Walking Our Faith: A conversation with Summit County Interfaith Council’s Pat McShane | SummitDaily.com

Walking Our Faith: A conversation with Summit County Interfaith Council’s Pat McShane

I’m a fan of Dr. Pat McShane and the Summit County Interfaith Council because it proactively fosters interfaith dialogue and practical activities that benefit our community. McShane, the organization’s president, kindly agreed to participate in a Q-and-A for my column this week.

Q. Would you share your faith beliefs and how they interact with your work as a doctor/professor of medicine?

I am often reminded of the quote from the Dalai Lama: “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” That sums up my beliefs also. Whatever situation you find yourself in, choose kindness.

My desire to give the best care to women is what motivated me to be a gynecologist. Now as a fertility specialist, I recognize the profound trauma that not being able to conceive and bear a child represents for so many people. One of the fundamental roles of a woman is pregnancy, birth and child rearing. Men similarly seek to father and raise a child. Many of my patients go to great lengths to fulfill this role. I have great respect for them and appreciate the many challenges they encounter on this journey. If I can offer kindness and understanding on their journey, I am pleased.

Q. What interested you in becoming president of the Summit County Interfaith Council?

When several folks in the Summit community in the summer of 2015 sought to weave together the ideas and work of churches in order to have greater impact, I was on board. Coming from a small Unitarian Universalist group, High Country UU Fellowship, I often felt frustrated that we could not accomplish some of the greater goals we had due to our small numbers. Joining up with other faith congregations seemed like the logical next step. Summit Colorado Interfaith Council was born! We now have partnerships with Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu organizations and individuals.

Q. What projects are the Interfaith Council working on that matter most to you?

The pandemic has impacted so much of what we have been focusing on in the past and how we can operate. Our most enduring activities have been Thanksgiving To-Go. Our current approach is giving grocery voucher cards to individuals and families to support their holiday celebration.

Another major accomplishment that may be growing in the future is Safe Overnight Parking at Agape Outpost in Breckenridge. We became aware of the need for working individuals to sleep in their vehicles overnight, often for a very short while until they are able to find and afford housing. We partnered with Agape Outpost, law enforcement and other groups to accomplish this.

An activity that has brought fantastic interest and response is The People’s Supper, an opportunity for folks from varying backgrounds to sit at a table together. Sitting together can be an infrequent occurrence, even in a small, diverse community such as Summit County. The supper is currently on hold until our coronavirus numbers decline and people are willing to be together again in person.

We have sponsored services to commemorate loss of life in religious communities in the U.S. and abroad. Coming up at 6 p.m. Nov. 21 will be our third Thanksgiving Unity Service to be held virtually again this year. The service will include reflections, readings and prayers from a number of faith traditions. During the pandemic, many of our activities became virtual, including several book clubs and a white ally course.

We also donated funds to some groups of people in the county whom we felt might not be included in the original federal relief funding during the initial shutdown. We hear from other community nonprofit organizations and governmental groups on a monthly basis and try to keep our efforts lined up to not duplicate what is already working well. We have supplied a lunch for our pandemic first responders and also our clergy and faith leaders to acknowledge their support of people during the pandemic.

The scope of our interests is large, including mental health, domestic violence, environment, immigration, basic human needs and others. Our mission statement is broad: Summit Colorado Interfaith Council strives to promote conversation among the people of Summit County around issues calling for a response to human needs. We believe that at its basis, world religions all promote the same basic values. Bringing a spiritual perspective to ongoing issues deepens our ability to respond.

Q. How can the Summit County community get involved?

We are always seeking interested individuals to participate in our activities. Many of our board members are not year-round Summit County residents, and that’s OK. We have lots to do. If you are interested, take a look at our website SummitCoInterfaith.wildapricot.org and get in touch!

How to help

This is the sixth year of Thanksgiving To-Go, and it has been a very successful program thanks to the generosity of Summit County religious congregations and organizations. Last year, about 400 City Market and Safeway gift cards were given to folks needing a little extra help and cheer during the holiday season. Once again, only grocery gift cards will be distributed due to the pandemic.

The agencies and charities with whom volunteer Terese Keil partners are telling her that the number of people requesting assistance is greater than ever. She is also working with other organizations that would like to receive Thanksgiving To-Go gift cards for their clients and patients.

If you would like to donate to Thanksgiving To-Go, you can purchase one or more supermarket gift cards ($25 for an individual or $50 for a family), or write a check made payable to St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church with “Thanksgiving To-Go” written on the memo line. The grocery gift cards or checks can be mailed to St. John’s P.O. Box 2166, Breckenridge, CO, 80424. Email Keil at tkpropmgmt@aol.com with questions.

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