While there are several interest groups within the organization, WIN Programs, offered three times a year, form the overarching umbrella for all. Fascinating guest speakers share their insights on a host of topics. Afterwards, we enjoy our bag lunches and discuss what we learned at small tables seating six. WIN provides beverages, desserts and side dishes that complement the day’s topic.
David Snyder of the Florida Bar delved into the murky terrain that separates “Church” and “State” at the federal level and in Florida. Although we were all ready with tablecloths, centerpieces and refreshments, at the last minute the entire program shifted to a ZOOM presentation because our speaker contracted Covid. Nonetheless, David Snyder presented a clear, informative survey of the issues, from the Divine Right of Kings to the most recent Supreme Court decision.
Of course these two fields are compatible, according to NASA consultant and WIN member Dr. Linda Billings. Sharing the arc of her professional career and spiritual journey, Linda enthralled a full house at our Spring gathering with vignettes and insights from her lived experience. Currently Consultant to NASA’s Astrobiology Program and Planetary Defense Coordination Office, trail-blazer Linda is a role model for women in the aerospace industry. She is an active member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota,
What do Mennonites believe? How do they worship? In what language do they pray? Do Mennonites celebrate Christmas? How are Mennonites and Amish different? Are there wedding traditions? What about interfaith marriage?…
Though Sarasota is the home base for several Mennonite and Amish communities, many of us knew little about our neighbors. We realized that the most authentic way to learn would be from a practitioner with excellent knowledge and communication skills. Enter JB Miller, a life-long Sarasotan and member of the Covenant Mennonite Fellowship. Though his parents were reared in Old Order Amish homes, JB’s family later joined a conservative Mennonite group. Today, JB has become a respected lecturer about Amish and Mennonite faith traditions for college classes, journalists and community groups. JB’s message aligns perfectly with the mission of the Women’s Interfaith Network: he addressed the broad range of beliefs across this particular religious spectrum, including members of various Mennonite branches that dress the way most of our members dress and welcome same-sex marriages in their congregations. WIN members and their guests were enthralled with his first-hand lived experience and friendly speaking style. Many stereotypes were abandoned and more nuanced understanding was gained. Bridges were built! Friendships were formed!
Learning about Hinduism–as well as Indian dance–made our fall program both educational and fun! Guest Speaker Megha Vaid, President of the Indian Association of Manasota, brought her faith and culture to life during an exuberant fall meeting full of information, handouts, samosas and a few Bollywood moves. Members were fascinated to learn about the wide range of beliefs, including different dietary practices, across Hinduism, the world’s third largest religion. We were also tickled to learn that this new friend (and now a WIN member) is a Classical Indian and Bollywood choreographer, instructor, and performer, PLUS…she’s a dentist! The Indian Association of Manasota shares common values with WIN. Devoted to educating and raising awareness about Indian culture and heritage, the group embraces the 3,500-year-old Sanskrit motto: Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, meaning “The Whole World is One Family.” Amen!
HIGHLIGHTS FROM OUR PAST
On several occasions we have offered panel presentations featuring speakers from all three Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) addressing the same subject from their distinct religious viewpoints. Other speakers have brought timely information about societal challenges, which we reflect upon through our individual lenses of faith and religion. Among these distinguished guests are: