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Restoring faith in people: Mt Carmel Lutheran Church hosts Interfaith Lecture Series



What would the world look like if we all understood and respected each other’s beliefs?

This might be an impossible question to answer, and seem like a far-fetched concept, but one local church is trying to change that at the local level. Mt Carmel Lutheran Church in San Luis Obispo is playing host to its third annual Interfaith Lecture Series featuring six local religious leaders.

CROSSING FAITH LINES:  Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church is playing host to its third annual interfaith lecture series. - PHOTO BY KAORI FUNAHASHI
  • CROSSING FAITH LINES: Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church is playing host to its third annual interfaith lecture series.

“The idea came from our pastor and our congregation members who said ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could get people from different faiths to come talk to us,’” explained Bob Grosse, adult education leader for Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church.

The general framework for the series hasn’t changed much over the last three years. Each year, organizers select a prompt, which they then pose to local religious leaders. Speakers who feel strongly about the subject volunteer to participate, and give a 50-minute speech on the subject, followed by a 10- to 15-minute question and answer session.

Two years ago, the subject was Mary and her significance within the speaker’s faith tradition. Grosse noted that both the representative from a local Catholic church and the Muslim speaker described Mary as a role model for young women within their faith. The following year, the series addressed the notion of God being present during difficult circumstances. Some speakers elected to discuss incredibly personal experiences, including one assistant pastor who talked about falling off a mountain and breaking his neck. Others drew on religious texts and stories for their talk.

This year’s six speakers will answer the question, “Why do you believe in God?”

On Jan. 11, Richard Carsel will kick off the series as a community leader and past president of Temple Beth David and Temple Ner Shalom and lay leader of Temple Ohr Tzafon in Atascadero; on Jan. 18, Reverend Rod Richards, the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and president of the SLO Ministerial Association, will speak; on Jan. 25, Dr. Deborah Wilhelm, a lay preacher for Nativity Catholic Church and lecturer in homiletics for clergy and lay preachers in the Diocese of Monterey, will speak; on Feb. 1, Dr. Todd Long, Cal Poly professor of philosophy and religion, will speak; on Feb. 8, Carol McFall, a Christian science healer, speaker, and writer on practical metaphysics, will speak; and on Feb. 15, Naiyerah Kolkailah, president of Islamic Society of San Luis Obispo County will speak.

“I think it’s a matter of understanding, of understanding people and the local community and people who have different worship traditions,” Grosse said, of the overall goal of the series. “[What] this world needs perhaps more than anything else is understanding each other.”

Talks take place at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church, 1701 Fredericks St. in SLO. For additional information call 544-2133 or visit Childcare will be provided.


Fast fact

San Luis Obispo Bodhi Path is playing host to “Straight from the Heart: The Heart Sutra—Teachings and Practice with Trinlay Rinpoche” Jan. 3 and 4 at San Luis Coastal Adult School, 1500 Lizzie St. in SLO. Classes include “Why Meditate,” “Heart Sutra Teaching Part 1,” “How to Meditate,” and “Heart Sutra Teaching Part II.” For more information, or to register for classes, visit or email [email protected].


Managing Editor Ashley Schwellenbach compiled this week’s Strokes & Plugs. Send your business and nonprofit news to [email protected].

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