Monday, September 29, 2008

Gala: inner faith in interfaith

Lancaster Online

As about 100 people of many different ethnicities and religions sat at circular tables to eat Turkish food at Millersville University on Thursday night, keynote speaker Leonard Swidler couldn't have been happier.

Swidler, professor of Catholic thought and inter-religious dialogue at Temple University, said he was appreciative of the work of Red Rose Intercultural & Educational Foundation and its interfaith banquet.

"I wish I would have brought the Fulbright Scholars (at Temple) to Millersville instead of New York City," he said.

When Swidler began "dialoguing" with Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars in 1978, he could find only 10 or 12 Muslim scholars in the world who were able and willing to engage in talks.

Then came Sept. 11, 2001. Out of that tragedy, good came, Swidler said. Now there are not just 10 Muslims around the world willing to dialogue, there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds, he said.

"This type of gathering would have been impossible 15 years ago and maybe even 10 years ago," Swidler said.Dialogue, Swidler said, is not just conversation or an exchange of a little information.

Click here to read the full article.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Read About Common Tables in the Arab News!!

More major media exposure for Common Tables! The Arab News (the leading English language daily in the Middle East) had a major feature article about us in their September 24th edition. The article begins:

Dining together to do away with divide
Barbara Ferguson, Arab News

A Muslim, a Jew and a Christian sit down for a dinner together....

No, it’s not a joke, but rather the beginning of an event called “Common Tables,” an interfaith group trying to end religious bigotry.

The logic is simple: People who break bread together can break down religious misunderstandings, too.

You can read the full article here.

We continue to be extremely pleased with the media attention being given to Common Tables! More major exposure will be out soon - we will keep you posted as additional coverage becomes public.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ethic of Reciprocity - The Golden Rule - Part 3

Continuing with our thrid month on the subject of the Ethic of Reciprocity (commonly known in North America as the Golden Rule), we bring you examples from Judaism, Zoroastrianism and from the Unitarian Universalists:

Zoroastrianism: "Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others."
Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29

Judaism: "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary."
Talmud, Shabbat 31a.

Unitarian Universalist: "We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent of all existence of which we are a part."
Unitarian principles

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Introduction: Teaching Your Children Buddhist Values

Note: This article introduces a special section in Tricycle's Fall 2008 edition: "Bringing Up Buddhists." It looks to us like a fascinating section of articles . . . in fact, we're out the door to buy a copy as soon as I get this posted!

Tricycle - The Buddhist Review
by Mary Talbot

Of all the thousands of the Buddha's teachings, he directed a very few - three or four, depending on what you count - specifically to children. Considering the multitude and breadth of his suttas, it's hard to imagine why more weren't geared to kids: was it because following his path requires a mature mind and mature commitment? Or was it because Indian society twenty-six hundred years ago had the instruction of children firmly in household hand - if adult family members were following the Buddha, children would naturally absorb the lessons and culture of the dharma, too. Or perhaps - and this is a personal guess - it was because the Buddha's principal teaching to a child so perfectly encapsulated the dharma that little else needed to be said. Was he doing what the most effective parents and teachers do - paring down a complicated set of ideas to its most profound, most pressing - and illustrating the lesson in such a way that a child can connect it to his or her own life?

The child in question here was his own son, Rahula - Pali for "fetter" or "shackle." The Buddha is famous with Western practitioners for having abandoned his family on the day of his only child's birth - what kind of father would do such a thing? (We all know a few.) But in the Buddha's case, renunciation of fatherhood and royal existence represented his profound conviction that a lasting, unconditioned happiness could be found - and in leaving behind his family, the fetters on his emotional and spiritual life, he could ultimately give back to them the possibility of the same deathless happiness he would find for himself.

