A Discussion Group of the National Storytelling Network

Story Circles
Children at the Well

Interfaith Story Circle of Dutchess County, NY

2013 marks the 10th year of the sharing of stories in the sacred circle. It began in 2004 when women told faith stories from their own faith traditions at the Dutchess County Jail.

Our Story Circle feature storytellers who tell a prepared story on a chosen theme and then open the floor for those in attendance who are inspired to tell a story from their own tradition on the evening's theme.

The Story Circles are hosted at different houses of worship so that participants can visit and learn about other sanctuaries of faith. Congregants of the hosting house are encouraged to attend and share their experiences. Over these years we have visited the Masjid, the Hindu Samaj, and the Buddhist Monastery in Wappingers Falls, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Poughkeepsie, as well as all of the Jewish Houses of Worship and many Christian churches.

Interfaith Story Circle of Dutchess County is part of the Dutchess County Interfaith Council, Inc..

Meetings 2013

May Story Circle -- Tuesday, May 21 at 7pm
Stories of Transformation

Vassar Temple, 140 Hooker Ave., Poughkeepsie

Reflections on Meetings in 2013

March 12, 2013 Interfaith Story Circle at Hindu Samaj - by Gail Burger

Kusum Gupta did it again! The interfaith story circle enjoyed excellent attendance at the Hindu Samaj on Brown Road in Wappingers. Several men and women from the Samaj participated and an equal number of others found their way to this inspiring event. The chanted prayers of others floated out from the shrine spaces into the adjoining meeting room. At one point in the evening, the curtain rose between the spaces and we were treated to a beautiful sight of the shrines decorated for the celebration called Mahashivaratri.

The theme for the March Interfaith Story Circle was “Stories of Courage.” Muriel asked that, as we introduced ourselves, we name a person who had shown courage in the face of tyranny. She named the two midwives famous for defying the ancient pharoah’s order to kill the babies of the Hebrew slaves. The Egyptian princess who rescued the baby Moses from the river Nile was also mentioned. Since March is International Women’s recognition month, many women were named. Many heavy situations were brought to mind.

The lovely dancer/storyteller, Emily Dunawilla, then danced us a folktale from England about a little girl who tricked an evil giant in the face of tremendous odds. Her danced story amazed and amused us. Courage in the face of all sorts of danger, courage in the face of genocide, courage in the face of sin, courage in the face of illness....courage in the face of life’s countless difficulties great and small, increased our appreciation for one another’s faith and wisdom.

Participants were Hindu, Sikh, Baha'i, Muslim, Jewish, Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian.

Kusum has authored an Indian cookbook, so you know how delicious the refreshments were

April 22, 2013 Interfaith Story Circle Reflection - by Gail Burger
St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church

20 people...6 from Catholic congregations, 6 from Protestant congregations, 6 from Jewish congregations, 1 Hindu, 1 Muslim.

Dan Ward gave a tour of his beautiful sanctuary; Marion Shwartz, me and Muriel’s friend Debbie Most stayed behind and talked about the Boston bombing suspects. When the “tourists” returned, Pastor Ward opened the Circle with an interfaith prayer.

Muriel Horowitz introduced the Circle by asking each to make a 10 word comment about their connection to the earth.

Muriel told a great story about “the people who ate the sky.” We enjoyed it just as much as the children to whom Muriel tells this story always enjoy it. The lesson is clear: don’t be greedy. Muriel likes to highlight the message of good stewardship of the environment.

Muriel’s story was “not from the Jewish tradition, but from Africa...although, it could be from any one of our religious traditions.” A visitor from South Africa was part of the Circle that evening.

Gail read a Mary Oliver poem titled: “Life Story.” She read it in memory of a friend of hers and of Lorraine Hartin-Gelardi’s, Jo Renbeck, whose connection to the earth was exquisite.

Mary Lou Koziol told about her experience doing a “cooking show” at the nursing home where she worked for many years. It was Earth Day, but the correct answer to the question, “What special day is it today?” was, “It’s Mary’s birthday.” The 98 year old Mary’s response: “I don’t think so.” Mary Lou went on to speak about the new Pope Francis and passed around a card a friend had brought back from his installation in Rome. Then she read St. Francis’ “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” prayer. It all fit together like a glove on a hand.

Ralph Schwartz told a funny story about a woman in a kyack upon whose lap a sea otto recently plopped itself. Ralph also made some other great comments from life experiences of his own.

Waheeda Soomro also shared some animal experiences while living out in LaGrange. She commented that a ground hog presented a special challenge which her IBM husband. He tends strongly toward perfectionism, but finally had to give in and give up even trying to get rid of the creature. Gail asked Waheeda whether the Koran contains any verses about ecology and the beauty of the earth. Waheeda was able to mention several. One was particulary striking: “No hunting for pleasure...only hunting for food when it was absolutely necessary.”

Muriel asked Kusum Gupta to speak to Hinduism's deep pronouncements about the natural world. Kusum spoke eloquently.

Lucy Jones, a United Methodist minister, resident now at The Grail in Cornwall, told her gardening story. The deer were devastating the garden day after day. One day when approaching the garden she found a fawn curled up in a ball on the ground. Apparently Lucy had frightened the mother away. The baby deer stood up shakily on its wobbly legs and leaned against Lucy. “I forgive you” was all she could say. Lucy’s connection to all of nature had been instantly refreshed.

Jill Auerbach who works with the conservation commission works trying to solve the problems related to tick borne diseases, stressed the importance of biological diversity. All species of animals are related in such a way as to deal with such diseases, but when, for example, the red foxes are decimated by coyotes, the balance is disrupted and disease can become rampant.

Several other participants shared reflections on nature’s beauty, on memories of early Earth Days and on our very basic responsibility as earth stewards. One of the most popular Christian hymns is “How Great Thou Art”, a song about the awesome beauty of God’s Creation. We sang the first two verses.

The refreshments were really good.

Click here for details about our Sixth Annual Peace Story Concert.

Click here for details about our Fourth Annual Peace Story Concert.

Click here for details about our Third Annual Peace Story Concert.

Click here for an article "Stories Bridge Differences" about our 2006 “Peace Tales -- Stories of Hope and Tolerance” concert.

Click here for future meetings of this story circle.

For further information, contact Lorraine.