In a time when lines drawn between groups of people get darker and more defined, Newtown Congregational Church is making efforts to break barriers and show young people that they have more in common with youth of other faiths than differences.
At the annual Interfaith Youth Meet-Up, about 50 people, mostly teens in grades 5-12, gathered at the Newtown church for a fun night of meeting new people and engaging in activities to both educate and strengthen the community. The gathering included youth and some adults from Newtown Congregation Church, the Al Hedaya Islamic Center, Trinity Episcopal Church, and Congregation Adath Israel.
"I wanted our youth to come to appreciate the diversity that exist in their region," said rev. Kristen Provost Switzer, associate minister at Newtown, "and to realize that they have more in common with these other people in the community than all the things that seem to separate them." Provost Switzer has organized the event for several years.
The youth learned much about each other through activities like the "Mingle Mingle Mingle" Ice Breaker which revealed that many of the youth shared favorite pizza toppings, hobbies, favorite colors, and musical tastes. The event featured a conversation with Amber Hai, and Islamic Chaplaincy student at Hartford Seminary, who spoke about her life growing up in a Muslim family in California and her call to ministry after a brief stint as a pre-med student. Later, the adults left to speak further with a panel which included Hai, David Smith, Director of Religious Education at Congregation Adath Israel and Matt Babcock, Curate at Trinity Episcopal Church,. The youth spent this time rehearsing for a "Jimmy Fallon" style team lip sync battle featuring songs from Beyoncé, Miley Sirus, and Disney's Colors of the Wind.
This event was offered in partnership between the Connecticut Conference and the Newtown Congregational Church.
“I am believe that proximity leads to unity,” said Debby Kirk, CT Conference's Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. “This event was an opportunity to build relationships across a variety of faith traditions. We learned about common interests, shared food and fellowship, and prayed for our communities.”
Other youth groups interested in sponsoring collaborative interfaith youth events should contact Kirk at firstname.lastname@example.org
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