So, It Started Like This…
As with many endeavors, it began as a topic of casual conversation: “we should look at doing a radio show together,” said Rabbi Steven Engel, Senior Rabbi of the Congregation of Reform Judaism in Orlando. The three colleagues were seated together at the Park Plaza Gardens restaurant in downtown Winter Park for one of their regular lunch get-togethers. For about a dozen years Imam Muhammad Musri – the Senior Imam of the Islamic Society of Central Florida – Rabbi Steven Engel, and the Rev. Bryan Fulwider who served for 13 years as the Senior Minister of First Congregational Church of Winter Park, had shared in many areas of interfaith work in the greater Orlando community. One of the regular activities of the three clergy friends has always included shared speaking engagements where they talk together out of their Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faith perspectives. The Imam and the Rev. agreed, believing this could be a very good thing for our local central Florida community and beyond.
With the unending, and sometimes overwhelming, demands of ministry in the local congregation the concept of developing a radio show remained only an idea. Then, some members of the church where the Rev. Fulwider served at that time heard about the idea; and as the old saying goes, “the game was afoot!” A meeting was held with WMFE radio early in 2011 with the station’s Program Director, Patrick Dalton and their former President and CEO, who after hearing the concept for the show, said, “bring us a 30 minute pilot, and we’ll see.” In the fall of 2011 the pilot show for “Friends Talking Faith with The Three Wise Guys” was delivered to WMFE. Our first full hour show aired on public radio station 90.7 WMFE in Orlando, Florida (Central Florida’s home for NPR) on April 1, 2012 at 6:00 PM.
The Rev. Fulwider’s mother always told him, “son, you have a face for radio!” The Rabbi’s wife suggested that The Three Wise Guys create a bobble head doll with a single body and their three heads bobbling on the top. Needless to say, the group has had a lot of fun thinking about this endeavor. However, all levity aside for a moment, the true joy of this project is the opportunity to be a part of something important for our larger community. In many ways the title of the show says it all:
“Friends Talking Faith”
It’s the whole point of the show: three clergy from different faith traditions sitting down as friends to talk together about important things from the perspectives of the different religions they represent. In our world, where the most prominent examples regarding religious people – captured and promoted through a 24-hour news cycle by the media, most often highlighting the ways in which people of differing faiths act in violence, disrespect and disdain, and apparent malevolence toward one another and others – our world needs a strong voice that provides a counterbalance to this very warped view. The Three Wise Guys believe – in fact, they know – that the vast majority of people from varying religious backgrounds, and those who claim no religion at all, are people of peace, kindness, goodwill, and compassion for others.
Here’s what The Three Wise Guys would say:
“Our goal through this project is to educate, enlighten, inspire, and model a kind of inter-religious dialogue that builds community and creates a world that is fit to live in for all of us. We believe this is God’s calling for people of all faith traditions. We believe God intends for each of us to find ways to build bridges and create greater understanding for the people and nations of our world. We believe that God never calls any of our religions to behaviors of violence or destruction of the other. We are fully aware that there is “bad religion” in our world – there always has been; however, there is far more “good religion” in our world. Good religion works for peace, respects and values the other person regardless of their religious perspective (or no religion at all), and works through acts of compassion to make the world a better place for everyone.
“For each of us it is this understanding of God which binds us together as the best of friends. In some small way, through this endeavor together, we aim to make a difference for good in our community and in the world.”
…by the way, it turns out that putting together a radio show is a lot of work! All of us working on the show would be so grateful for your prayerful support as we move ahead.
All the best,
The Three Wise Guys and the whole “Friends Talking Faith” creative and production team