February 17, 2005

AFID : Going Green.

At the beginning of last year, my boyfriend and I started a new club on our college campus called AFID, which stands for: The Agenda-less Forum for Interspiritual Dialogue. The idea was to provide an opportunity for students to come together to talk about religion, even if they didn't belong to a particular religious community. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Newman Association, Hillel--were all well and good for people of traditional faiths, but no organization provided a forum for these groups to enter into discussion together, let alone one which incorporated people who beyond their respective scopes. And so, AFID was born.

Tonight was our first meeting of the spring semester. Despite somewhat low turn-out, the meeting went surprisingly well! Much thanks to Cam, who made the suggestion that we introduce ourselves by way of explaining the religious/spiritual traditions in which we were raised, and how they had affected our personal choices as adults. The question proved exceptionally fruitful, leading to more than a few long digressions about the Catholic school system, Jewish holidays, Buddhist concepts of clergy and community, the roots of the Neopagan/Wiccan movements--I could go on and on. It was perhaps the first time that an AFID meeting covered so many different religious traditions. The students who most often attend are usually disillusioned Christians who incorporate spirituality into their lives in non-traditional ways; we've been pushing for a diverse showing from many different traditions, but on a campus that is already 50% Catholic (many of whom are of the aforementioned disillusioned type), finding that variety is hard.

It was also the first time that I mentioned to people (other than my boyfriend, Ray) about my attempts to bring personal ritual and even sacred magic into the way I practice my Catholicism. Although I have written a great deal about it, I've been hesitant to share much with those whom I know "in real life" rather than merely online. Perhaps I've convinced myself that I need to wait until I have every aspect of my Craft laid out and intelligently explored and explained. But of course, that's a difficult standard to live by. (a) Because I'll never understand everything (my commitment to continual growth and unending learning make that impossible!), let alone be able to articulate it perfectly. And (b) it's awfully lonely. Tonight, I felt for the first time that I could share with others without fear of being judged or shot down. Even the girl who had been raised Catholic and attended Catholic school all her life seemed full of encouragement for my attempts to make my faith my own (the way she talked of her schooling only confirmed for me that Ray's school tended towards the conservative side of the Catholic tradition).

My point? I encourage you, dear reader, to give it a try. Starting an "AFID" group at your school, or even just in your local community, could be a wonderful way of meeting others who are struggling with the same challenges that we all must work through as we try to incorporate religion into an intelligent, healthy way of life. I'm used to being around people who think this is impossible--people who assume all Catholics must be either mindlessly dogmatic, or hypocrites. But when we begin to actually talk to one another, we find out this is rarely the case. Communication! It's a lovely thing. I'll probably say that again and again. Meanwhile, I'll end this distracted entry here. My next post, I promise, will be heartier, something you can really dig your teeth into.


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