play / 2014
Its About Good Interfaith Block Parties: Where Playing Becomes Praying
Please describe yourself.
Proposed collaboration (we want to work with partners!)
In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.
A series of interfaith block parties that bring together the Los Angeles faith community in celebration of our similarities and differences
Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?
- Central LA
- East LA
- South LA
- San Gabriel Valley
- San Fernando Valley
- South Bay
What is your idea/project in more detail?
It’s About Good Interfaith Block Parties would take place across one year in the four quarters of Los Angeles: Santa Monica, (Healing), (Education/Service), East Side (Arts), and North Side (Media/Technology) and on campus at USC on May 7th, 2015. Each event would highlight the cultural, economic, and religious diversity of each section through an interactive music-based event and community service project. The first would be held in Santa Monica and focus on healing through a Healing Arts Fair near the Santa Monica pier including yoga studios and practitioners, spiritual healing practices, medical facilities, the VA hospital, and local churches, synagogues and faith-based recovery centers and programs.
What will you do to implement this idea/project?
Partnering with the Interfaith Religious Council of Los Angeles, the Office of Religious Life at USC, and local places of worship across Los Angeles, each event will require a diverse body of actors to plan it, promote it, and execute it. In highlighting the spiritual elements of each community it is in, It’s About Good Interfaith Block Parties will be family friendly opportunities to come together, be educated, dance, have a great time, and celebrate religious diversity and pluralism of Los Angeles. The intention behind each event will be to mobilize community service across faith-lines in that community, as well as educate the local community about different expressions of faith and worship. For instance, the Hollywood event would enable a Christian church like Mosaic, the Self-Realization Fellowship, Temple of Israel Hollywood, and other places of faith to have a common purpose and learn from one another. Holy Ghost Global has experience executing such events in unique venues like the Burning Man Art Festival, South by Southwest in Austin, on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, and other places.
Holy Ghost Global will serve as the relationship broker and visionary for each event, work to secure venues, artists, vendors, and others that will make the event a success. Each event will be based around a universal concept - Hollywood will celebrate the free flow of information, innovation, social media, and use of technology through a media hackathon and scavenger hunt for filmmakers, technologists, and entrepreneurs across Hollywood Blvd.; Echo Park will focus on creativity, arts, and freedom of expression expressed through a music festival that highlights dance, music, art, and poetry in Echo Park; Wilmington/South Bay will focus on youth involvement, cross-cultural learning, and sports with a kind of spiritual olympics held near the Korean Bell with teachers, parents, and students in the South Bay; Santa Monica will host a healing arts exposition near the Pier to highlight alternative therapies, educate Los Angelenos on health care choices, and hear Ted Talks from Health Care professionals and experts. The Prayer Day event will be on May 7th. Faith leaders on staff at the Office of Religious Life, and many others from across Los Angeles, will join with students and faculty together with city officials, public servants, and citizens for musically-based intercessory prayer for Los Angeles and the globe.
How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to PLAY today? In 2050?
This project will unite Los Angeles around faith, rather than divide it. Most of the world, especially the Middle East and the continent of Africa, is increasingly at war because of religious belief. As the most religiously diverse city on the face of the earth, Los Angeles has the privilege and opportunity to show the broad spectrum of faith expressions. Every human asks questions about the existence of God - but we all express this question differently. Using geographic location and different mediums, we open up the question to individual expression rather than suppress it, ignore it, or belittle it. The center of all religion is truth and love. It’s About Good Interfaith Block Parties help to embolden the conversation and expression of faith in Los Angeles for the purpose of serving others and promoting universal good.
The millenial generation is the least religiously involved generation of American history, but the most civically engaged. There are fewer and fewer venues for real, open, honest conversations about faith in God. While religious differences are portrayed more starkly, religious moderates who use their faith to empower their service to the community are marginalized.
The purpose of these block parties is to bridge generations - baby boomers who were raised in places of worships and are becoming more and more religious as they grow older due to health and other reasons, and millenials who are not in traditional houses of worship, but want to live their faith by their works.
Furthermore, the context of faith will guarantee family friendly content, supportive and positive energy, and a spirit of brotherly love. We have the opportunity to prepare the next generation, those who will be running the city in 2050, to not abandon faith, but rather see it as necessarily entwined in every aspect of the social and civic spheres of Los Angeles. These events open up the opportunity for morals, ethics, and mores to be instilled in a relevant way rather than through legalistic, deadening codes and creeds.
