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Spring, Renewal, and Humility

We approach the Holy and one another in humility, seeking to appreciate and better understand the other’s faith tradition; thus, we bring our rich spiritual heritage into a wider conversation and learn from other spiritual traditions, and, when together, we worship the Holy and the sacredness of life in mutual respect which encourages human concern for others. - WIN Spiritual Life Team

Dear WIN Community:

As we transition from winter into spring, we naturally think of the beauty of the Holy's beautiful creation and look forward to new growth. Likewise, at WIN, we continue in our growth, together, as we approach our transition and commitment to becoming an interfaith organization with authenticity, ongoing dialogue and an openness to lifelong learning.

In one important conversation as we were working on descriptions of WIN's three teams for our website last week, the word "humility" emerged as an important concept while we collaborated on a description of our Spiritual Life Team. The quote above is the beautiful description developed by the WIN Spiritual Life Team.

As we continue to learn about one another's faiths and faith traditions, WIN is committed to doing so with humility. Humility, indeed, epitomizes growth.

As a social worker, counselor and social justice educator throughout much of my career, we have so often been encouraged to be "culturally competent." Grant-funded programs have required the grantee to demonstrate "cultural competence." More recently, however, there is a movement toward cultural humility.

The difference is that cultural competence implies that by studying another's culture, often from a book, one can become competent and learn enough to be able to work ON people from that culture. The problem with this approach is that it may encourage stereotyping and stifle opportunities for intercultural engagement, relationships, and learning. It may stifle building relationships with people who are different than ourselves and leave us disconnected and stuck in flat, often negative, stereotypes.

Cultural humility is a stance toward understanding culture. It requires a commitment to lifelong learning, continuous self-reflection on one’s own assumptions and practices, comfort with ‘not knowing’, and recognition of the power/privilege imbalance... A cultural humility approach is interactive: we approach another person with openness to learn; we ask questions rather than make assumptions; and we strive to understand rather than to inform.

While the concept of cultural humility is largely growing out of the fields of health and social work, it has great relevance to our work as an interfaith organization. Vivien Chavez (2015) teaches us that cultural humility has three major tenets in its quest for equity and respect:

A commitment to lifelong learning and critical self-reflection and the understanding of how each of us is a complicated, multi-dimensional being with our own histories. A willingness to recognize and mitigate power imbalances between majority and non-majority cultures. Institutional commitment to modeling these principles.

In essence, cultural humility entails letting go of stories we have been told, often stereotypical stories, and approaching others, who are different from us, with humility. Chimamande Adichie's Ted Talk, The Danger of The Single Story, here, is a beautiful story that encourages humility. I often share this video when facilitating students, organizations, and community groups. I hope you enjoy it. Each time I listen to her story, I am touched by her shaking voice at the beginning of the video, knowing that it requires such courage to speak our truths and tell our stories. Adichie's discussion in this Ted Talk in the section in which she discusses immigration is vastly important and currently relevant to our work in WIN.

The Wyoming Interfaith Network continues in our quest to connect and create safe, supportive, equitable communities and spaces for all to courageously share our stories and traditions of faith, overcoming our single stories. Indeed, as we become strengthened in our core as interfaith people, we will continue to be stronger together to authentically and genuinely DO social and environmental justice TOGETHER.

I am ever and increasingly grateful for the opportunities to do this work with you! Such meaningful, important, inspiring work!

With Gratitude and Peace, Susie Markus

Susie Markus, Ph.D. Executive Director

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