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Beyond Coexistence builds bridges with volunteer work through interfaith effort
Building Bridges

Beyond Coexistence builds bridges with volunteer work through interfaith effort

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A ubiquitous bumper sticker reads “Coexist,” but a Tulsa pastor says that doesn’t go far enough.

The Rev. Chris Moore of Fellowship Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, has launched an organization, Beyond Coexistence, as part of the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance’s effort to build bridges of understanding between various faith groups.

Moore brought the idea from the Interfaith Alliance in Oklahoma City, where he lived before moving to Tulsa three years ago.

Beyond Coexistence has a simple premise, Moore said: to bring together people from different faith traditions for projects that enable them to work together in order to get to know one another better.

Conversation and discussion develop naturally, he said.

“We have a lot of different programs around town that bring people of different faiths together over dinner, or for a lecture series or a speaker, and I don’t want to disparage any of those,” he said.

“But this is a different angle. There is a lot of good work that needs to be done, and this engages people to actually do something. It gives people the opportunity to engage and to do some good work.”

Young people, he said, are more interested in working on projects than in attending a dinner or a discussion group.

Moore said the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance board adopted the program and held the first introductory work project last fall.

“We got our feet wet working at the Eastern Oklahoma Community Food Bank,” he said.

One challenge is finding a time when various faith groups can work together, he said, noting that Fridays are out for Muslims, Fridays and Saturdays for Jews, and Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings for many Christians.

He said when work crews get together, volunteers are deliberately paired with people from other faith groups.

Aliye Shimi, with the Islamic Society of Tulsa, spent her birthday Monday working on the latest Beyond Coexistence project: renovation of the teachers lounge at Lanier Elementary School.

“I had a wonderful day giving back to the community,” said Shimi, who worked with Moore to develop the organization.

“We don’t want to just coexist, just tolerate each other — we want to go beyond that and truly love our neighbors, as Jesus taught,” Shimi said.

She said the Lanier project will include painting, new cabinetry, an ice maker, cabinets and countertops. Volunteers did the demolition work at the school in June and the painting in July. Cabinets will be installed in August before school starts.

Evan Taylor, a member of East Side Christian Church, which is two blocks from Lanier, said his church adopted Lanier, but the teachers lounge was too big a project for one church, so he got the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance involved. Taylor is on the TIA board.

Shimi said that participants in Beyond Coexistence include Boston Avenue United Methodist Church, Fellowship Congregational Church, University United Methodist Church, The Islamic Society of Tulsa, Temple Israel, B’nai Emunah Congregation, the Jewish Federation of Tulsa and Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry.

The group’s next project has not been determined, Moore said.

Bill Sherman 918-581-8398


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