Oakwood hosts Clergy Beyond Borders

Dearborn, Mich. – September – On Sept. 11, 2011, The Clergy Beyond Borders organization departed on a 3,000 mile trip across the country, visiting houses of worship, universities, schools—and one hospital sanctuary.

The organization, currently on a “Religious Leaders for Reconciliation” caravan, stopped to tour the Interfaith Sanctuary at the Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center (OHMC) in Dearborn, which recently underwent a $1.3 million expansion and renovation project that transformed it from a hospital chapel to a sanctuary that embraced all religions.

“We had heard about this wonderful sanctuary that incorporated space for all faith traditions,” said Rabbi Jerry Serotta, executive director of the Clergy Beyond Borders.

He said the sanctuary was a good representation of the mission of the Clergy Beyond Borders, itself, which is essentially to respect everyone, regardless of their personal beliefs.

“We recognize the borders between our different religions as God-given and holy, but still capable of being transcended,” Serotta told a crowd of more than three dozen at the OHMC. “If you have a border, you can always turn it into a table and sit around and talk about what we have to learn and share from each other.”

Based in Maryland, the organization sends out traveling teams to teach the concept of respect across all religious faiths, according to Imam Yahya Hendi, founder and president of the organization. 

“We are trying to reclaim the soul of America,” he said. “We are all in this together. You can be whatever you want to be—Jew, Hindu, Christian, Muslim—as long as you speak a language of respect for all. We are trying to do this on a proactive basis.

“We have so many differences, but we have so, so many similarities,” Hendi added. “We all have the same challenges at the end of the day.”
In addition to the tour of the Sanctuary, the team—which also included the Rev. Ken Bendell, a Methodist Pastor, and the Rev. Steve Martin, an Evangelical pastor out of Tennessee—talked with OHMC staff about end of life issues through the perspective of different faith traditions. Eide Alawan of the Office of Intra-Interfaith Outreach, Islamic Center of America in Dearborn helped organize the visit.

“It was an excellent program and quite an honor to have them here,” said Beverly Beltramo, director of spiritual support services for Oakwood Healthcare, Inc. “We were honored to host this gathering, and to support the important work they are doing.”