What a comfort it is to know, especially at this time of year, that beneath the caricature of Redneck Nation that has plagued Murfreesboro ever since the controversy over the Islamic Center went national is an undercurrent of reasonable, open-hearted people who won’t succumb to the rage and intolerance of some of their neighbors.
Women of Faith celebrated its one-year anniversary in October.
The group’s mission statement said they “believe that unity within diversity is not only possible, but is the foundation of our efforts to provide a safe and welcoming place for women to meet in fellowship.”
The group is not as loud or as boisterous as some of those who have different perspectives on the Islamic Center issue, but they trust that listening to the still, small voices within each of them will nurture a collectively powerful voice.
“We’ve gotten a lot of negative attention nationwide,” founding member Jill Austin said. “People who don’t know us think a lot of us have a negative perception of Murfreesboro, but I think that’s incorrect.”
Founding member Juli Vice said, “Each of us had a desire to see positive change happen in our community.”
Vice is a Christian Scientist who can relate to those whose religion has been mischaracterized due either to ignorance or the promotion of a political agenda.
The women represent numerous types of Christianity, including the Unity Church and Unitarian Universalism, as well as Islam and paganism. Agnostics and atheists are welcome, as well.
“We believe that everybody has faith of some sort,” Austin said. “If they don’t have faith in a God, they have faith in life or in other people.”
The organization’s activities include collecting clothes and providing supplies for city school children and donating food to the Rutherford County Food Bank.
“All the different groups have learned from each other and appreciate both their differences and similarities,” Austin said. “We’ve made lifelong friendships that we wouldn’t have made without this group.”
In a press release distributed on the group’s one-year anniversary, founding member Sanaa Fathy echoes those sentiments.
“As a Muslim, there are so many misconceptions about my religion, especially involving our treatment of women,” Fathy is quoted as saying. “I have been able to connect with so many others to break these fallacies while learning about others’ beliefs at the same time. It has given us knowledge, compassion, understanding and a whole new level of camaraderie that is ultimately irreplaceable.”
Another founder, Jess Matz, calls Women of Faith “a safe place where I don’t have to be afraid to express our beliefs. A truly interfaith group such as this is rare, and I am proud to be a part of a group that is as welcoming to us Pagan sisters as it is to everyone else.”
Women of Faith meets on the fourth Tuesday night of each month at 7 p.m.
Beginning in December, the meetings will be held at Blackman United Methodist Church, 4380 Manson Pike. Non-members are welcome to attend.