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Faith in Action: Women Empowering Communities for Transformational Change

A panel of impressive women shared their powerful insights during the Women’s History Month event

University News | March 8, 2024

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A dynamic group of women of faith shared their experiences and insights on their journeys to become agents of change in the community during the Robert Nusbaum Center’s Nexus Interfaith Dialogue on March 7 in Brock Commons. Five remarkable women, representing diverse backgrounds, served as testaments to the transformative power of faith when combined with intentional and action-oriented initiatives.

The distinguished panelists were introduced by VWU’s Professor of Religious Studies and the Joan P. and Macon F. Brock, Jr. Director of the Robert Nusbaum Center, Dr. Craig Wansink. The panelists included: Rev. Dr. Veronica Coleman, Senior Pastor of New Jerusalem Ministries in Virginia Beach and a past president of the Virginia Beach Interdenominational Ministers Conference; Rabbi Ellen Jaffe-Gill, an ordained reconstructionist rabbi who is active in legislative advocacy through the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the author of two books, and editor of The Jewish Woman's Book of Wisdom; Amanda Pine, Christian Faith Formation Director for King’s Grant Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach and co-chair of the Interfaith Alliance at the Beach; Teresa Stanley, Coordinater of the Interspiritual Empowerment Project of Virginia Organizing, who has a long history of faith-based community organizing to include the social justice ministry at St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Virginia Beach and the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Office of Justice and Peace; Areen Syed, a senior at Norfolk Academy who worships at the Muslim Community of Tidewater in Norfolk, and was named the 2023 Hampton Roads Youth Poet Laureate, using her poetry as a tool for activism in the community.

Rev. Dr. Coleman shared what fuels and grounds her, especially her calling to pastor not only her church, but also her community. She talked about the importance of the church being a vital part of the community, meeting people where they are, helping to meet a need, and seeking common ground. “Keep working, keep believing that change will come.”

“The best thing I’ve learned,” noted Rabbi Jaffe-Gill, “is we all have to show up. That’s how change will come."

Pine shared a personal story that greatly impacted her life and the direction of her career. “I believe that deep sharing can only happen with vulnerability.”

Stanley talked about her lifelong yearning for social justice and the deep compassion needed to make a difference. “The action part came easily for me. The challenge was trying to make sense of things that made no sense to me. I’ve learned to contribute my part and then ‘let it be.’”

Syed told the attendees that the catalyst for her poetry, which has become a way to express what she is experiencing and feeling, was watching President Biden’s inauguration and hearing the beauty in Amanda Gorman’s inspirational words. “Words can be used to build or destroy, but silence can be used as a powerful tool as well. It’s important to know when to be silent and when to use your voice.”

The panelists provided an informative evening of enlightenment and inspiration, as they shared their commitments to turning faith into tangible action. The articulate and valuable insights offered by each woman presented powerful tools for building bridges and creating the environment for transformational positive change in our communities.

The event was sponsored in partnership with the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC).