In September 2007, Intersections International, an initiative of the Collegiate Church of New York, opened its doors as an innovative approach to global ministry in the 21st century. I was called as Founding Director and for the next ten years was privileged to be engaged in developing impactful approaches to addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues.
At the end of this month, Intersections will close its doors permanently. In an email sent to supporters, the Intersections Board of Directors stated, “Like so many churches and houses of worship, the Collegiate Churches of New York have had to adjust during these challenging times and are no longer able to financially support the current work of Intersections International.” Though nowhere as momentous as recent events in Afghanistan, the conclusion of Intersections’ work also marks the end of an era.
Regular visitors to this site will recall frequent references to my work at Intersections. Closing its doors could be a time of mourning, but I prefer to consider the “Intersections Years” as filled with intense relationships, life-changing programs that touched countless lives and a model for ministry that continues to resonate in programs (and certainly relationships) that have outlived the organization itself. Though nowhere as momentous as recent events in Afghanistan, the end of Intersections also marks the end of an era.
Our mandate was to bring people together across lines of difference and our very diverse portfolio featured efforts to heal the rift between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds, bridge the veteran/civilian divide, deepen the dialogue between the religious community and LGBTQ persons, and use the arts as an instrument of transformational change in our world. More than one person with whom we engaged told me pointedly and directly, “Intersections saved my life.”
Our programs included:
We developed a website, changethestory.net, to counter the all-too-common negative narrative about Muslims in the US; and years later worked with the Muslim community during the so-called “ground zero mosque” controversy; and on Prepare New York that successfully guided a multi-faith response to potential violence during the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Our Veteran Civilian Dialogues brought together hundreds in facilitated conversations, served as a model for veterans’ groups in the New York area and opened the stories of those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to the broader civilian population;
Theatre Engagement and Action (TE’A) created cutting edge theatrical productions that addressed some of the most compelling issues of our time (TE’A Creative continues is ground-breaking work today);
At its height, Believe Out Loud, featuring both on-line and in-person engagements for LGBTQ individuals to explore religious questions, had more than a million subscribers, and continues to address challenges experienced by individuals and organizations at the intersection of religion and sexual identity;
In 2009, on the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson sailing into New York Harbor, Intersections hosted Healing Turtle Island, where The Collegiate Church acknowledged its complicity in imposing an alien economic and legal system upon the Lenape people from whom the land was taken. Moving forward, a partnership was formed that resulted in, among other things, the creation of The Purchase of Manhattan, an opera by Native American composer, Brent Michael Davids, depicting that historical event through the eyes of the Lenape people. The opera had its debut at Marble Collegiate Church in a symbolic statement of the partnership that had grown out of a once fractured relationship.
As Intersections developed expertise in building bridges between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds, we became involved both in Kazakhstan through the triennial Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions and in Pakistan through the US-Pakistan Interreligious Consortium (UPIC), now the US-Pakistan Intercultural Coalition under the auspices of Seton Hall University. Last summer, after a decade of annual gatherings in Pakistan, UPIC hosted a global virtual conference with 50 internationally known presenters, 1,900 registrants from 36 countries and a live-streaming audience of 330,000.
These are just some of the programs initiated by Intersections since 2007. But they don’t begin to articulate the collegial leadership among the incredibly bold, dedicated and innovative staff with whom I was honored to serve for the first decade of Intersections’ life. By affirming the intrinsic value of every one of the earth’s people, this staff was able to demonstrate through their lives and their work, that the differences among us pale before our commonality, and that if we forge hearts and minds together—across lines of difference–we are able to build a world where peace, justice and human dignity shall prevail. Thousands of seeds were planted; all the flowers have yet to bloom.
I’ll be on vacation for the next two weeks, traveling in Canada. I will not be posting while I am away; I’ll return during the week of September 13. Thanks for your loyal support of these posts. Blessings, Bob