When Rahula was seven years old, he became his father's disciple and began his training as a monk. In a discourse that has come to be known as the "Rahula Sutta" (Majjhima Nikaya 61), the Buddha instructed his young son with the seeds of some of his most important teachings. He started out by stressing the magnitude of being truthful - implying that if Rahula wanted to find the truth, he would first have to be truthful to himself. He then talked about using one's actions as a mirror. Before you do anything, he told Rahula, ask yourself: Is what I intend to do here skillful or unskillful? Will it lead to well-being or harm? If it looks harmful, don't do it. If it looks okay, go ahead and give it a try. While doing it, though, ask the same questions. If it turns out that it's causing harm, stop. If not, continue with it. Then after you've done it, ask the same questions - Did it bring about well-being or harm? If you see that what originally looked okay actually ended up being harmful, talk it over with someone else on the path and resolve never to make that mistake again. But if, as the Buddha put it, "on reflection [of a bodily, verbal, or mental action], you know that it did not lead to was a skillful action with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then you should stay mentally refreshed and joyful, training day and night in skillful mental qualities."

Read the Entire Article

Friday, September 19, 2008

Common Tables Tops 10,000 Friends!!!

Call it Social Media Networking or call it Web 2.0. Regardless of what you call it, the "social" websites - like MySpace and Facebook and Twitter - are attracting hundreds of millions of users. And, in spite of what some might think, these sites aren't just for kids!!

MySpace: With more than half of its visitors over the age of 35 and with over 200 million user IDs, MySpace is an important place for Common Tables to be visible - and we are!! In fact, by the time most of you read this we will have more than 6,500 friends on MySpace! Use this link to visit us there: Common Tables on MySpace. If you are active on MySpace, please send us a friend invite - we'd LOVE to connect with you!!

Facebook: With 70% of all users under the age of 35, the Facebook crowd is a bit younger than MySpace and with its more than 100 million active users it would appear to be a bit smaller. However, Facebook users are an active bunch: According to comScore they are the 4th most trafficked website in the world and are the world's most-trafficked social media site. You would expect Common Tables to be active on Facebook, and with more than 3,600 Facebook friends we are! Find Us on Facebook!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Here's a simple yet out of the ordinary desert which is guaranteed to be a favorite at your Table.

Fresh Peach Enchiladas

Yield: 8 servings

1/8 cup cornstarch
4 medium peaches, peeled and sliced (about 2 cups)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar (divided into 1 cup and 1/4 cup portions)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
8 whole wheat flour tortillas (8 inch size)
vanilla ice cream

Filling: Thoroughly mix cornstarch and water. (Use just enough water to dissolve the cornstarch.) In a heavy, medium-size sauce pan, combine peaches and 1 cup of the granulated sugar and cook over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and continue heating until the filling thickens.

Glaze: Melt butter and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and the brown sugar. Add one cup of water and heat, stirring constantly, until all of the sugar is dissolved.

Assemble: Preheat oven to 325° F. Spray a 13 x 9 inch casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon a generous portion of the peach filling down the center of each tortilla. Roll up each tortilla and place seam-side down in casserole dish. Pour glaze over enchiladas. Bake uncovered at 325° for 15 minutes.

Serving: Place each enchilada on a plate and top with vanilla ice cream.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Table Grace - Part 6

Given the wonderful variety of belief systems found in the Common Tables family, it is no surprise that our collection of meal time blessings continues to grow. Here are a couple more from our collection - one Catholic and one from the Book of Common Prayer (Anglican):

Bless us O Lord, and these thy gifts,
Which we are about to receive, from thy bounty,
Through Christ, Our Lord.


Give us grateful hearts, O Father,
for all thy mercies, and
make us mindful of the needs of others;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen..

Book of Common Prayer (1928)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought

"You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you."

Dale Carnegie (1888 - 1955)

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Science of Mind Magazine features Common Tables!

Another piece of exciting news: Common Tables is one of 12 individuals or organizations recognized by Science of Mind Magazine (September issue) for making a difference. We are featured in the company of Montel Williams, Lisa Nichols, Bishop Carlton Pearson and others!

The full article is not available on line. If you do not receive the publication and want to pick up a copy, look in your local bookstore for the September issue. (It might be a good idea to call first. Though we obviously think they should, not all bookstores and/or newsstands carry Science of Mind Magazine!)

We continue to be extremely pleased with the media attention being given to Common Tables! More major exposure will be out soon - we will keep you posted as additional coverage becomes public.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Transcending Race and Religion to Rebuild the Ruins of Baltimore

Published: September 5, 2008


One weekday morning in 1981, when he was new to Baltimore, Arnold Graf descended into the basement of the Enon Baptist Church. The steps took him into the midst of 60 skeptics. They were the black ministers whom Mr. Graf, a white Jew, was trying to persuade to join him in community organizing.

