Unlikely Conversations

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I grew up Catholic in a fairly Irish neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota. My childhood years were full of renegade nuns teaching me to seek Jesus on the margins and study scripture in diverse communities. My parents held their breath as I headed to a Lutheran college. There, a Jewish Rabbi taught me the New Testament. A Lutheran Theologian taught me about the Holocaust and a Japanese monk taught me about Zen Buddhism. I fell in love with the discussions in those classrooms and never turned back. I went to a Lutheran seminary and got hired at a Lutheran church. I got myself invited to Iftar meals with Kenyan Muslims and Shabbat meals with my Orthodox Jewish friends in New York City. At those tables, my own faith was fed and nurtured by challenging dialogue.

This podcast is about those kinds of exchanges. It’s a podcast that explores civil discourse is a spiritual practice. Unlikely Conversations comes from the Collegeville Institute, a place where scholars, artists, writers, and faith leaders travel to study, write and worship across religious boundaries. 

In this first season, we get to listen to brilliant young, religious leaders from The Collegeville Institute’s Multi-Religious Fellows Program. This cohort is comprised of 2 Jews, 2 Muslims, 2 Hindus, 2 Buddhists 2 Catholics and one Lutheran. We asked the cohort members to pair up, take a moment apart from the group, and dig into all kinds of thorny topics ranging from sacred texts to money to hateful stereotypes to why we need relationships that extend beyond another interfaith breakfast. I hope these conversations feed your faith and cultivate your curiosity like they do mine.

Episode 7

Complicated Women in Scripture: A Jewish-Christian Conversation

This final episode of the first season of the Unlikely Conversations podcast is a lively dialogue between Rabbi Jennifer Hartman and Pastor Andrea Roske-Metcalfe. Together, they explore how they each teach and preach tricky holy passages in a way that keeps female characters complex and layered. Listen for how beautiful things can get when we dwell in the muck of messy human stories and allow women to be multi-faceted.

Episode 6

Getting Curious About Difference: A Jewish-Catholic Conversation

Claire Shea is principal at a Catholic middle school. She is also married to a Muslim. Aaron Weininger is a Jewish Rabbi. He is also openly gay. In this episode, Claire and Aaron talk about having tough conversations in their homes and families as well as in the public sphere. Starting in their homes has helped them prioritize relationships in doing courageous work in their communities.


Episode 5

Worship During A Pandemic: A Hindu-Jewish Conversation

In this episode, which was recorded in late April, hear a conversation between Neha Markanda and Rabbi Jennifer Hartman talk about being faith leaders in the time of COVID-19. They discuss holding grief and gratitude simultaneously. They express the difficulty of postponing huge milestone markers and celebrations and the heartbreaking work of conducting funerals online. This is a touching and poignant interfaith conversation about faith communities gathering, celebrating and grieving in new ways, holding onto what makes us human.


Episode 3

From Interfaith Dialogue to Multi-Religious Action: A Conversation with Rabbi Barry D. Cytron and Dr. Marty Stortz

How have interfaith relations shifted in the last century? Why is there still so much religious violence in the world? And how can we know if our lives have made a difference?

This episode takes a step away from the conversations between fellows to offer some history and context from two masters of multi-religious work—Rabbi Barry D. Cytron and Dr. Marty Stortz.


Episode 2

Love is a Verb: A Muslim–Catholic Conversation on Social Justice

How do our faith communities grapple with injustice and inequality? Are our financial budgets moral documents? And what do the Koran and Bible say about advocating for the oppressed?

Listen to an unlikely conversation between Tamim Saidi and Joe Kruse as they discuss social justice, economics, and the call to love in their respective Muslim and Catholic Worker communities.


Episode 1

Religion and the Next Generation: A Hindu–Christian Conversation on Youth Spiritual Engagement

In these days when young people are leaving organized religion in droves, how do our faith communities form, educate, and empower youth? And how can we build healthy, multi-religious relationships when, let’s face it, they can be hard and uncomfortable?

Listen to an unlikely conversation between Pooja Bastodkar and Andrea Roske-Metcalfe as they discuss youth spiritual engagement in their respective Hindu and Christian communities.


Season 1 Trailer

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