Words Matter: How What We Say Reflects What We Believe A Faith-Based Perspective

Soul Space invited women of faith gathered at Morton Grove Community Church to explore how the words we speak and hear can reflect what we believe. Through personal stories, scriptural texts and discussion, we looked at how language impacts our own thinking and behavior as well as for those around us. We discussed what it means to be mindful of our thoughts and words, how scriptural texts in the Psalms and Qur’an speak to this, the difference between public and private speech, and when it is wise to respond with words or let the silence speak? 

Stephanie Perdew VanSlyke, M.Div, Ph.D serves as the Senior Pastor of the First Congregational Church (UCC) of Wilmette, Illinois.  She has served as the Lilly Teaching Fellow in the Arts of Ministry in Worship at the University of Chicago Divinity School, as an adjunct faculty member at McCormick Theological Seminary, and currently serves as Affiliate Professor of Christian History at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston.
Dr.  VanSlyke has been involved in interfaith work for most of her career.  Her congregation shared sacred space with a Reform Jewish synagogue, Congregation Sukkat Shalom, for over a decade.  She has led several interfaith trips to Israel and the West Bank, where her congregation nurtured a sister-church relationship with the Latin Church of the Visitation in the Palestinian Christian Village of Zababdeh.  With Rabbi Ruth Langer of Boston College, she was the co-editor of a topical edition of the journal Liturgy focused on Inter-relgious Prayer (Vol 26:3, 2011).  Last spring, she was the Christian speaker on an interfaith panel addressing the topic of “Finding Inner Peace,” sponsored by the Winnetka Interfaith Council.  In September 2016, she was the Christian speaker at an interfaith storytelling evening at the Muslim Community Center, Morton Grove. In October 2016, she was invited to travel to Israel and the West Bank as part of the Interfaith Partners for Peace delegation.

Hyma Levin has been a Jewish educator for more than forty years. With a degree in Education from the University of Illinois, she began her professional work in the public sector while always remaining involved in Jewish education. After ten years of public school teaching she switched her focus entirely to Jewish education. Hyma has taught children – primarily middle school and high school students – and adults in a wide variety of settings.
Hyma is a member of the Chicago Coalition for Interreligious Learning (CCIRL) – Catholics, Jews and Muslims Together. While Director of Education at Beth Emet, she brought Beth Emet high school students and Catholic students and their teachers together to study and to share with each other. She is passionate about interreligious learning, believing that it enables each person to become stronger and more connected to his/her own faith tradition and to view other people with respect and understanding.
The Director of Education Emerita at Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evanston, Hyma has taught in a variety of venues including the Archdiocese of Chicago Religious Teachers Conferences, Dominican University, the North Shore Senior Center and Harper College. A Life Member of Hadassah, Hyma facilitates a leadership training program for the Chicago-Northshore Chapter.
She is the mother of two wonderful sons, the grandmother of five beautiful grandchildren and lives in a lively three-generation household!

Anjum Ali, a native Chicagoan, holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from UIC.  Since 1985, she has been active in interfaith engagement and has been a lifelong learner when it comes to Islamic studies.  She attended classes for many years with Dr. Aasi of American Islamic College and Shaykh Amin Kholwadia of Darul Qasim.  She also attended the Webb Foundation’s 2-year program, Faith Foundations, and completed the course Fundamentals of the Islamic Worldview, both taught by Omer Mozaffar.  Mrs. Ali completed the Dawah Intensive Course at the Institute of Islamic Information & Education, and worked there for many years.  While serving as a founding member of the board of an Islamic elementary school, she also served many years on Lincolnwood’s Human Relations Commission.  Mrs. Ali is currently working with the Muslim Community Center’s Interfaith & Outreach Committee on a wide variety of programming that promotes civic engagement, builds interfaith understanding as well as educates the community.  Her favorite title, however, remains wife, and mother of two daughters. 

Praying with the Mind, Body, and Soul

Soul Space Interfaith Women’s Group invites women of various faiths for a presentation and discussion about prayer and prayer means to the individual. What does prayer mean to you? How do you pray? Do you recite words from liturgy or scripture? Do you pray with movement? Do you fall to your knees and just talk to God?  Do you pray alone at home? Do you prefer praying in community with the congregation at your church, temple, synagogue or mosque?  Is taking a walk in nature prayer? Whether you pray to feel a sense of peace, to pause and reflect, to express your obedience to God, to give thanks, or all of the above, these are all ways we communicate with the Divine.


