2014 Events and Activities

Events and Activities in 2014

December 13, 2014 -- Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen was one of several speakers at the annual fund-raising dinner of the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition in the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts, 929 N. Water St. He talked about the Conference's many collaborations with the MMWC and its leaders, and the impact of those activities.

December 10, 2014 -- Paul Dedinsky, an assistant Milwaukee County district attorney and participant in the Interfaith Conference's Restorative Justice Committee, did two workshop sessions at the Violence Prevention conference sponsored by the Milwaukee mayor's office and the City Health Department at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.

December 4, 2014 - More than 250 people of many faiths, ethnicities and cultures who came to the Italian Community Center for the Interfaith Conference's 44th annual luncheon were much more than "attendees." They were fully engaged "participants" as they shared personal stories of their lived experiences of faith or philosophy at mixed-faith tables.

This was a remarkable luncheon, one that reached beyond staid, conventional program models. Instead of having a keynote speaker, we had people get a taste of our highly successful Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue Program by having a half hour of moderated discussions at each table using an appreciative listening process that evokes deep sharing. Instead of having faith groups and organizations purchase tables and sit with their own people, we dispersed people throughout the ballroom to achieve diversity at every table. People truly had personal, interfaith experiences that bridged differences and fostered understanding and friendship.

Dr. Rob Shelledy, Interfaith Conference Cabinet chair and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's Social Justice Ministry Coordinator, was the emcee. Tonen O'Connor, resident priest emerita of the Milwaukee Zen Center, opened the luncheon with a reflection.

Rabbi Ronald Shapiro of Congregation Shalom received our Frank Zeidler Award for his leadership in social justice and interfaith relations. CORE/El Centro received our Rev. Herbert Huebschmann Urban Ministry Award for providing natural healing therapies that transform the body, mind and spirit of people who otherwise could not afford these services. Debbie Karow received our Mark Rohlfing Memorial Award for outstanding service as a teacher to special education students in the Milwaukee Public Schools. And Marquette University's "Midnight Run" student-led initiative received our Youth/Young Adult Leadership Award for 26 years of service to the hungry and homeless in Milwaukee.

December 4, 2014 -- Paul Dedinsky, an assistant Milwaukee County district attorney and participant in the Interfaith Conference's Restorative Justice Committee, did a two-hour training for 100 Wraparound Care Coordinators from eight different child welfare agencies at St. Aemilian-Lakeside, 8901 W. Capitol Dr., Milwaukee. The agency provides foster care, education and mental health services for thousands of children, families and adults daily.

November 20, 2014 -- Kirsten Shead, Program Director for the Interfaith Earth Network, was one of the first guest blogger on the Waters of Wisconsin blog. Her narrative blog post on water and faith is entitled Down to the River to Pray. The Waters of Wisconsin initiative (WOW), part of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, launched their blog in October 2014 as an ongoing conversation about Wisconsin’s shared waters. Through this blog they aim to feature great ideas and poignant stories from writers, policymakers, farmers, scientists, and others that explore what healthy, abundant water means to Wisconsin and her people. Kirsten has been participating with WOW for the last year on their communications team as an influential voice for people of faith and their role in celebrating and safeguarding our Wisconsin waters.

November 20, 2014 -- The Interfaith Conference Cabinet (our board of directors) voted to join the MetroGO! Regional Transit Leadership Council and to have Maren Outwater represent us on the council. Maren has been the Interfaith Conference's volunteer representative on the regional transit coalition -- that formed MetroGO! She is a professional engineer with experience in planning, evaluating and modeling transportation systems.

November 19, 2014 -- The Maktab Tarighat Oveyssi Shahmaghsoudi (M.T.O.) School of Islamic Sufism in Franksville (northern Racine County) began participating in the Interfaith Conference's Committee for Interfaith Understanding. Two representatives from the school were warmly welcomed at the committee's November meeting. The school and its worship site serve Sufi Muslims from both the Chicago area and the Milwaukee area.

November 10, 2014 -- Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen spoke about the Conference's history and programs to 40 residents of Harwood Place, a retirement community in Wauwatosa, and helped them engage in 45 minutes of small-group dialogue about their lived experiences of faith using the questions and appreciative inquiry techniques from our Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue Program. Tom trained four residents to be moderators prior to the start of the evening program.

