St. Thomas Newsroom

Religious Leaders From Four Traditions to Discuss Change and Conflict Within Their Communities

Religious leaders from the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist traditions will be panelists in the program “Change and Conflict Within Religious Communities” on Thursday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. at St. Luke Presbyterian Church, 3121 Groveland School Rd., Minnetonka.

The program, sponsored by the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning, is free and open to the public.

“The impetus for this program is the book Change and Conflict in Your Congregation by St. Luke’s pastor, Anita Bradshaw,” said John Merkle, director of the Jay Phillips Center. “While Dr. Bradshaw’s book was written with Christian congregations in mind, the issue of change and conflict has to be confronted by communities in all faith traditions.

“This program will begin with Dr. Bradshaw summarizing the main ideas in her book, which I find to be an immensely helpful resource for Christians,” Merkle said. “Then we will hear from Rabbi Norman Cohen, Imam Hamdy El-Sawaf and the Rev. Sosan Flynn, a Buddhist priest, who will speak about conflict resolutions in their communities.”

According to Bradshaw, “the four presenters, along with audience members, will also engage in a conversation about what people of different religious traditions can learn from each other about creating stronger communities that lead to a more peaceful world.”

Bradshaw holds two graduate degrees from Yale University and a Ph.D. from Luther Seminary in St. Paul. Along with her pastoral duties at St. Luke’s, she serves as a consultant to congregations across the denominational spectrum, particularly for purposes of conflict resolution. She has taught at several universities, colleges and seminaries, including Yale Divinity School, Augsburg College and Hartford Seminary.

Cohen is rabbi emeritus of Bet Shalom Congregation in Minnetonka, where he was senior rabbi from 1981-2015. He has been an adjunct faculty member at several colleges and universities, including St. Olaf College and St. Catherine University, and he is rabbi-in-residence with the Jay Phillips Center.

El-Sawaf is an imam at Masjid Al-Iman Mosque in northeast Minneapolis and is the founding director of the Al-Wafaa Center for Human Services, also in Minneapolis. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and serves as a psychotherapist in the Healing Resources for Refugees initiative sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Churches.

Flynn, an ordained Zen Buddhist priest, serves as the guiding teacher at Clouds in Water Zen Center in St. Paul. She has a master’s degree in counseling psychology, specializes in premarital counseling, and frequently lectures and teaches classes on Zen Buddhist principles, ethical guidelines, meditation and mindful living.

The Jay Phillips Center is a joint enterprise of the University of St. Thomas, which has campuses in St. Paul and Minneapolis, and Saint John’s University, Collegeville.