Eight years have passed since Susannah Porr organized the first Interfaith Journey event in Victoria.

May 18, months after approaching the Victoria Communities of Faith interfaith group for approval and support, Porr helped launch a second Interfaith Journey aimed at uniting the community under the banners of three faith groups: Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

“In today’s climate, especially, it’s a good time to remind ourselves that we’re all more alike than we are different,” Porr said, mentioning how pleased she was with Saturday’s turnout of 73 people. “Everyone came with an open mind and heart, and everyone felt the hope and encouragement in the room.”

Beginning at 1 p.m. at Temple B’nai Israel, the Interfaith Journey gathered guests in the main hall where they listened to an academic lecture on Judaism and its distinctions from the other Abrahamic faiths, followed by 15 minutes of questions from the audience.

“When people got there, they were hurriedly bringing out more chairs because so many people were there,” said attendee and Communities of Faith member Paul Morrison. “The rabbi said the most important day in the Jewish calendar is the day after Yom Kippur, because your sins are forgiven and now, what are you going to do about it? I loved that because it reminded me it’s what you do when you walk out of church that leaves an impact.”

Following the presentation at the Jewish temple, the journey continued at the Victoria Islamic Center, where another presentation was delivered by member Heidi Ajrami about being Muslim in America today.

Imam Osama Hassan said he was delighted to welcome the community, especially during the holy month of Ramadan, and said he, too, visited each of the three locations on the event itinerary.

“We had a lot of people ask questions, and I think Sister Heidi made everyone feel comfortable to ask the (hard) questions,” Hassan said.

Hassan said he enjoyed the talk at the Jewish temple and the historic African-American church, Mt. Nebo Baptist – which was third on the itinerary – where he learned church service could incorporate humor.

“I got to learn different techniques. In the mosque, it’s a serious place, and one of the things I saw at Mt. Nebo was it’s OK to laugh,” he said.

The last stop on the journey included a presentation by the Rev. Fred Hobbs, who spoke on the Gospel and uniqueness of his church.

“I think what was brought out in all the presenters was what we hold in common is more important than our differences, and if we keep that attitude, we won’t be party to attacking other groups,” Morrison said. “That can’t be allowed to be a part of the civic discourse.”

Following the event, Porr said she has been inundated with requests for an annual Interfaith Journey, with each one featuring new locations and faith groups to represent.

Porr said for the event to be successful, attendees must leave tasked with a purpose to maintain an open mind and search for new ways to connect with one another, regardless of faith background.

“I loved how quickly houses of worship jumped on board, and they each came to this with an open heart,” Porr said. “The truth is we need to be doing and thinking this on a daily basis for it to be effective. We can’t wait for once a year.”

Jennifer Preyss-Mathlouthi writes about religion and faith for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at jenniferpreyss.com, or on Twitter @jenniferpreyss.

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Jennifer Preyss-Mathlouthi is an award-winning faith writer and columnist.

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