Even among a loquacious crowd of preachers, conversation stilled at Mr. Graf’s arrival. “I don’t know if we should be talking about this stuff with an outsider here,” one minister said, as Mr. Graf recently recalled the meeting.

Then the Rev. Vernon N. Dobson, one of Baltimore’s legendary civil rights leaders, replied. Alone among the dozens of ministers, he was already a member of Mr. Graf’s group, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development. Alone among them, Mr. Dobson had already gotten to know Mr. Graf during the organizer’s brief months in the city.

“He’s with me,” Mr. Dobson said. “And who’s blacker than me here? The man is my brother.”

Nearly 30 years later, Mr. Dobson’s judgment on Mr. Graf has been ratified and redeemed. Mr. Graf, 64, has built a striking track record of crossing the borders of race and religion to organize among black Christians. His current effort has brought together millions of dollars from black churches and Jewish philanthropies to build or repair up to 1,200 homes in the ruins of East Baltimore.

In his work — both for Build, as the Baltimore group is known, and for its parent organization, the Industrial Areas Foundation — Mr. Graf has breathed new life into the black-Jewish alliance that flourished in the first decade of the civil rights movement before bitterly rupturing over black nationalism and affirmative action.

Read the entire story.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Membership Update

Common Tables' membership continues to swell in numbers, to spread geographically and to add depth to the Common Tables experience through the ever increasing variety of faiths and belief systems represented by our members.

Fact: As we approach the 500 member level, we find members of the Common Tables family in 30 different states and in more than 100 different cities!

For those of you who are not yet Common Tables members, we invite you to come grow with us! You are encouraged to join the Common Tables family today!!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008



A quick & easy main dish for casual fall entertaining!

A stew with chicken, yams and apple cider may sound strange, but this one will have everyone going back for seconds.

Yield: About 7 cups

¼ cup all-purpose flour
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves cut into 1 inch chunks
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups apple juice or cider
3 cups yams*, peeled & cut into ½ inch cubes (about one large yam)
29 ounces diced canned tomatoes, drained (one large can)
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
16 ounces frozen forkhook limas (one package)

Combine chicken and flour in a large plastic bag. Shake until chicken is well coated.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add chicken. Cook and stir until lightly browned – about 3 minutes. Remove chicken.

Add remaining oil, garlic and onion to saucepan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender – about 2 minutes. Return chicken to pan. Stir in apple juice or cider, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, salt, pepper, thyme, cumin, and limas. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 35 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink and yams are tender.

* Here we are talking about the darker-skinned variety of sweet potato which we Americans erroneously call “yams”. (If anyone cares, the experts tell us that true yams are not related to sweet potatoes.) The darker variety we are calling for here is the one which has the dark orange skin and bright orange flesh and which is commonly called a yam in most American grocery stores. Its flesh is both moister and sweeter than the paler variety of sweet potato.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Into Great Silence

Monday's Media Review

It is hard to find words to describe a film which is based on silence. No film crews. No artificial lighting. No score, no archival footage. This film embodies the Grande Chartreuse Monastery rather than simply depicting it.

It started in 1984 when German filmmaker Philip Gröning wrote to the Carthusian order for permission to make a documentary about them. They said they would get back to him. Sixteen years later, they did.

Gröning lived in the monks quarters for six months filming their daily prayers, tasks, rituals and rare outdoor excursions. “Into Great Silence” is the result.

We suggest you start by approaching this project (to call it a film or a documentary somehow just doesn’t seem adequate) as a meditative antidote to every other film you’ve seen. For 162 minutes you will be immersed into a way of life . . . and you will be provided no voiceovers or explanations.

For nearly 3 hours audiences contemplate the human pursuit of meaning, the form and function of symbols, rituals and traditions, man as a religious and social creature. They are immersed into the rhythms of work and prayer, day and night, winter and spring.

Relax and expect more of a meditative experience than a documentary. This is one of those rare films which manages to provide a transformative experience for all.

We give this one 4.5 Stars! Length: 162 Minutes