Alison Faison

How interfaith collaboration helps us grow

For decades, Calvary Presbyterian Church has connected with interfaith networks. Currently, Calvary and other San Francisco Presbytery churches work with the San Francisco Interfaith Council. We encourage our children, youth, and young adults to continue those connections whether they are in the San Francisco neighborhood, around the U.S., or in other countries. Over the past decade our youth have connected with local youth at Congregation Sherith Israel, St. John’s Presbyterian, and Grace Cathedral, as well as groups connected with Sierra Service Project and more. Every February or March, youth from Calvary and Sherith Israel meet in the kitchen at the Unitarian Universalist Center to prepare and serve food for men staying at the shelter. We hope to have more opportunities to collaborate on workshops, service opportunities, and fellowship events.

Calvary is not unique in its interfaith focus. The Presbyterian Mission Agency outlined the Interreligious Stance of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for the first time in 2014. This statement and its edits show us where we are now as a national group. “The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at all levels seeks new will be open to and will seek opportunities for conversation and understanding respectful dialogue and mutual relationships with non-Christian entities and persons from other religious entities traditions. It does this in the faith that the church of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, is a sign and means of God’s intention for the wholeness of all humankind and all creation.”  The General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations recommends that the 221st General Assembly (2014) do the following: 7. “Direct the Presbyterian Mission Agency to cooperate with youth and young adults in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in their interreligious engagements that support the larger efforts of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in respectful and mutual interreligious relationships on behalf of justice, peace, reconciliation, and the common good.”

If you are a parent living in San Francisco, you know how busy children and youth are during the weekends. Calvary children and youth attend many San Francisco public and private schools, as well as those in Marin and Pacifica. Most children and youth do not see church friends at school, so there are less opportunities to get to know each other. School breaks don’t often sync, so it can be challenging to schedule events, workshops or trips. Sports, birthday parties, camping trips, performances, and tournaments happen on Sunday mornings, so kids on average make it to church about once or twice a month. Children, youth, and parents motivate to attend service opportunities or gather with interfaith neighbors. The more we collaborate and visit each other’s houses of worship, the more we expand our learning and compassion.

Calvary Presbyterian Church welcomes families of all faiths. At Calvary, many families have one parent who practices Christianity and another parent who practices another faith or is agnostic or atheist. We can create opportunities to welcome each other and hear each other’s faith perspectives. Many children and youth have friends of different faiths at school. It can be difficult to share experiences about Christian faith as many folks don’t want to be associated with negative examples of Christian extremism played out in the world right now. We want to encourage children and youth to normalize sharing their faith in safe spaces, so that they can see the commonalities of age-old Golden Rule values that prioritize people over profits, and advocate for the wellbeing of neighbors. Calvary is a Matthew 25 church, as well as a Sanctuary church, so our values speak from Jesus’ words about radical welcome.

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Wear Orange: When Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough

Isaiah 2:4 says, “He will settle arguments between nations. They will pound their swords and their spears into rakes and shovels; they will never make war or attack one another.” I read Sandy Hook Promise posts on Instagram and cannot escape thinking of the horror a parent experiences after their child or teen is shot. This is not sensationalism or fake news. On August 27, 2019, I took my middle school daughter to Lincoln High School for a Town Hall on gun sense, directly relating to the shooting of 15-year-old Day’von Hann, a student who lived in the Mission District. Then Speaker Nanci Pelosi, Rep. Jackie Speier, Founder of Moms Demand Action Shannon Watts, CA Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, and 17-year-old Phillip and Sala Burton High School student and member of United Playaz, AJ Santiago led the meeting. After these change-maker women shared personal experiences, data, and gun sense bill proposals, I was sure we would have gun violence reform. I was wrong. The CDC says that firearm incidents are the second-leading cause of death among American children and teens. One out of ten gun deaths involve age 19 or younger. Everytown Research relays that “there were more school shootings in 2022 (46 shootings) than in any other year since Columbine.” One would think that this statistic would be enough to take immediate action to make common gun sense bills into law and enforce them in court. Money talks, so many of the proposed bills continue to be blocked by gun supporter groups. How do we empower our children and teens to use their power to urge legislative, judicial, and executive branches to make change now? We need to continue telling stories of the pain and grief that parents and adults continue to experience after a child dies because of gun violence. Speaking the truth that advocates protection of all people follows Jesus' non-violent civil disobedience against the empire. Christians are obligated to love their neighbor and care for the vulnerable. If they do not want to prevent gun violence against innocent civilians, their beliefs are not based in Jesus' life-affirming truth.

Life After Foster Care

During a Faith in Action Bay Area meeting yesterday we were working on pin-pointing false narratives about unhoused people. Our goal was to find true stories that dispel those untrue statements. What are the false narratives about what happens after a youth becomes an adult and leaves the foster care system? In general, a youth has aged out of the system at 18 years old, but some states are extending it to 24 years in order to provide more support. People who do not want to pay for the foster care system might say, “The foster care/government system has supported children until they became adults. They should have the tools to become independent. They are on their own at 18.” Unfortunately, according to the group, A Sense of Home, we know that 50% of people experiencing homelessness are former foster youth. ( The foster care system does not have the capacity to fully serve resources to the average of 566 children who enter the foster care system every day in the U.S. According to the June 2022 AFCARS Report (, that's 1 youth every 2.5 minutes. There is a disproportionate amount of houseless teens who identify as LGBTQ2SIA+. True Colors United says that they are 120% more likely to experience homelessness and are at risk for gender dysphoria and suicide. ( The nation-wide worker shortage or rather workers’ unwillingness to work in unsupportive environments has also brought an uptick in workers striking in order to get their demands met. Working in the foster care system takes training, dedication to learning on-the-job, as well as compassion and problem-solving skills. If workers are not properly trained and supported, they get emotional burn-out. How can we be the hands and feet of Jesus to help change this system?

Feeding Our Grief

“Cynecism is ungrieved grief.” I thought about this quote a lot after reading Traci Smith’s free Treasure Box Tuesday email. She, a children’s minister and author, quotes pastor and author, Rob Bell, who probably officiated many memorials and heard countless stories of grief from congregation members. In the past two months, I have attended three memorials for parents of my peers. All of the services were culturally different, but the grief was the same. We got together to breathe in stillness, hear music, observe the grieving family, eat a meal together, and connect with our own mortality. Ashes to ashes. I experienced three Ash Wednesdays after Easter. Civilian and urban folks world-wide have endured multiple brutal and unplanned Ash Wednesdays since Easter. San Francisco, Texas, Ukraine, Sudan.