November 6, 2014 – Three members of our Restorative Justice Committee -- Evelyn Ang, the Rev. Carol Hegland, and Committee Chair Betsy Gonwa – met with officials from a suburban school district that sought assistance in resolving a dispute involving neighbors and the use of a grade school playground. They laid the groundwork for using restorative practices there in 2015.

October 24, 2014 -- Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen represented the Conference as a guest attendee at the 47th annual meeting of the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee in the center's building at 2819 W. Highland Blvd.

October 2014 -- Two members of our Restorative Justice Committee – the Rev. Carol Hegland (ELCA) and Jon Olsen – used restorative practices that included facilitating healing circles to help a Milwaukee-area congregation resolve internal conflict. 

October 14, 2014 -- Bolstered by warm breezes and sunny skies, the Interfaith Conference's 30th Annual Greater Milwaukee CROP Hunger walk drew an estimated 500 or more adults and children to the Milwaukee lakefront on Sunday afternoon, Oct. 11, 2015. A total of 15,100 pounds of food was collected for the Hunger Task Force, and $31,400 in pledge donations was tallied in the ensuing weeks for international/national hunger, disaster relief and anti-poverty efforts.

People from dozens of congregations, schools and organizations brought 6,000 pounds of food for the Hunger Task Force to McKinley Park, walked 2-mile or 5-mile routes and enjoyed lively music from the Salsabrosa Dance Company and the Mariachi Zamora band. Balloon hats, corn-husk crafts, a fun obstacle course and various donated snacks added to the afternoon's celebratory spirit.

A big thank you to St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Greendale, which collected an additional 9,000 pounds of nonperishable food at the church site for the CROP Walk,

In addition, Concordia University in Mequon collected 106 pounds of nonperishable food from students, staff and faculty as part of our CROP Hunger Walk effort. 

AND...Tikkun Ha-Ir of Milwaukee collected more than 100 pounds of fresh produce at the lakefront walk site as part of a first-time effort to use the CROP Hunger Walk to improve the diets of food pantry clients by having people bring produce from their gardens or from the store. The Hunger Task Force distributed the produce. This was an extension of Tikkun Ha-Ir's success Surplus Harvest Milwaukee project and will be repeated for the 2016 Greater Milwaukee CROP Hunger Walk.

Dozens of volunteers from area schools and congregations helped make this year's walk a success. 

About 70% of donations go to Church World Service or other designated international agencies to address hunger, provide disaster relief and foster economic development. The remainder helps fund the walk itself and some local outreach. 

More than 500 adults and children from a wide range of denominations, faiths, ethnicities and races participated in the Interfaith Conference's 29th annual Greater Milwaukee CROP Hunger Walk at the city's lakefront. A total of 15,100 pounds of food was collected for the Hunger Task Force, and $31,400 in pledge donations was tallied in the ensuing weeks for international/national hunger, disaster relief and anti-poverty efforts.

More than 14,000 pounds of food was collected at the walk registration site in McKinley Park and at some participating organization's/congregation's sites. Donations and pledges for international hunger relief are still being collected. Each year, they total more than $30,000. This year's walk, organized by walk director Norma Duckworth, featured a wide array of snacks, live Celtic music and African American drumming and dance, a balloon lady, craft activities provided by the Koh's Design IT mobile lab and an obstacle fun course for kids. Because the walk occurred during the Jewish festival of Sukkot, Congregation Emanu-El B'ne Jeshurun in River Hills brought a mobile Sukkah to the walk on the back of a large, flatbed truck and explained the festival and its customs and rituals to people. And Rabbi Marcey Rosenbaum, rabbi educator from Congregation Shalom in Fox Point, gave the blessing that started the walkers.

October 3-5, 2014 - Three leaders from the Interfaith Earth Network and Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee attended the Friday evening Generation Waking Up WakeUp experience at the Siena Center in Racine, WI. Generation Waking Up is a global campaign to ignite a generation of young people to bring forth a thriving, just, sustainable world, This was the first GenUp in our area. Kirsten Shead of IEN completed the full weekend leadership training along with around twenty other leaders aged 16 to retirement of diverse racial, religious and social backgrounds. She is now equipped to facilitate a WakeUp experience, the flagship multimedia presentation that inspires young people to transform their lives and communities.

