The interfaith leaders of England and Scotland were gathered to hear me speak about the coming United Religions Initiative.
Here are a few quotes from diary of this trip:
When we arrived at Windsor Castle, we were told that we would be housed in the flat where Anne Boleyn stayed on the night before she died. Happily, we ended up in another guest house. I immediately discovered that I had left my suit in San Francisco (where others have left their hearts). With 30 minutes to go before the start of the Conference, Mary and I ran downtown to Stuart Reeds and asked a clerk if he could have a suit for me in 20 minutes. Then, this happened.
I spoke and almost all present were livid. Their deep question was this: “What is URI going to do that we aren't already doing?” When I answered that question, they mostly agreed that I was arrogant and didn't show proper respect for existing inter-religious efforts.
Actually, I highly respect the little that I do know about them. Nevertheless, the moment comes when I have to say that what is happening now in interfaith work doesn't exhaust what needs to be done.
What is needed is a local/global initiative that connects all of the interfaith yearnings that blossom abundantly throughout the world, that liberates young hearts to fresh actions on behalf of the whole earth community. A radical organizational design and a rising hope are on the horizon and about to dawn.
Ah, confrontation! Almost every URI speech I deliver throughout the world of interfaith makes most people very angry. But that is as it should be. We have to get the big, tough issues out on the table, and trust that the heated candor will lead to better, sharper clarity. I figure that the more we grow in the future, the madder lots of people will be. That is how a vision matures into reality on the ground.
Here is another interesting tidbit from the diary while in Windsor: In mid-afternoon, we broke into small groups, and I went to a presentation by Eboo Patel, a young Oxford Ph.D. student by way of India and Chicago. He explained what he had learned from URI and how, using the URI organizational model, an Interfaith Youth Corps has come together under the sponsorship of the New York Interfaith Center, the Council for the Parliament of World Religions and URI.
When those in attendance saw that our URI model could inspire new and greatly needed interfaith work and that it didn't have to carry the URI logo, they began to have an inkling of its worth.
When the afternoon session was over, the head of England's most influential interfaith organization pulled me aside. He wanted me to know how negatively I am perceived in England. He mentioned a BBC interview that I had done some time ago and claimed that I had stated that no interfaith work went on in England until I invented it in 1993 (a blatant lie). He went on to say that I was held in derision among English bishops. And on and on! My take: he loves interfaith work and his place in it. And he is a good leader. When I come along with a design beyond his boundary lines, all sorts of alarm bells ring. Then he has some primal feelings that he has to get off his chest. OK!
Once, a few of us hurried over to St. George's Chapel for Sung Evensong. What a treat to the soul. The choir was outstanding, and the church was truly memorable with all of the shields of members of the Order of the Garter, stained glass and statuary of St. George's in this spectacular building. We saw the tomb of Henry the VIII, and inspected the art exhibit of symbolic birds such as phoenix and doves. On Sunday morning, we packed and had a final sacred ceremony in Windsor Castle.
The Conference had been an exciting, eye-opening important event for URI in UK.