A group of Charlotte young adults from different faiths, ages 20-35, meets for quarterly social, service and educational events at venues around the city. The goal of the Charlotte Interfaith Young Adult Council is to better understand each other’s faith traditions.
“The purpose is not to convert or advocate. It’s just to share,” said founder Ryan Blalock, 32.
People sometimes have preconceived notions about other faiths without asking questions, Blalock said.
“In the end, we are all one,” he said.
Board members come from Jewish, Muslim, Catholic and Protestant faiths.
“I have truly made friends across religious borders … I believe young adults in Charlotte are looking for more ways to bring peace, acceptance, friendship and camaraderie to our community,” board member Ashley Anne Lloyd wrote in an email.
Charlotte Interfaith Young Adult Council has ties to Mecklenburg Ministries, a nonprofit interfaith, multicultural organization.
Blalock said Mecklenburg Ministries’ executive director, Maria Hanlin, was “extremely helpful” in advising him on getting CIYA launched.
Blalock, who also is director of young adults at Myers Park United Methodist Church, never planned to be in ministry. His background is in engineering and sales, and he always intended to return to the corporate world after spending time traveling in Europe. Instead, he found he would rather do church work.
Blalock began forming CIYA, which has approximately 100 members, in 2012, and it has had a busy first year.
Service projects have included: preparing and distributing personal hygiene kits containing toiletry items for homeless individuals in uptown Charlotte. participating in a school clean-up at McClintock Middle School and assisting other organizations with a birthday party for refugees held recently at Myers Park United Methodist.
The next project likely will focus on something outdoors, possibly a river clean-up or community planting project, according to Lloyd.
An educational event the group held in the fall featured information on understanding Islam and Muslims presented by the Muslim American Society of Charlotte.
But members also find time for fun, such as an interfaith potluck lunch at St. John’s Baptist Church, and social gatherings at Dilworth Neighborhood Grille.
Now the group is looking to the future.
One decision to consider will be whether to seek official nonprofit status. “We haven’t gotten to that point yet,” Blalock said. Doing so might open up opportunities for funding through grants, he said.
Increasing membership is another goal. “We’re definitely looking for growth and want to continue to bring in more people,” Blalock said.