Letter of Invitation
In November, 2000, the Montgomery County Science and Religion Discussion Group
held its first meeting. Attendees were formally invited through a postal letter one month
before. The letter of invitation was sent out to 35 churches of many denominations in the
Gaithersburg/Germantown area of Maryland, just outside D.C. The area is the home of
the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the Human Genome Project, the
National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy and many more scientific and
engineering organizations. It is evident, therefore, that the community is rich with
scientifically trained professionals, many of whom attend local churches. The invitation
was simple and to the point. It included a statement of intention to start a discussion
group for the purpose of sharing and exploring the vast domain of science and religion. It
was made clear that all persons are invited without a creedal or ideological litmus test and
that discussions would be held in an engaging and respectful manner. A week after the
letters were sent out, phone calls were made to the churches that received the invitations
to engage the pastors and encourage their participation and the participation of others in
their church community. Through these efforts, when the initial meeting took place, 28
people showed up including many scientists and engineers from various denominations.
The project was deemed a success and one that has continued to the present day.
I tell this story because I would like to encourage anyone who feels moved to form a
group for this purpose. Of course, each community is different and the content and form
of any group must fit local needs and interests. But it can be done and, as in the case of
the Montgomery County group, done with surprising success. Be sure to connect with
people in person, either by phone or face-to-face. Also be sure to be open, engaging, and
supportive of differences. Perhaps most importantly, be flexible and enthusiastic. Our
discussion group has taken many unexpected turns over the years and includes many
people with significantly different backgrounds and stories. It has been a blessing for me
and those who have participated.
We would like to hear your stories. Please share with us how you have done it, with
some specific reference to the characteristics of the area in which you are meeting, and
tell us if this is happening within a denominational context or in a more ecumenical
setting. Please be brief (1 page). We plan to add a list of groups meeting in different
locations as time goes on.
Thanks very much.
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