Perhaps we can all learn something from St. Louis Park's religious leaders.
On Tuesday, people from throughout the local faith community—pastors, a rabbi and others—gathered for an open-form meeting to discuss important issues.
There was no set agenda. Those in attendance were all asked to jot down issues that were important to them—these became the talking points for smaller groups, which intermingled and mixed as the morning progressed.
In one session, religious leaders discussed the problem of youth homelessness, which impacts an estimated 2,500 kids—or more—per night across Minnesota.
Ideas were thrown around about possibly opening up local churches as bare-bones shelters, with volunteers from across the faith community helping each other keep them staffed. While many legal obstacles are out there, at least the conversation started.
In other parts of the room, conversations were started on subjects ranging from divisive political rhetoric to substance abuse. No definitive solutions or conclusions were reached, but that wasn't the point, nor would that have been possible. These were larger issues that will take time to solve, but open dialogue is the first step.
Kristina Fruge, of the Faith Community Partnership, which is a partnership between and , said the group has been looking at ways to do more for people, and it only seemed natural to partner with other congregations. That was the impetus for Tuesday's meeting.
Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman, who attended the meeting, said this is a smart approach.
"It's really amazing when congregations come together across faiths ... how much can get done," she said.
Local religious leaders were quick to point out—and wisely so, in my estimation—that getting things done, even at a political level, doesn't mean imposing religious principles, as so many politicians seem to do. Instead, the thrust should be to use the resources and power of a group to start conversations.
The beauty is, this approach shouldn't spur religious spats, because all religions share ideals of helping others and giving back. That's why all these different leaders were willing—and eager—to meet under one roof. It wasn't about one religion being superior to another. It wasn't about blurring the lines of church and state. It was about all religions uniting over similarities, and seeing where they can effect change.
As one pastor put it, it's important to remember that people of faith are bound by conscience to certain beliefs, and those of different faiths may never see totally eye-to-eye. But recognizing that one another's faith comes from the heart, and trying to find where faiths do overlap, are key to healthy dialogue.
That seems like a lesson all of us can take to heart.