When it comes to faith, author and sports journalist Mitch Albom believes in the power to change.
"It's the choosing to have faith in that what you cannot see, the choosing to pray and believe in something beyond your reach – that makes faith the incredible, sometimes maddening, but ultimately so rewarding journey that it is," Albom, author of Have a Little Faith, said during the opening of the Religion Communication (RC) Congress 2010 in Chicago on April 7.
Lacing together two stories of faithful change, Albom, who is Jewish, told of his own eight-year process of returning to religion while preparing to preach the eulogy of his childhood rabbi, Albert Lewis. He also told the story of Henry Covington, a drug-dealer-turned-pastor ministering to the indigent, poor and homeless of Detroit.
Albom narrated how he drifted away from his childhood faith until Lewis asked him to do his eulogy. Eight years of conversation about life and faith, of heaven, history and happiness, ensued, Lewis said, telling his journey of interreligious reconciliation with a neighboring Catholic priest, and of his anguish after the death of his 4-year-old daughter.
Albom said this righteous rabbi, recounting his life, refused to place himself above the lapsed journalist.
You, Lewis told Albom, are a man of God too. Everyone is.
"If we truly believed that, we would have to treat each other better. We would have to, because we would see everybody the same," Albom said, who noted that it took time for him to see Covington in the same way.
"Let's be honest with each other at a convention like this. We don't trust different – not when it comes to religion," Albom said.
But Covington, who ran a shelter for homeless people and drug addicts in Detroit, was different, the author stated.
Albom called Covington the rarest of things: a changed man. He welcomes everyone – even Albom, who became the first official Jewish member of Covington's church.
"I believe, like 'The Reb,'" Albom said, "God sings and we all hum along, and there are many melodies but it's all one song."
The April 7-10 RC Congress is a once-a-decade event touted as the largest interfaith gathering of its kind.
Over 600 communications professionals are gathering for the event, which will feature new technology exhibits, networking opportunities, roundtable discussions, keynote speeches, and workshops.
A workshop from Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist and Chicago Sun-Times staff member John White concluded yesterday, with the photographer speaking about the themes that undergird his work.
"I'm faithful to my purpose, my mission, my assignment, my work, my dreams. I stay focused on what I'm doing and what's important," White said in a statement. "And I keep in flight – I spread my wings and do it."
Today, photographer Kenneth Irby, a contributor to three Pulitzer Prize-winning projects, will present a workshop on "Communications Ethics Today" dealing with new approaches to photographic coverage and presentation.
Also leading workshops today are National Council of Churches (NCC) staff members Dr. Diana Eck, chair of NCC's Interfaith Relations Commission, and Kathryn Lohre, NCC President Elect, who will be presenting about the Harvard University-based Pluralism Project, which is designed to "help Americans engage with the realities of religious diversity," a statement from the project's website says.
"How we appropriate plurality to shape a positive pluralism is one of the most important questions American society faces in the years ahead," the group says. "It will require all of us to know much more about the new religious landscape of America than we presently know."
Wrapping up the evening will be a presentation of the Wilbur Awards, given to secular media personnel for excellence in religion coverage, and a concert by eclectic keyboardist Ken Medema.