May 27, 2018
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Bar Harbor conference to explore multifaith approach to spirituality

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Elizabeth Drescher has always been something of a spiritual seeker.

“Even after I found my way to the Episcopal church in my late 20s, I continued to be deeply curious about the multitude of ways that people have found throughout history to explore and shape deeper meaning in everyday life,” Drescher, an author who teaches religious studies at Santa Clara University in California, wrote recently on her blog.

Drescher will be one of four speakers next month at the Downeast Spiritual Life Conference at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel and Conference Center. The conference, titled “Spirituality in Our Times: Embracing Diversity, Building Community,” will be held Aug. 23-24, and focus on a multifaith approach to the life of the spirit, according to the Rev. Claudia Smith, chairwoman of the conference committee and rector of St. Francis by the Sea Episcopal Church in Blue Hill.

This year’s conference features speakers from Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Buddhist traditions, and individuals whose spirituality is broader than any specific religious practice.

“I’m just as interested today in how people make meaning — how we try to get a handle on what’s ‘true’ or ‘good,’ how we experience fulfillment, how we reach beyond ourselves in various ways to connect with and enrich the lives of others, and how those practices shape the culture we share,” Drescher said on her blog.

That really is the goal of the conference, according to Smith. Although the model for the annual colloquium was the Camden Conference, she said.

“This is about spiritual journeys not about geopolitics,” she said. “It’s very much about each of our journeys living together on this planet, and about strengthening each other along the way.”

Drescher’s speech, “Pilgrims in the Land Between Religions: The Spiritual Lives of None,” will outline her current research focused on the growing number of Americans who identify themselves as having no religious affiliation. New England is the most secular region of the country.

“Many people assume that ‘N’ are atheists or other types of unbelievers,” Drescher wrote on her blog. “But, in fact, the majority hold beliefs and engage in spiritual practices that aren’t entirely inconsistent with those of the religious institutions they often reject. Still, they’re hardly traditional in their approach to meaning-making, self-realization, and self-transcendence.”

Other conference speakers include:

• American Muslim Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core, in Chicago. The organization promotes interfaith cooperation. Patel is author of “ Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, in the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation ” and “Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America.” His talk in Bar Harbor is titled “Standing Your Sacred Ground.”

• Rabbi Or N. Rose, director of the Center for Global Judaism at Hebrew College in Newton, Mass., and the co-director of CIRCLE, the Center for Inter-Religious and Communal Leadership Education, will talk about interfaith cooperation from a Jewish perspective. The rabbi has written articles and books about Jewish spirituality. He also blogs for the Huffington Post.

• Robert A. Jones, founder of the Empty Bell, a sanctuary for Buddhist-Christian dialogue in Northampton, Mass., will lead a workshop called “Jesus and Buddha: Spiritual Guides for the 21st Century.” He will discuss the principles and practices of following more than one spiritual path.

• Mirabai Starr emphasizes the essential wisdom at the heart of all spiritual paths. Known for her contemplative retreats, she will lead one the first day of the conference titled, “One Love: A Contemplative Experience.” The retreat will celebrate the interconnected wisdom of the world’s spiritual paths.

The conference will conclude with a concert by Noel Paul Stookey. Proceeds from the event will be used to support the conference.

Cost of the conference is $125, excluding the retreat, which is an additional $100.

For information, call 734-5200 or visit

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