August 11-14, 2014 - The interfaith Earth Network was in the news twice in August. Kirsten Shead, the Program Director for IEN caught the attention of both the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Today's TMJ4. She was interviewed live night on Wisconsin Tonight on Today's TMJ4. The ELF, a wasabi-green, three-wheeled, solar-assisted electric bicycle can turn some heads. Both stories reference the connection of Faith and care for the Earth.

August 13, 2014 - Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen and a few other representatives of the Milwaukee Transitional Jobs Collaborative met with Secretary Eloise Anderson of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families to talk about the potential for continuing and expanding funding for transitional jobs in Milwaukee and elsewhere in the state. The Collaborate is one of 10 area boards and commissions on which the Interfaith Conference has representatives.

August 4, 2014 - Interfaith Earth Network leaders participated in the We Are Water event organized by the Milwaukee Water Commons and held at the Lake Michigan shoreline. The celebration included the creation of a temporary, lighted art installation of the Great Lakes in the sand, inspirational teaching as well as Native American drumming and water ritual.

August 4, 2014 - Interfaith Conference representatives were among panelists who participated in an online video discussion from the studios of Milwaukee Public Television following MPTV's broadcast of a documentary video, "The Sikh Temple Shootings: Waking in Oak Creek....A community rocked by hate is awakened and transformed," on the eve of the second anniversary of the shootings. Kanwardeep Singh Kaleka, member of the Sikh Temple and nephew to one of the victims, was a panelist. (Kanwardeep attended at least two of the Interfaith Conference's Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues.) Representing IFCGM in the discussion were Executive Director Tom Heinen and the Rev. Nancy Lanman, a United Methodist deacon who serves on the Interfaith Conference Cabinet (our board of directors). She has extensive experience moderating our Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues, including one in Oak Creek co-hosted by Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi, who was one of the MPTV panelists for this online discussion. Moderated by Mark Siegrist, the online conversation panelists also include Patrice O'Neill, filmmaker and executive director of Not in Our Town; Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards and Dr. Irfan Omar, Ph.D., Marquette University theology professor.

August 2, 2014 - At the request of Sikh leaders, the Interfaith Conference arranged for representatives of several denominations and faiths to staff an interfaith information tent at the Sikh's "Chardhi Kala 6K Memorial Run & Walk" at Oak Creek High School. Participants had displays and/or handouts and interacted with the public. The event raises scholarship funds for Milwaukee area high school students entering college, with an emphasis on their volunteer public service. IFCGM Executive Director Tom Heinen was a judge for this year's applicants and participated in the scholarship presentation ceremony on the high school football field prior to the start of the run/walk.

July 16, 2014 - With conflict escalating in the Middle East, local religious leaders and adherents gathered for an interfaith Prayer Service for Peace in the Middle East at 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 16, in All Saints’ Cathedral, Milwaukee. The Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee organized the service to unite people of many different faiths and denominations in the vision of a world where peace is possible and violence is not inevitable. In every age and every hour, there are opportunities for diplomacy to defuse conflict, for wisdom to temper anger, for forgiveness to forestall vengeance and for faith to foster what is highest and best in the human spirit. Local leaders offered prayers and stood together, unified in their diversity, as an example of what is possible. The service concluded with the singing of Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant us Peace), in Latin, Hebrew and Arabic. More than 100 people attended. (For news coverage of the prayer service, see: In the Media)

July 20-24, 2014 – Betsy Gonwa, chair of our Restorative Justice Committee, and committee member Andrew Musgrave attended a Social Action Summer Institute. This year’s institute focused on restorative justice and was hosted by Catholic Charities in St. Louis, Mo.

June , 2014 – The national Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) voted overwhelmingly to divest from fossil fuel companies. Terry Wiggins, a member of the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee and of the Interfaith Earth Network steering committee, was a driving force in crafting and passing the resolution which requires the UUA not only to withdraw its investments from fossil fuel companies, but to reinvest in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

June 3, 2014 – Members of the Interfaith Earth Network participated in the Water City Town Hall organized by the Milwaukee Water Commons and held at the Zilber School of Public Health. Two panel discussions were included, one of municipal leaders and officails, the second of community leaders. Kirsten Shead sat on the second panel and spoke for Faith Communities and the creative leadership and insight they could and do bring to the discussion and formation of Milwaukee as a Water City.

