The Rev. Terry Kyllo was serving Lutheran and Episcopal churches in Western Washington. He initiated some interfaith conversation between Christians, Buddhists and Muslims in Marysville, WA. In 2014 some residents of Oak Harbor, WA invited him and Jeff Siddiqui to counter anti-Muslim bigotry there. This led to four other events being held around Western Washington. As anti-Muslim hate incidents increased Terry and Jeff created the Love In a Time of Fear event at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood, WA. At the same time, a candidate for President of the United States had called for a Muslim Ban using bogus information from an anti-Muslim hate group. The event drew 450 people. The next day, five faith leaders from around Washington State invited him to hold an event at their church. Terry organized ten events that spring, many of them in more rural areas of the State.
In this process, Terry had a powerful call experience:
During Holy Week I was speaking to a few of my Muslim friends about what would come after the “Love in a Time of Fear” events.
I said that we needed someone to help prepare churches for relationship with Muslims and to facilitate Muslims and Christians to enter into neighborly relationships with each other, as each of our founders taught us to do.
Then I heard my voice say, “I think I need to do that.”
I felt a great weight on me as and after I said this, but a lightness too.
I spoke to my wife who said, “Maybe you should listen to that voice.” Since then I have asked my family, my friends, my colleagues in both the Episcopal and Lutheran Churches, my Bishops what they thought. The overwhelming response was, “Of course, do it!”
I know I have much to learn but trust that God is moving in this world to bring us together, not to be the same or to believe the same, but to love God more than our tribe or tradition and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Terry began Neighbors in Faith after conversation with Muslim leaders, the Episcopal and Lutheran Bishops, Christian faith leaders and his family. He resigned from the churches he was serving and began to work full-time to counter anti-Muslim bigotry. Neighbors in Faith is authorized by the Northwest Washington Synod of the ELCA (Lutheran), The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, and the Southwestern Washington Synod of the ELCA.
In late 2019, Neighbors in Faith became a program of Paths to Understanding. While NIF is more specific in countering the dehumanization of Muslims, the overall mission and values are the same. The expertise gained in countering the dehumanization of one group will guide Paths to Understanding in standing with all groups dehumanized on the basis of religion and race.