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Published: Saturday, 6/9/2007

Diversity is a lifestyle for author

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Sylvania native Carrie Brown-Wolf with husband, Dan, and children Olivia, 5, Tennyson, 7, and Ellie, 9. Sylvania native Carrie Brown-Wolf with husband, Dan, and children Olivia, 5, Tennyson, 7, and Ellie, 9.
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Carrie Brown-Wolf doesn't just write and teach about diversity and interfaith issues. She lives them.

Raised in the Lutheran church, she married a Jewish man.

A former Sylvania resident now living in Colorado, Mrs. Brown-Wolf was a 17-year-old Northview High School student when she went to Tunisia, in northern Africa, to live with a Muslim family.

"That was a hard summer. But I learned a lot about myself. It was a huge learning experience," Mrs. Brown-Wolf said in a recent interview.

She majored in politics and minored in world religion at Colorado College and received a master's degree in international education from Columbia University's Teacher College in New York City.

She traveled the world working for an international student exchange company, and founded her own multicultural education company that conducts seminars in public schools.

Her interfaith marriage led Mrs. Brown-Wolf to come up with innovative and entertaining ways for her and her husband Dan to spend time with their three children, now ages 5, 7, and 9, discussing and learning about religious diversity.

FEA       06/06/2007       HANDOUT *** not blade photo        Book cover of "Soul Sunday" by Carrie Brown-Wolf FEA 06/06/2007 HANDOUT *** not blade photo Book cover of "Soul Sunday" by Carrie Brown-Wolf
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Mrs. Brown-Wolf has compiled her experiences in a book, Soul Sunday: A Family's Guide to Exploring Faith and Teaching Tolerance.

She also conducts Soul Sunday seminars that provide families with tools to discover religious distinctions and similarities, including one Wednesday night at Olivet Lutheran Church in Sylvania, the church where Mrs. Brown-Wolf grew up.

The Rev. Chrysanne Timm, senior pastor of Olivet, said Soul Sunday offers helpful insights into five major faiths - Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu.

"We have a lot of interfaith families these days and it's a great resource for them. I think it's a wonderful resource for families to set the tone for what they'd like their children to know about the different parts of our culture," Ms. Timm said.

"And it's not a text meant to convert someone from one faith to another, but to help children understand, for example, why their Jewish classmate might have missed school on Rosh Hashana," she said.

Mrs. Brown-Wolf said she and her family have been holding their Soul Sunday sessions every week for four years, starting when her children were 5, 3, and 1.

The sessions, which are designed to last between 45 minutes and an hour, typically open and close with a song, a prayer, or a blessing, and include a brief lesson and a hands-on craft project linked to the night's topic.

An example is "The Golden Rule," a lesson in tolerance and respect. The book teaches that the Golden Rule - do unto others as you would have them do unto you - is found in the writings of the five major religions.

The Soul Sunday lesson instructs the family to "discuss what the Golden Rule means and why it is so important. Explain that while people may believe in different religions, there are many shared beliefs. Ask your children to give examples of how they would and would not like to be treated, and encourage them to follow the Golden Rule."

After the lesson, the family members use glue, gold glitter, and black construction paper to make a sign that says "Golden Rule."

Other topics the Brown-Wolf family has discussed include "Does God like snow?" and "Why does Buddha have a belly?"

"We started out at the very beginning with the idea that it was going to be fun," Mrs. Brown-Wolf said. "We do something that grabs their attention, usually a story or a song. And the kids just know that they have Dan's and my undivided attention. It's really about them, and about all of us having this time together to talk and share and ask some questions.

"They actually look forward to it. If we have to miss it, they want to do it another night."

Mrs. Brown-Wolf, 41, she and her husband want their children "to find their own path" when it comes to religion.

"We have taught them both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and exposed them to some other religions. Basically it's our intention to let them create their own relationship with God first and foremost ... and to be able to lead from their heart," she said.

She originally had negotiated with a number of major publishers but they told her parenting books were not as popular as religion titles, and they wanted the book to be slanted to either the liberal or conservative side of religion rather than maintain its neutral approach.

"I ended up leaving and published it on my own," Mrs. Brown-Wolf said.

The book was designed by Stacey Sattler, a friend of Mrs. Brown-Wolf's since junior high school, and Jennifer Lindstrom, a Toledo native and Central Catholic High School graduate now living in Colorado.

Soul Sunday won a 2007 Indie Excellence Award for Parenting/Family books.

Carrie Brown-Wolf will lead a Soul Sunday seminar at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Olivet Lutheran Church, 5840 Monroe St., Sylvania. A free-will offering will be taken. Information and registration is available by calling the church, 419-882-2077. More information on Soul Sunday is available online at www.soulsunday.org.

She will hold a book signing at the Reading Railroad, 6600 West Sylvania Ave., from 10 a.m. to noon Thursday.

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com

or 419-724-6154.



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