June 7-8, 2014 - Several Interfaith Conference leaders and Executive Director Tom Heinen attended the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee's first Synod in 25 years as interfaith observers. Hundreds of ordained and lay parish delegates and represenatives of religious communities, Catholic universities and other instituions throughout the 10-county archdiocese participated in the Synod on Pentecost weekend at the Cousins Center. Based on the discernment and voting that took place at the Synod, Archbishop Jermone Listecki issued a Synodal Declaration in September that laid out the archdiocese's pastoral priorities for the next 10 to 15 years.

May 30, 2014 - Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen and his wife, Katie, set up displays about the Conference's various activities and interacted with attendees at the annual assembly of the Greater Milwaukee Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in the Country Springs Hotel, Pewaukee.

May 28, 2014 - Matt Howard, director of the City of Milwaukee's Office of Environmental Sustainability (OES) invited IFCGM Executive Director Tom Heinen, his wife Katie, IEN Program Director Kirsten Shead, and Bob Pavlik of the High WInd Association and Marquette University to City Hall to discuss how the Interfaith Conference could work with the OES to implement city-wide and especially neighborhood specific projects. We are thrilled to function as a bridge between civic and faith communities as we all strive for a more sustainable, robust CIty of Milwaukee. This meeting was a direct result of conversations at our breakfast for civic and religious leaders with author Ibrahim Abdul-Matin on May 5th, 

May 6, 2014 - Almost 40 Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues participants attended our second Amazing Faiths reunion event, "Food for Thought," hosted by the First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee. Participants shared a vegetarian meal provided by Azmi Alaeddin and then broke into dialogue groups for moderated discussion, talking about the role of food in their faith traditions and lived experience. For more information on Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogues, visit our Amazing Faiths page.

May 6, 2014 - Kirsten Shead, Program Director for the Interfaith Earth Network spoke as part of the workshop Communication about Water: Strategies and Tools at Resilient Wiscsonsin Day, presented by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters in Madison, WI. Kirsten shared on effective personal and group communications within the faith community and other settings. 

May 4-5, 2014 - In partnership with the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition (MMWC) the Interfaith Earth Network invited noted environmental speaker, former sustainability policy advisor to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and author of Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin to Milwaukee. He spoke to a highly diverse group of 150+ on “Renegotiating our Relationship with the Earth: A Conversation on Democracy, Sustainability, and the Role of the Faithful.” St Sebastian Catholic Church hosted his lecture and provided light refreshments for the lively Q&A afterwords. In addition to his Sunday afternoon lecture and town hall-style Q&A, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin dialogued with the pilot interfaith Mission Possible youth group (now renamed I-You) developed by the Interfaith Conference and the MMWC and ignited powerful discussion among 15 high school youth representing the next generation of world-changers and sustainability advocates. On Monday, May 5, Abdul-Matin met with civic and faith leaders at the Islamic Resource Center in Greenfield for breakfast and a small-group conversation covering sustainable ways to meet the needs of citizens and businesses for good jobs and thriving neighborhoods.

May 3, 2014 - Interfaith Conference Executive Director Tom Heinen set up displays about the Conference's various activities and interacted with attendees at the annual meeting of the Southeas Wisconsin Association of the United Church of Christ at First Congregational UCC in Elkhorn.

April 18, 2014 - Evelyn Ang, UWM Professor, presented a Poster at the Annual Conference for UW-System Office of Professional and Instructional Development (OPID). The conference was subtitled "Mindful Teaching: Inquiry, Connection, Sustainability, and Creativity." The research was conducted over the academic year 2013-14, and surveyed past students (up to 4 years prior). It was supported by the UW-System Office of Professional and Instructional Development (OPID), UW-Milwaukee's Center for Instructional and Professional Development, and the UW-Milwaukee Chancellor's office.

Apr. 14, 2014 - Leaders from the Interfaith Earth Network participated in the Faith and Water Roundtable hosted by the Milwaukee Water Commons and held at Lake Park Lutheran Church. The group discussed how Milwaukee as a water city might look from a faith community perspective and what kinds of contributions we could undertake in the next few years. Notes from this meeting formed the bases for a presentation at the June 3rd Water City Town Hall.

