NAINConnect (2012)

The 2012 NAINConnect was held from July 15-18, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia and hosted by Interfaith Community Initiatives and Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta, two local Atlanta organizations that aim to promote understanding and interaction among the diverse faiths in the greater Atlanta region. Over one hundred registered guests attended conference events throughout the weekend.

Introduction 

Founded in 1988, the North American Interfaith Network (NAIN) is “a non-profit association of interfaith organizations and agencies in Canada, Mexico and the United States.”  The focus of NAIN’s work has been to support the growth of interfaith understanding by supporting the work of its member organizations.  As such, NAIN chooses the term “network” to describe its work rather than institution, organization, or association.  NAIN has sponsored conferences, known familiarly as “Connects,” annually since 1996 for member organizations and affiliates.  These conferences, hosted by a local organization in a different city each year, provide an opportunity for member organization representatives and other affiliated students and professionals to discuss their involvement in the interfaith movement; share best practices and discuss challenges facing their organizations and the movement at large; attend workshops, panels, and other various informational sessions; and explore the religious landscape of the host city.

NAINConnect in Atlanta

The 2012 NAINConnect was held from July 15-18, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia and hosted by Interfaith Community Initiatives and Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta, two local Atlanta organizations that aim to promote understanding and interaction among the diverse faiths in the greater Atlanta region.  Over one hundred registered guests attended conference events throughout the weekend.

Every year, the host organization constructs the events and activities around a particular theme.  The theme for the 2012 NAINConnect of “Building Interfaith Cities” provided an opportunity for conference attendees to reflect on the state of interfaith work in their respective communities.  The numerous workshops, panels, and other networking opportunities centered on this theme throughout the duration of the conference.

Home to many notable figures, including Martin Luther KingThe Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was one of America’s most renowned Christian leaders. After earning his Ph.D. from Boston University, King became minister of a Baptist church in Montgomery, Alabama, where he led the successful non-viole... Jr., Margaret Mitchell, and President Jimmy Carter, the greater Atlanta region provided a number of opportunities for conference attendees to explore the unique history and diversity of the area.  Notable site visits during the conference included trips to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, Morehouse College, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and the Jimmy Carter Center.

Conference Program and Events

The conference began on Sunday, July 15 with an opening ceremony and welcome dinner at the Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel, which was to be the primary location for the majority of the conference events and activities.  The evening included speeches by NAIN Executive Committee representatives Bettina Gray and Robert Hankinson, as well as keynote addresses by Dr. Ben Johnson and Tayyibah Taylor.

Conference programming was in full swing as of Monday morning, with three workshops sessions scheduled before breaking for lunch.  Conference attendees could choose between a number of different workshop and panel options, which included the following: “Interfaith in the Corporate Workplace”; “Howard Thurman: Spiritual Mentor”; “Connecting 10,000 Points of Light”; “Creative Ways to Engage Communities in Interfaith Action”; “Interfaith Reconciliation Through Community Building”; “Faith and Ecology”; “Peace by Piece”; “Death and Dying: Spirituality and the End of Life”; “A Complicated Conversation: The Hard Questions”; “The Sacred Art of Listening”; “The ‘Under 18’ as Interfaith Change Makers”; and “Interfaith Culture and Art: Creativity, Compassion, and Community.”

Following the morning workshops, the Monday lunch session featured the Young Adult Panel, which has become an annual fixture of every NAINConnect and highlights the experiences and perspectives of the recipients of NAIN’s Young Adult Scholarship.  The panel featured ten young adults from around the continent, each of whom spoke on the interfaith work in their respective community and responded to questions from the audience.  The rest of the day was spent in site visits around Atlanta that focused on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Among the places visited were the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site; the historic Ebenezer BaptistThe Baptist tradition includes a variety of Christian churches which trace their beginnings to the Anabaptist reform movement that rejected infant baptism insisting on the importance of baptizing only those who are able to profess the faith as believers. ChurchThe term church has come to wide use to refer to the organized and gathered religious community. In the Christian tradition, church refers to the organic, interdependent “body” of Christ’s followers, the community of Christians. Secondarily, church ..., where King’s father served as pastorA pastor (from the Latin word for shepherd) is a member of the clergy with responsibility for a particular congregation. For Lutherans, it is a formal title for a parish minister. and where King joined him as co-pastor in 1960; the Martin Luther King Jr. International ChapelA chapel is a place of worship, smaller than the sanctuary of a church or synagogue, or in an institutional setting such as a college or hospital. at Morehouse College; and a trip to the Providence Missionary Baptist Church for dinner, where the Rev. Dr. Gerald Durley and C.T. Vivian spoke eloquently about their involvement in the civil rights struggles of both past and present.

Tuesday morning was once again full of workshop sessions.  The topics included the following: “Advocating for and with Children Panel”; “Stories that Light Our Way”; “Beyond the 10 Commandments: Faith and Storytelling and the Movies”; “Interfaith Environmental Ethics”; “The Power of Interfaith Action: Lessons from Africa”; “Interfaith Initiatives in Metro Detroit”; “Interfaith and Disabilities”; “Transforming Superficial Relationships”; “Government in Partnership with Faith”; and “Extending Bridges Not Burning Them: Interfaith Dialogue and GLBT People.”  The rest of the day included site visits to the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the TempleA temple is a house of worship, a sacred space housing the deity or central symbol of the tradition. The Temple in Jerusalem was the holy place of the Jewish people until its destruction by the Romans in 70 CE; now the term “temple” is used by th. Ref... of Atlanta, and the Jimmy Carter Center.  On Tuesday evening, keynote speaker Andrew Young spoke on the topic of “Faith, Civil Rights, and the World House.”  The evening concluded with musical entertainment provided by Gayanne Geurin.

The conference concluded on Wednesday morning with the Annual General Meeting of member organization representatives and a closing ceremony, at which Robert Thompson, Gayanne Geurin, Plemon El-Amin, and Robert Hankinson each spoke.  Both the AGM and the closing ceremony marked a transition in leadership for NAIN, as Board Chair Bettina Gray completed her term and Secretary and Chair-Elect Robert Hankinson assumed the leadership role.

Young Adult Scholars

Ten young adults attended this year’s programming in Atlanta as recipients of NAIN’s Young Adult Scholarship, which provides a stipend to help defray the cost of attending the Connect.  NAIN defines “young adult” as any person between the ages of 16 and 35, and there were a significant number of young adults in attendance at the Connect this year, including the ten scholarship recipients, some of whom led workshops of their own.  NAIN hopes to continue its outreach to young adults in the interfaith movement throughout the year by providing additional networking and development opportunities for its young adult alumni, as well as continuing to support young adult presence at each Connect through the Young Adult Scholarship.

Future Directions

Plans are already underway for the 2013 NAINConnect, which is scheduled for August 11-14 at the University of Toronto Multi-Faith Centre in Toronto, Canada.  The theme will be “Diversity: Our Strength.”

For more information: