in a personal journey that began in the woods of Central Wisconsin as a teenager. That is where I experienced my first epiphany — a vision of the universe as a spinning record, and myself as the needle. I was nudged down this path when asked by a dear friend of mine to officiate my first wedding (I have grown to further appreciate and understand the deep importance of ritual in family life and have since performed my sixth wedding, a memorial service and countless fatherhood rituals). An intellectual seed was planted when I discovered the writings of Arthur Koestler and Ken Wilber, and began to sprout when I realized that their life’s work was a continuation of those who came before them — Sri Aurobindo, William James, Aldous Huxley. When I finally discovered the writings of the modern Catholic reformers — those who had been exiled from the institutionalized religion that they loved for demanding further reform and more inclusive liturgical structures (i.e. Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox, Bishop John Shelby Spong, and Fr. Richard Rohr) — I began to see the forest for the trees. I also saw the path that cut straight through the archaic wilderness to the heart of a post-modern center. I understood that we needed to build something new.
But none of this justifies the foolish act of starting a religion, does it? Starting a religion is a crazy thing to do, right? Especially in Florida. Nobody does that.
Let me be perfectly clear: the reason for this undertaking is not just because we need a new vision of the world, a world where religious tolerance is the rule; where religions are not seen as warring tribes, but as neighboring families that each contain their own spectrums of consciousness — from traditional conservatives to modern progressives. A world where believers and non-believers alike can find a common language and a sense of context. There are too few places where compassionate atheists and humanists can get involved with environmental causes or helping the less fortunate. Our vision of the world includes the creation of — and access to — these types of programs. But, it also includes children being taught mindfulness and modern (peer-to-peer) informational literacy, it includes cities being built (or re-built) around biodiversity, community farming and cooperation. It is a world where everything is a Holon¹ (a whole and a part) and where “spirituality” is understood (and practiced) in very real terms, knowing that there is indeed an energy in me that is identical to the energy in you. In an integral context, that means an individual approach that at once includes meditation/contemplation, exercise/nutrition, sustainability/environmentalism, and community service/civic engagement². In this new world, being open-minded is celebrated, “transcending and including” is the new norm and those who change their mind can more easily imagine a changing world³.
The reason is also not simply because many of us are finding that we have a shared set of beliefs — a belief that God is beyond gender (neither male or female), that human gender roles and sexual behavior do not exist discretely as male or female but as points along a continuum†. A belief that science and philosophy are tantamount in answering life’s big questions. A belief that new gender-balanced mythologies (that have yet to be written) are necessary for our modern age — stories that take into account how we interact with the technology and computer networks that we’ve built to encircle our planet and how we use these networks to communicate with other nations and nationalities around the globe, sometimes on a daily basis. And, finally, a belief that the First Cause that created the universe is simply unknowable and that love may very well be all you need‡.
The reason for starting a religious non-profit — for building a “ministry” — is to spread the message that we change the world by living in it ∞. That our personal unfolding, our continually-expanding consciousness, the ability to take more and more perspectives, the primordial drive toward increasing biological complexity, is directly related to the evolution of the entire cosmos. We — our interiors and exteriors — are all part of that whole. It is one action. In fact, it is Spirit-in-Action. Continue reading
Join us on Saturday, November 17 from Noon – 2 p.m. for a discussion on home juicing, cleansing, and what the heck it all means. See a live demonstration of real, raw food being juiced and taste the delicious results. A Q&A session will follow with some socializing, snacks and refreshments.
Juicing 101 [Workshop] Saturday, November 17
Noon – 2 p.m.
First Unity Campus – Friendship Hall
460 46th Avenue North, St. Petersburg, FL 33703; (727) 527-2222
$10 in advance; $15 suggested love offering at the door