Faith has traditionally been at the center of civilization’s progress since the beginning of time. It still belongs in the center of Los Angeles whether it is technology, film, education, health care, or community service. Giving people exposure to different faiths enables them to make their own decisions and by doing it out in the open, in public spaces, the people take back the power of a relationship with God.
Whom will your project benefit?
It’s About Good Interfaith Block Parties will most benefit Angelenos of faith in the specific communities where each event will be held (Santa Monica, San Pedro, Hollywood, Echo Park, USC). However, the benefit does not end there. Having these events will have a ripple effect that will empower other local communities to have similar events.
Also, these events will benefit local faith-organizations that may be struggling in a time of religious decline and technological innovation. This will help to breathe new life into traditional faith-based organizations and give them a reason to rally and move forward.
This project will also benefit families in the communities since each event will be tailored to be family friendly and intergenerational.
Law enforcement will be benefitted because of the peaceful, substance-free basis for community gathering and relationship building.
Local businesses will benefit since these events will attract new people into new districts and encourage participation in the local economy.
Due to the nature of social events - especially those that are clean and open and accessible to those across generations - interfaith block parties will greatly benefit the entire community.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
The Founder of Holy Ghost Global is a member of the Interfaith Religious Council’s Future50, a select number of Los Angeles’ top faith leaders. This organization is committed to promoting peace and harmony across faiths in Los Angeles and have pledged to support any project that members of the Future50 cohort implement. There has been a collaboration with the USC Office of Religious Life for several years for Holy Ghost Global projects and they are a wonderful flag-bearer for relevant, faith-based expression. As the largest private employer in Los Angeles, having USC involved offers an unprecedented reach across the Los Angeles community. Because many of its faculty and student body are proclaimers of faith, they are a wonderful symbol for the power of faith to do good in our city and across the world. The New Theological Seminary of the West, the newest Christian seminary in Los Angeles, is a great partner for unifying and mobilizing the Los Angeles Christian community. Because they are less traditional in structure, they afford the ability to connect with houses of faith. American Jewish University is another potential supporter along with dozens of places of worship across Los Angeles.
The company Visual.ly will support the project through info graphics and other promotional materials.
The first factor that is critical to the success of this collaboration is a willingness to work across faiths and with others from different backgrounds. No prejudices, superiority complexes, or hidden agendas allowed! There must be a real openness to learn and listen from others, to look through different lenses and perspectives, and to experiment and set aside assumptions like a scientist.
The second factor is innovative use of resources and outreach strategies. Translating techniques through social media to reach immigrant populations and non-English speakers, willingness to try bold approaches to connect with local places of faith, savvy use of film and media, and access to celebrities, faith leaders, and other successful individuals will be required to drive attendance to the events.
The third factor is availability and boldness. Anyone involved should be available to knock on doors, make calls, and attend the actual block parties. In many ways, this is like a series of campaigns for God in Los Angeles. Partners need to be comfortable with their faith, not on the fence, and be willing to stand up and share it with the world!
How will your project impact the LA2050 “Play” metrics?
- Access to open space and park facilities
- Number of children enrolled in afterschool programs
- Per capita crime rates
- Percentage of residents that feel safe in their neighborhoods
- Residents within 1⁄4 mile of a park (Dream Metric)
- Number of residents with easy access to a “vibrant” park (Dream Metric)
- Number of parks with intergenerational play opportunities (Dream Metric)
- Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play (Dream Metric)
Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.
The interfaith block parties will almost exclusively take place in public parks and open spaces in Los Angeles. Each event will be family friendly and will connect with students, teachers, and faculty of local schools. Since Holy Ghost Global is involved in prison chaplaincy and ministry, it has found that the majority of convicted offenders are people of faith. Some have been ostracized or disconnected from their faith communities which has made them more at risk for incarceration. These events would help connect attendees to places of faith in their community, strengthening these days and effectively reducing crime and incarceration rates. Some of the speakers and musicians at the events would be former convicts and could speak to issues of social justice and progress.
These events would also demonstrate how local citizens could creatively hold church services, worship experiences, and other faith-events in their local parks as expressions of our first amendment rights.
By getting citizens to think more about open spaces as existing places of worship, these events will increase outdoor activity as well as intergenerational play opportunities. Furthermore, it inspires them to think outside of the walls of their own denomination, congregation, or church building and utilize the beauty around them. This certainly would increase the number and quality of informal spaces for play, prayer, and worship.
