For the first year ever, the National Council of Churches (NCC) has chosen to honor five local congregations for their work in becoming "model interfaith engaged congregations."
Boston Avenue United Methodist Church of Tulsa, Okla.; Community Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Tempe, Ariz.; Episcopal Tri-Faith Ministries of Ashland, Neb.; First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Eugene, Ore.; and St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C. have been recognized by the NCC for their, "exemplary efforts in strengthening its own self-understanding and identity as a community deeply rooted in the Christian faith and, at the same time, being open to learning from, working with, and sharing with those of other faiths," as noted on the certificates that will or have been presented to each church.
Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC associate general secretary, and one of the signers on the certificates, "These recognitions advance congregational mission and health by empowering congregations to share their story with denominational partners, local media, and potential funders."
In June, the NCC's Interfaith Relations Commission asked for nominations from its member communions and other communities affiliated with the Council of congregations that "have something important to share about interfaith engagement."
The winners were announced in December and have been honored in the following weeks at local ceremonies. Episcopal Tri-Faith ministries was presented with their award on Feb. 9.
"We are a congregation engaged in interfaith work because of our partnership with Temple Israel and the [American Institute of Islamic Studies and Culture]," said the Rev. Canon Tim Anderson, who leads the church. "We are accepting in the name of all the partners in the Tri-Faith Initiative."
Rabbi Aryeh Azriel of Temple Israel said, "I have been amazed and overwhelmed by the strength and leadership of the Episcopal Diocese of Nebraska. After only five years of dreaming and visioning about the Tri-Faith relationship, we are poised to undertake the construction of a campus, where three faith communities will live in harmony under God's watching eye."
In addition to the five winners, the NCC also chose five additional congregations to receive honorable mentions, including First Lutheran Church, of Eau Claire, Wis.; First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Carbondale, Ill.; Midvale Community Lutheran Church of Madison, Wis.; Rush Creek Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Arlington, Tex.; and the United Church of Christ at The Villages in Oxford, Fla.
To be eligible for the award, which will be given out on an annual basis, the church must be affiliated with a member communion of the NCC, or with a community that participates in one or more of the NCC's commissions; must have completed a nomination form and a two-page essay; submitted at least three letters of support, one from the congregation's regional or national church structure, and at least two from recognized leaders of other faith communities; and agreed to be listed as a mentoring congregation for three years, and be available to provide advice about nurturing interfaith relations in a congregational setting.