Reflecting on MAP

Reflecting on MAP

By: Amy Fife, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, MAP Member, Boise, ID

What could happen when multiple faiths with varied beliefs are given the opportunity and the means to work together for a great cause? Would it be possible? Would it be effective? Would it be lasting? Would I be willing to be a part of a two year “experiment” with multiple faith denominations, myself representing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Boise, Idaho area?

These were some of the questions presented to me through Pastor Kevin Starcher, whom I had never met before.  He called me by recommendation of Dr. Michael Ross, senior pastor of the St.Paul Baptist Church.  I will forever be grateful for the thoughtfulness of Pastor Ross and the trust extended by Pastor Kevin.

Our group originally consisted of representative leadership from Presbyterian, Lutheran, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Baptist faiths here in the Boise, Idaho area.  Our initial meeting was friendly…we are all nice people.  It was no problem to chat and have some lovely surface conversation.  But this was not to be a surface experience.  It is God’s way to work beyond the surface into our individual hearts and souls. Over time as we were gently coached through our discussions, we had the opportunity to share more thoughtfully, dig deeper, be more vulnerable, and trust each other.  As a result, I found myself truly appreciative of the individuals around the table.  In fact, I found myself learning from them, and loving them as my friends.  After each connection time, I found that I felt energized, excited, expanded and delighted…all positive fruits of the Spirit.  We were being led through a process bigger than ourselves. I could feel it! It has been said that God’s work is too vast and too arduous for any one people. Yet I know that it is not too big for many willing to come together in action, bringing their willing hearts, and good desires.  Over time, we were all able to contribute ideas, resources, experiences and more that led to the development of the Multi-faith Action Project…MAP!  I was personally in awe that this entire experience was resulting in something that I had been told at one time was really not feasible…politics would get in the way they said.  Too many issues and boundaries.  Too many human frailties that cannot be overcome.  And definitely not enough time!  We decided early on to keep it simple.  Serve together.  No politics. Create real relationships.  Enjoy each other,  Learn about each other.  Serve more.  Courageously show up and love through the action of helping to alleviate human suffering…physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.

There were two larger events planned around that table.  Our first kickoff event in May of 2023 was our introduction of MAP to closer faith leadership friends and community leaders. We knew we wanted to start small and more intimate and felt it would naturally grow.  It was during that event that one faith leader pulled me aside and said, “There are many things like this….but this is it.  This is the right idea.  This is the one I want my people to be a part of.”  When I asked why,  she said it was because serving together is the only way we would feel the KIND OF LOVE we need to heal boundaries and overcome human frailty. It was pure delight to see so many discover the community treasure of “The St.Paul Family Life Education Center” which is where we unanimously gifted the grant entrusted to us.  It has been super awesome to see the center flourishing with life inside as it begins to become what it is meant to be.    In September of 2023, multiple faiths….Lutheran, Baptist, Catholic, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Muslim, Ba’hai, Protestant, Presbyterian, and more….gathered in hundreds to create 100,800 meals with “Feed the Hunger” for our community.  Every meal was needed and claimed, filling the food pantries and easing hunger throughout the Treasure Valley.  There was a lot of laughter and talking that day as we met new friends, and even swapped phone numbers and made plans to gather again. We enjoyed “breaking bread” together in between meal assembly sessions.  The youth enjoyed the natural gathering of playing lawn games. Beyond these larger events, other multi-faith service has been rendered throughout the valley as people go to the Just Serve MAP web page and post a need for help, or find opportunities to serve together already listed there.  

There were also events that were NOT planned around that table, but happened as a result of the new friendships and trust formed.  For example, it was Easter time when I learned that three of the congregations at the table had organized cross congregational celebrations during Holy Week. My family and I joined the Friday evening congregation at St. Paul’s Baptist Church to worship with the faith denominations that had NEVER before gathered together to worship and celebrate the very special week of Easter.  I will never forget when my MAP friends noticed that I was there. Big welcoming smiles. Maybe even surprise?   I felt so grateful to be there to hear them preaching and praying and leading and doing what they do so very, very well.  At Christmas time, myself (and others of my own faith tradition) came and took part in the cross congregational Christmas worship concert at St. Paul’s. (Wait.  We can do that??  Of course we can, and of course we should!)  I found my inner “baptist” singing with the most wonderful choir that evening and I felt honored to be asked to share some words at the pulpit by invitation of Pastor Ross.  Again, so grateful for the trust!  Another time,  I reached out to my multi-faith friends to come to a community event hosted at my own Church building.  And they came!  This Easter Holy Week, we again make plans to gather, to share in the celebration of faith and that which is so dear.  Each time we extend trust and honor trust, we love bigger.  

We are still in a process of discovery.  We are learning about each other.  We are nurturing the safe place of asking questions about different doctrines we believe that bring our individual hearts peace and joy.  We are learning that individual joy and peace is pretty great whatever faith it is anchored in!  And celebrating and supporting that in each other is valuable, and really expanding, and really fun!  MAP has given us a “reason” to harness the courage to join others in a less familiar space to show support and to learn.  It has given us a “reason” to harness the courage to ask vulnerable questions in a safe and respectful space.  MAP will continue to help us discover that we are pretty good alone, but together is actually how God intended us to be, because in doing so we recognize the Divinity in each of us.  Being a human being is busy.  Life demands a lot of each of us. Having “enough” time feels like a constant battle to me personally and amidst that I am still feeling that the continued development of MAP throughout our valley deserves time and attention.  It will continue to take work like all the best things do.  So MAP will continue to move forward, and I will continue to be grateful that the past years have expanded me so that I am learning to be a better neighbor, a better support, a more understanding friend to my faith community, with the hope that others get to experience this kind of “magic” that is God’s love in action together.  

So Pastor Kevin, I have some answers for you now!  If you bring Multi-faiths together to work for a great cause, it definitely is possible. It is absolutely effective.  It is lasting…and  It is WORTH IT. Bring on the JOY.