My first day as executive director of PTU was almost exactly six years ago. The board and I knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. The key issues at hand:
- Which strategies can we develop to have the greatest impact in multi-faith peacemaking in this time and place?
- Which educational engagements, public leadership, and experiential programs could we create to fulfill that mission?
We started with educational engagements to help groups listen deeply to each other. With the leadership of Jeff Renner, we established our media program Challenge 2.0. We engaged in public leadership to encourage wisdom communities to stand up for our common humanity. I wrote a book to help Christians explore the role they might play in building stronger communities and supporting democracy in partnership with other traditions. I have engaged with over 12,000 people about countering bigotry toward Muslims, Jews, and Indigenous peoples.
But this is the year.
Our board, staff, and volunteers understand that our democracy is fragile. And we believe that our political problems can’t be addressed only through politics. We need relationship more than rhetoric, face-to-face more than Facebook, work for the common good instead of negative news cycles, and public respect for each other – not public disgust with people we don’t even know.
On February 29th, we will hold the first official Let’s Go Together event in Skagit county. So far, we have gathered 30 organizations whose members will come together to know each other, serve together, and honor each other despite their differences. We hired program coordinator Viveka Hall-Holt because we believe that LGT can be spread across our state and across our nation. When people with deeply held convictions and beliefs know each other and work together, people in the neighborhood take a deep breath and say, “There is hope for us yet!”
This is the year.
PTU founders Rabbi Levine and Father Treacy knew that engaging youth is critical if we want to sow seeds of peace for our future. That’s why they ran an interfaith youth camp, Camp Brotherhood in Mount Vernon, before the organization pivoted to become Paths to Understanding. But we always kept that vision of wanting to do intergenerational work. Now is the time. PTU will be starting its own youth program in 2024. On January 1, we hired Hannah Hochkeppel as our Director of Youth Engagement. We will take a few months to listen, fundraise, and build relationships before launching our first youth program in the fall. We will introduce Hannah to you in the next few newsletters. She will be sharing her journey toward shaping youth engagement at PTU and planning those first events.
I can’t tell you how excited I am about these new primary programs of PTU!
We will still do the public leadership and educational engagements. That is a part of how we work to inspire local wisdom communities to add multi-faith peacemaking to what they do. That is part of how we bridge bias and build unity. But this year, PTU is taking the next step in our development by focusing on two key programs that are strategically central to fulfilling our mission in this time and place.
We have come a long way with your support! We know that we have much to learn. But we are confident that we will learn and grow with the whole PTU community to help create the world we all long for.