DALLAS, TX--- Dale Hooper is a Baptist minister from North Carolina who spent twenty-seven years in Kenya with his family as a missionary.
Bob Brenner is a computer programmer and educator who attends Shearith Israel Congregation in Dallas with his wife, Viva.
At Highland Springs, the Erickson Living retirement community in Dallas, their divergent backgrounds formed an unlikely friendship and then a group that looks to open minds.
Once per month, they co-facilitate their creation, the Multifaith Dialogue Group. At each meeting, approximately twenty-six residents of Highland Springs discuss their faith journeys and learn about a variety of religious traditions from each other.
"There is a wonderful energy about these two men," described Reverend Lil Smith, pastoral ministries coordinator of Highland Springs. "Whether they are appearing on our in-house television program or sharing a cup of coffee, they inspire others with their enthusiasm and sense of discovery."
For Mr. Brenner, the experience is a continuation of his work in the Dallas area. He and Viva continue to be facilitators with Shearith Israel Congregation in dialogue for some twenty-five years with All Saints Catholic Church on Meadowcreek Drive.
"The residents in our group represent nine or ten religious denominations so the opportunity to learn is immense. But it is done in a respectful manner," stated Mr. Brenner.
Mr. Hooper agrees, noting the structure built into the Multifaith Dialogue Group. "The residents signed a covenant that our dialogue would be considerate of each other's point of view. Additionally, the participants complete an evaluation form at the conclusion of each meeting. Their comments help us in selecting new topics."
Mr. Hooper interacted with many denominations and faith groups as a former military chaplain, Baptist pastor and missionary. "This was a great background for interacting with residents at Highland Springs," he noted.
He has been amazed by the outcome. "The major point is to be comfortable in expressing your faith and hearing others in a safe environment," concluded Mr. Hooper. "Building bridges in the community has been a primary goal."
A half-year later, the experience is worthwhile beyond just the monthly meetings for Mr. Brenner, a former teacher at Eastfield College. "Finding a good friend like Dale is the frosting on the cake," he said.
In a world that faces its share of conflict due to tension between religions, the Multifaith Dialogue Group at Highland Springs is a local oasis.
"It is interesting to find a group of people who have effectively said 'I am comfortable with my religion and there is no need to discredit another's.' Much of the world needs to get to this place," noted Mr. Brenner. The two co-facilitators have developed a warm and meaningful friendship.
About Highland Springs: Highland Springs is one of sixteen continuing care retirement communities managed by Erickson Living. Located in North Dallas, Texas, the scenic 89-acre campus is home to more than 600 residents. Highland Springs is the ideal greater Dallas retirement destination offering a true sense of community, convenience beyond compare and a sensible financial structure.