Eva is a post-graduate intern with Interfaith Philadelphia. She has a
background in Social Anthropology and a keen interest in the
intersection of religion and civil society. She will be writing a few
more pieces for the blog over the coming months, on topics such as:
expanding our definitions of ‘love’ in social action and community
building; the ways in which sacred practices may enrich ‘secular’ life
and communities; and the ways in which young people are shifting and
shaping the spiritual/religious landscape.
What (or who) do I have faith in? What do I believe in?
As a young ‘none'* interested in the spiritual and sacred, I ask myself these questions frequently. And as a person committed to coming into loving, listening relationship with others - committed to the hard work of community cultivation - these questions play doubly on my mind.
And furthermore, what is my stake or place, as someone without religious affiliation or faith, in interfaith dialogue? In order to speak to this present question, it feels right to turn to the roots of my curiosity about community, and my first experiences in multifaith spaces.
I trace the beginning of my interests (personal and academic) in community and spirituality back to growing up in non-theistic Quaker schools here in Philadelphia. From a young age, I learned about the SPICES – or how Quaker values are often taught to pre-K students (through 12th grade): Simplicity; Peace; Integrity; Community; Equality; and Stewardship. These were my values, and these were the values of my community; we enacted them in relationship with one another, in Meeting together, in days of service and in play. We learned about how our history informs our present, how the lives of a resilient many before us enabled the community we continue to cultivate, and how our manifold differences (together with what we have in common) should always be held with care. My interest in who we are and who we can be to each other started here.
Because of these loving beginnings, I like to say I’m Quaker in values – but I don’t feel I have a personal relationship to God or a religious faith. And as I’ve grown older, I’ve come into a deeper understanding of how these values are challenged or denigrated entirely by the systems of harm and inequity which underlie most social structures in our shared world. Working to dismantle structures of oppression requires the collective.I do continue to believe in a light within all of us. And this light, to me, signifies something innate, loving and shared between people – a potential for growth, for love, and for understanding. My commitment is to community, and to showing up for my community; to a life guided by integrity and an interest in being of service to others, committing to peace and equality as yet unrealized ideals to work toward together.