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Quiet community has been meeting in spiritual harmony for decades

On Sunday evening, a group quietly meets for a celebration of faith. So quietly, that many people in Olympia don’t even know the Community for Interfaith Celebration exists.

“We have a lot of introverts,” Karen Ray said.

In fact, Ray, who has lived in the South Capitol neighborhood for years, said when she accepted an invitation to attend the group, she was startled to see that she knew many of the people there.

CIC began meeting in a house in 1972, and was then known as CCC, the Community for Christian Celebration. In the 1990s, the community evolved to include many faith traditions, including Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Sufi, agnostic, atheist and Earth-centered beliefs.

Community is the key word, mentioned over and over by members as they describe their involvement.

“Community is an important word,” Ray said. “We know everybody. It’s a very caring group.”

Miriam Sterlin said that after her daughter was born, community members brought meals for six weeks.

The community is family-oriented — one family is in its fourth generation — and pays for a child-care attendant. They also hire a part-time minister, or leader, and are currently searching for someone to take that role.

“We’re looking for someone open to sharing leadership and exploring different faith traditions,” Ray said.

The community doesn’t meet during the summer.

A typical celebration does not involve a congregation facing a pastor. It begins with chairs in a circle with a small altar in the middle. People in attendance share their names, and may place a candle on the altar. The children light the candles and then go to their own area.

Then they sing their “call,” and pass a begging bowl. The community is funded by donations, as well as the weekly gathering, which is based on Buddhist tradition. For 30 years, they’ve had a fruit sale, offering mostly citrus, but recently adding fair-trade coffee as well.

We come together to celebrate the seasons of life, To study and practice wisdom and compassion, And to encourage the spiritual work of each person — for the sake of the whole world.

Community for Interfaith Celebration’s call

The topic of the day is discussed as a group, or they may split into smaller groups for discussion.

Each year has a theme; this year’s is community.

Giving back is part of that sense of community. CIC provides dinner at the Community Kitchen the second Saturday of every month.

“We operate as a group,” Sterlin said. “We make decisions by consensus.”

Jerre Redecker: 360-754-5422

jredecker@theolympian.com

@jredecker

To know more

Address and directions:

Meetings are Sundays 5-6:30 p.m. in the Social Hall of the United Churches, 110 11th Ave. SE, Olympia.

Information: oly-wa.us/cic/index.php.

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