Religions for Peace USA began its work in Knoxville in January of this year by calling together a group of local faith and community leaders, representing many religious traditions, for dinner and discussion. This group, now called the Core Team, meets monthly to plan “A Seat At The Table” dinners in the Knoxville area. ASATTs are informal gatherings meant to connect individuals through guided, intentional conversations. Over a meal, facilitators ask participants to share their own formational experiences in building community across racial and religious differences, while also learning from others in the room.
In true communal spirit, the Core Team rotates leadership monthly and decisions are made through group discussions. We have been holding one “A Seat At The Table” dinner a month since February, and have discussed expanding to two dinners a month when needed. Due to interest, we have already doubled the number of people invited to each dinner and now break into two groups for conversation. This has allowed Core Team members to gain more experience facilitating the discussions. As a Core Team, we continue to ask what else we can do as an interfaith group and how we can bring more voices to the table, especially those that are underrepresented in our efforts thus far.
We held the first ASATT reunion on July 28th. The reunion was a time for people to reconnect with participants from their dinner, meet new people, and discuss ways to harness the positive energy from the events to positively impact the Knoxville community.
It is our hope that through spaces like A Seat at the Table, we might build a more united community in Knoxville, made up of many different religious communities. Our work seeks to further equip individuals to positively impact their own communities. It is our belief that relationship eradicates hate and fear.
Emily Baird-Chrisohon, Regional Organizer