You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Wed, Jan 19, 2011 : 2:46 p.m.

'Living Library' allows the curious to explore other faiths at Ann Arbor event

By Ann Dwyer


Representatives from various religions and faiths share their experiences and answer questions this past Sunday at the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County’s “Living Library” program.

Ann Dwyer |

In small circles inside the Social Hall at the Temple Beth Emeth/St. Clare Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor, “patrons” leaned in close to hear “living books” like Doug Jackson talk about their religious experiences.

As part of the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County’s “Living Library” program last Sunday, representatives from various religions and faiths shared their experiences and answered questions while maintaining the feel of a traditional library.

“My first patron asked about my life, the success and failures in my own practice of Christian Science,” said Jackson, representing the First Church of Christ, Scientists.

Each representative was given a call number and patrons were allowed a 20-minute checkout.

“It’s nice for me to hear the variety of paths people have taken,” said Mark Salzer of Ann Arbor Township.

Salzer, who attends a Mennonite church, was conflicted as to whether he wanted to look into the Pagan or Universalist faiths next after having heard about Science of the Mind.

“In college, I studied religious studies and anthropology, and so I’ve always been interested in religious traditions and kind of how people are drawn to different ones,” said Marisa Huston of Ann Arbor.

Huston had listened to the story of a Somali woman’s experience with Islam and planned to next hear about Mormonism.

The Living Library, according to George Lambrides, the executive director of the Interfaith Roundtable, was designed to be a creative way for people to meet their neighbors and better understand them.

For those representing the books, the event was a great way to interact with those outside of their faith.

“I don’t think I should have an agenda to promote Christian Science. I should just inform them about my own experience with it. We speak from our own personal experience,” Jackson said.

Roughly 65 people attended the event, which was part of the Roundtable’s Religious Freedom Day celebration held Jan. 13-16.

A panel presentation at the Ann Arbor District Library brought together Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, and secular organizations to discuss “flashpoints and controversies on religious freedom.”

On Saturday, volunteers worked with Habitat for Humanity in Ypsilanti for a day of community service.

Religious Freedom Day, held on Jan.16 this year, is observed nationally to promote tolerance and the freedom of religion and religious diversity. Officially, it is a day to remember the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedoms that was drafted by Thomas Jefferson.