Rev. Lolly Dominski serves as co-pastor of Morton Grove Community Church with the Rev. Bunny Hughes.  Before coming to MGCC in 2009, she served Presbyterian churches in Arlington Heights, Wilmette, and Geneva, IL, and at the Good News Partners mission agency in northeast Chicago.  Lolly is currently a candidate for a Ph.D. in liturgical studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, having earned her Master of Divinity degree at McCormick Theological Seminary in 1999.  She also holds an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, and previously worked in marketing management.  Lolly is a past President of the Academy of Parish Clergy, an international interfaith organization of clergy dedicated to excellence in ministry. She was named Parish Pastor of the Year by the Academy of Parish Clergy for 2015.

Stacey Zisook Robinson is a single mom. She sings whenever she can. She writes, even when she can’t. She worked in Corporate America for a long time. Now she works at her writing and looks for God and grace, meaning, connection, and a perfect cup of coffee, not necessarily in that order. Stacey has been published in several magazines and anthologies. Her book, Dancing in the Palm of God’s Hand, has just been published by Hadasah Word Press. She recently launched a Poet in Residence program designed to work with both adults and kids in a Jewish setting to explore the connection between poetry and prayer as a way to build a bridge to a deepened Jewish identity and faith. She blogs at http://staceyzrobinson.blogspot.com, and her website can be found at www.stumblingtowardsmeaning.com.

Elizabeth Martin was born in 1961 into Chicago’s South side Irish Catholic community, living the racial turmoil of that area’s “changing neighborhoods” in her early childhood. In her earliest teens, she encountered the Christian Evangelical movement, and at 14 had a conversion, or awakening, embracing a form of “Born Again” Christianity, though still attending and graduating from Mother McAuley, a Catholic all-girls high school. In 1980, her first year at Daley College on the South side, she came face to face with Muslims for the first time, and in her Evangelical zeal to bring them to the light, found herself staring at the light of Islam, which she eventually chose to follow. She married one of those Daley College Muslims in Amman Jordan in 1981, where they studied for a year. The couple returned to the US and have raised 9 children. She has recently renewed her commitment and struggle to read the Quran and integrate it into her daily life.

Women of Faith: Passing on the Legacy to Future Generations

Soul Space women gathered for a discussion of the women of faith who have fostered our spiritual and life choices and to share ways in which we can pass on the legacy of faith and interfaith respect and dialogue to new generations.

Mary Deeley,  Pastoral Associate and Director of the Christ the Teacher Institute  Mary’s experience in liturgy, music, ministry, counseling and spiritual direction provides an excellent background for her work at Sheil where she advises the Catholic Scholars, teaches in the Institute, and works with students and others in discernment processes, leadership development, spiritual direction, and formation. In addition, Mary brings her expertise in scripture to Sheil’s Bible Study program, on retreats and to the many conversations about faith within the Sheil community. She is a frequent speaker at retreats and conferences on such diverse topics as evangelization, discernment, preaching, liturgical and Celtic Spirituality, prayer, ministry, and leadership. And she occasionally teaches courses in scripture, preaching, and spirituality. 

Lori B. Sagarin, Director of Congregational Learning    Lori brought her experience and creativity to Temple Beth Israel in 1993 where she continues to serve as our Director of Congregational Learning. Lori’s skill and knowledge has enlivened and enriched every aspect of our congregational life including our schools, adult education, holiday programs and events for our affiliate organizations. In addition, Lori engages many members with her own book review sessions. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Wisconsin in 1981. She received a Master’s degree in Jewish Education with the designation of Reform Jewish Educator (RJE) from Hebrew Union College. Upon graduation, Lori moved to St. Louis where she became the Director of the Commission on Reform Jewish Education.

Donelle Noor Bergeson,  MCC Morton Grove Interfaith and Outreach Committee    Donelle is a Kansas native who moved to the Chicagoland area in 2006 to attend seminary, with plans to become an ordained minister. Having been comfortably raised in the United Methodist Church, the last thing she expected was to embrace another practice of faith.  In her last year of seminary, Donelle began studying about Islam and found herself claiming a new religious identity as a Muslim. Donelle sees her journey into Islam as a continuum of her faith and life as a Christian, and considers interfaith relations an integral part of her life. Donelle’s professional life has included years in music, the performing arts, ministry, and office administration. In recent years she has served as a Community Ambassador for the One Chicago, One Nation Initiative and participates with area interfaith groups and is a member of the MCC Morton Grove Interfaith & Outreach Committee. She is married and has three wonderful children, and lives with her family in Morton Grove.