Program: Friends Talking Faith
As with many endeavors, it began as a topic of casual conversation: “we should look at doing a radio show together,” said Rabbi Steven Engel, Senior Rabbi of the Congregation of Reform Judaism in Orlando. The three colleagues were seated together at the Park Plaza Gardens restaurant in downtown Winter Park for one of their regular lunch get-togethers. For about a dozen years Imam Muhammad Musri – the Senior Imam of the Islamic Society of Central Florida – Rabbi Steven Engel, and the Rev. Bryan Fulwider who served for 13 years as the Senior Minister of First Congregational Church of Winter Park, had shared in many areas of interfaith work in the greater Orlando community. One of the regular activities of the three clergy friends has always included shared speaking engagements where they talk together out of their Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faith perspectives. The Imam and the Rev. agreed, believing this could be a very good thing for our local central Florida community and beyond.
With the unending, and sometimes overwhelming, demands of ministry in the local congregation the concept of developing a radio show remained only an idea. Then, some members of the church where the Rev. Fulwider served at that time heard about the idea; and as the old saying goes, “the game was afoot!” A meeting was held with WMFE radio early in 2011 with the station’s Program Director, Patrick Dalton and their former President and CEO, who after hearing the concept for the show, said, “bring us a 30 minute pilot, and we’ll see.” In the fall of 2011 the pilot show for “Friends Talking Faith with The Three Wise Guys” was delivered to WMFE. Our first full hour show aired on public radio station 90.7 WMFE in Orlando, Florida (Central Florida’s home for NPR) on April 1, 2012 at 6:00 PM.
The Rev. Fulwider’s mother always told him, “son, you have a face for radio!” The Rabbi’s wife suggested that The Three Wise Guys create a bobble head doll with a single body and their three heads bobbling on the top. Needless to say, the group has had a lot of fun thinking about this endeavor. However, all levity aside for a moment, the true joy of this project is the opportunity to be a part of something important for our larger community. In many ways the title of the show says it all:
“Friends Talking Faith”
It’s the whole point of the show: three clergy from different faith traditions sitting down as friends to talk together about important things from the perspectives of the different religions they represent. In our world, where the most prominent examples regarding religious people – captured and promoted through a 24-hour news cycle by the media, most often highlighting the ways in which people of differing faiths act in violence, disrespect and disdain, and apparent malevolence toward one another and others – our world needs a strong voice that provides a counterbalance to this very warped view. The Three Wise Guys believe – in fact, they know – that the vast majority of people from varying religious backgrounds, and those who claim no religion at all, are people of peace, kindness, goodwill, and compassion for others.