Apr. 10, 2014 - As part of a "Not In Our Town" initiative to further interfaith understanding and forestall hate and violence in his community, Mayor Steve Scaffidi of Oak Creek co-sponsored an Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue for Oak Creek residents, which he attended. Two further dinners in Oak Creek are planned for July and August.

Mar. 2014 – The Interfaith Conference's Peace and International Issues Committee (PIIC) hosted its annual Tuesdays in March Luncheon Lectures Series, drawing from 64 to 90 participants per lecture, on the theme of "Wisconsin: Issues That Matter: Justice, Equity, Democracy."

Feb. - June 2014 - The Interfaith Conference partnered with the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition to introduce Mission Possible, a pilot program for an Interfaith Youth Group designed to introduce around 20 high schoolers to other faiths, leaving them informed and inspired. Participants began by meeting their fellow students in two Amazing Faiths dinners in February, before meeting as a full group in March for a session on "Speedfaithing," focused on sharing their faiths with the group, and in April for "Faith on Facebook," a discussion of how their faiths are portrayed in the media. Further events on "Green Certified!" and "Ready, Set, Action!" took place in May and June, turning the emphasis towards faith in action.

Feb. 2014 – As a result of discussions by our Restorative Justice Committee, Erin Katzfey from the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office trained young adult leaders at St. Michael’s Congregation on Milwaukee’s near west side to represent the community in victim-offender, community conferencing circles. Representatives from six organizations gather under the auspices of the committee to share and collaborate. They are: The Benedict Center, Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, Milwaukee Public Schools, Peace Learning Center, Safe & Sound, and Wisconsin Community Services.

Restorative Justice provides opportunities for healing after the commission of crimes and other hateful acts. It involves those most directly affected – victims/survivors, family and community members – to be directly involved in addressing the harms done to people, relationships and the community at large.

Our committee, formed in 2000, has a focus that goes beyond criminal justice to also include broad, restorative practices in schools, faith communities and the community at large. These practices include small, impromptu “conferences,” language that encourages listening and the expression of feelings, repairing-harm circles, etc. Members of the committee, which functions as an informal coalition, meet every other month. The committee chair is Betsy Gonwa. 

Feb. 27, 2014 – Marcus White, former Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference and current Vice President for Civic Engagement for the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, addressed the Cabinet (board of directors) of the Interfaith Conference at the annual Cabinet Retreat. His presentation discussed the findings of "Vital Signs: Benchmarking Metro Milwaukee," a report comparing the greater Milwaukee are with 15 other metro areas nationwide on topics such as demographics, poverty, education levels, and civic involvement. The Cabinet then discussed the findings and continues to consider how they should influence the Conference's advocacy and social-justice efforts. Nearly 40 Cabinet members and guests gathered at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist's building complex for the presentation.

Feb. 6, 2014 – The Milwaukee Friends Meetinghouse (Quakers) hosted "Stirring the Waters," the first Amazing Faiths Dinner Dialogue follow-up event for past participants. In an ongoing effort to increase collaboration among Interfaith Conference programs, AFDD worked with the Interfaith Earth Network to create a program centered on water and spirituality. The roughly 40 guests considered and discussed the role of water in their faith traditions and lived experience--while, as always with Amazing Faiths, sharing a hearty vegetarian meal. These dinners gather 8 to 12 people in a private home or intimate institutional setting for a moderated discussion that promotes deep sharing through appreciative inquiry. Check out the Amazing Faiths page on this website for more information. 

Jan. 26, 2014  On Sunday, January 26th, our Interfaith Earth Network held "Making Waves for Water," an event at the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center that drew nearly 200 adults and children. Those who attended witnessed an interfaith ceremony celebrating water, viewed displays from 26 local environmental, sustainability and faith-based organizations, and had abundant opportunities to connect, reflect, and commit to action. The event launched GreenFaith's nationwide Water Shield program, for which IEN is the first regional partner. Water Shield allows faith communities to develop a richer relationship with, and more responsible stewardship of, water. Check out the Interfaith Earth Network page on this website for more details.