To play and to pray, in a deeply spiritual sense, are the same things. Prayer to a God of love is free, safe, loving expression. Placing play within this context is necessary to providing an equilibrium that fosters holistic development in our children and our children’s children.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project.
Success will be measured by each event’s attendance, social media interaction, surveying, media, and other digital artifacts captured through each event, and a high level of participation and involvement of local places of worship.
The first metric, event attendance, will be measured by on-line reservations through a ticket service like eventbrite. Although tickets will be free, people will still be required to RSVP digitally for the event.
The second, social media interaction, will measure tweets, facebook posts, and geolocation tagging that occurs during the events on-site. The type of content will be important - if people are discussing and sharing spiritually relevant content then that will be a success. If there are signs of interfaith interaction, ie. instagram pictures of Muslims and Christians having a fun time together, etc., then that will constitute more of a success.
The third metric, a high level of participation for places of local worship will be measured by the number of faith-based organizations that are officially sponsoring each event in the community. This can be measured by financial donation, help with promotion, openness to communication, and number of volunteers from each organization.
What two lessons have informed your solution or project?
The two lessons that have most informed this project come from the Holy Ghost Global team’s ministry experience in Los Angeles. Whether it has been praise and worship internships with Houses of Prayer in Pasadena, Chaplaincy work in LA County prisons and the V.A. Hospital, church planting in Inglewood, healing classes with churches in Wilmington, feeding the homeless with the Dream Center in Echo Park, or music, street outreach, and Bible studies in Hollywood, there is a starvation for authentic spiritual practice in Los Angeles.
Serving as a religious leader in the Office of Religious Life at USC has also really informed this project. With more faiths represented than just about any other university in the United States, USC is the perfect place to learn about similarities between faiths and then put them into practice.
Being without a car for two years while living in Burbank with a full-time ministry at USC forced me bicycle and take the Metro everywhere I went During this time I began to experience the diversity of faith in Los Angeles in a very real, very authentic way. I found myself praying with tons of people - from all faith backgrounds - while on the Metro and seeing a need for alternative events and modes of play rather than lowest common denominator and destructive behaviors such as binge drinking, bar hopping, and clubbing.
Furthermore, putting together similar events (albeit smaller in scope) at the Burning Man Art Festival and South by Southwest in Austin, Texas has shown me the value of open, spiritual expression that is coordinated and prepared to be open and available to people from all backgrounds. My work at these events helped reveal the “science” that exists behind true spiritual practice and the opportunity to unite around the scientific method when applied through events that are enjoyable to many different kinds of people.
Seeing a universal interest in medicine, education, technology, and art through these events have helped me identify core elements of spirituality that all people share. I have loved seeing conversation elevated, individuality enlarged, and horizons expanded through this work and would truly love to bring these same experiences to my home city of Los Angeles.
Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.
Putting these five events on in the next twelve months is absolutely possible. Spacing each event out beginning in the Fall, there could be one event every three months, with the National Day of Prayer event held between the third and fourth event.
With many connections already established in these regions, and the generous funding provided by the Goldhirsch Foundation, all that would be required is the mobilization of local faith communities and other participants in order to make it happen.
The Interfaith Religious Council of Los Angeles has already pledged support for these types of events and there are over one-hundred people who are on-board, ready and willing to help make them happen.
Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?
One major barrier/challenge to the Interfaith Block Parties are competition with other events in certain communities on weekends. The key to overcoming this barrier would be communication and logistical work done with local faith-based organizations to coordinate the best possible dates ahead of time that do not conflict with existing events. A massive on-line calendar - infrastructure that could outlive the events and continue existing to keep interfaith dialogue, relationships, and planning alive in Los Angeles - would ensure that schedules are not in conflict and everyone knows when and where the events are happening.
The second major barrier/challenge that may impede the interfaith block parties from happening are apathy or hostility of local communities and faith-based organizations. This would be alleviated by diligent door knocking, relationship building, and transparency from the beginning about the project. Training workshops about community outreach, advocacy, and service opportunities in the different communities would help bring together core constituencies that would be ideal for participating in the interfaith block parties. Furthermore, giving rotating leadership responsibilities to different organizations already active in interfaith or ecumenical work - similar to the structure of the Olympics or United Nations - would capitalize on existing interest and involvement happening.
What resources does your project need?
- Network/relationship support
- Money (financial capital)
- Volunteers/staff (human capital)
- Publicity/awareness (social capital)
- Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
- Community outreach
- Quality improvement research