Barb Blom, Director

I grew up attending a Presbyterian church, but left in my teens after I realized that my father, an agnostic, was doing more good in the world than the people in the church with the clinics he set up in areas of our city where people had few resources for health care.

I found my way back to the church after a series of tragic deaths in my thirties when I felt like I needed some kind of spiritual grounding. I discovered the Unitarian Universalists where my interest in religion was born. I found myself driving to seminary on a beautiful September day wondering if I was doing the right thing. It was 8:30 in the morning on September 11, 2001 when I opened a Bible for the first time in over 15 years; I decided to stay despite my trepidation.

I learned that Christianity was more than what I had been taught in Sunday School and that I felt connected with the long standing social justice movements that were a major theme in the Bible. But it was a class on pluralism when I found my true passion. We had visiting lecturers who taught us about Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. It was a transformative and fascinating class as we saw so many interconnected themes and all of humankind could be lifted up through better understanding of our common humanity.

About the Interfaith Center for Action & Healing (fondly called ICAH)

We believe that “faith” includes religion but is also much bigger than religion; it encompasses all that brings meaning, compassion and joy to our lives.

The Interfaith Center for Action and Healing opened in Lansing in January of 2019 and we had a busy winter and spring filled with presentations, dinners, celebrations, and events all intended to tear down the walls that divide us. We are now ready and excited to take our programming out into the local communities where we hope to identify the issues and ideas that divide us and work to build bridges that unite us. To that end, we are closing our physical space in November 2019.

From the outset, our main focus was to tear down the walls that divide us. We all have an "other," someone for whom our first instinct is to judge or stereotype them based on our preconceived notions of culture, political or religious beliefs, clothing, lifestyle, symbols they use, and even the cars they drive. This is compounded by the news we watch and read, and the social media we follow.

However, when we engage with the “other” our perceptions of who they are can change. This does not mean that we will necessarily agree, but it can mean that we better understand where they come from, what formed their opinions, and why they feel the way they do. We often learn that even though we may disagree with them on certain topics, there are other places in which we agree.

The most important thing about engaging with the “other” is that it opens our minds and hearts to our shared humanity, which in turn frees us from the anger, fear and anxiety associated with the “other” and we are more open to building bridges of understanding.

The Interfaith Center for Action and Healing seeks to build these bridges through shared meals, events, presentations and most of all, conversations. We seek to bring these conversations to your community providing a warm and safe place for these exchanges, discussions, learning and listening. Since it is important to also heal ourselves spiritually, ICAH also provides opportunities for spiritual and religious growth through rituals, healing practices, good grief groups, and so much more.

We invite you to check our website, Facebook and Instagram pages often  for event information. The Center features an ever-changing calendar of workshops, presentations, performances and speakers designed to inform, enlighten and inspire participants toward personal growth and compassionate action. Topics include: Environmental Stewardship, World Religions and Traditions, Spiritual Growth in a Lifetime, Non-Violent Direct Action, Neighborhood Revival, Sustainability, Art and Activism. Please contact us for more information!

We hope you support us in this effort as we seek to make our tiny pieces of the world just a little bit better.  As Mother Teresa said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

Barb E. Blom, Executive Director

Reverend Barb E. Blom is the Director of the Interfaith Center for Action and Healing. She is an ordained United Church of Christ minister with a specialty in interfaith and spiritual conversations. She attended Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester N.Y. where she earned her Masters in Divinity and she is currently enrolled in the United Lutheran Seminary where she is finishing her Doctorate of Ministry with a focus on Interfaith relationships and understanding.

She worked for Hospicare and Palliative Care Services in Ithaca as both Spiritual Care Counselor and Bereavement Counselor and has been a Pastor for twelve years. She lives with her two adopted sons, and is a foster parent to three Afghan refugee youth who are Muslim who have deepened her understanding and commitment to Interfaith Dialogue, with faith being much bigger than just religion.

Steering and Advisory Committee Members

Gretchen Avery: Self-employed in the Health and Wellness field for more than 20 years, Gretchen Avery brings a range of entrepreneurial skills to the ICAH Steering Committee. With a background in creative and expository writing, she has also been employed as a proofreader and editor. As a solopreneur, she has developed organizational and marketing skills. To augment her work as a teacher, coach and hands-on therapeutic body-worker, she has studied and implemented communication, motivational, and leadership skills.

Ms. Avery’s involvement with ICAH stems from her long-time interest in Eastern Religions, and her wish to see more acceptance and understanding of religions and belief systems which fall outside of the mainstream American experience.

Michael Coia: Mike comes to ICAH with experience in leadership, operations management, strategic planning, marketing, and economic and new business development. He is an environmental engineer whose professional career includes serving as a founding partner in two startup businesses in Clean Tech and Environmental Remediation and he currently works with various clients on projects in engineering, operations, fundraising and development and program management. He joined the ICAH team as a way to give back to his community, embrace difficult dialogues, and support our shared humanity in an increasingly complex world.

Mike Koplinka-Loehr: Mike has lived in Tompkins County for over 50 years, is married (Carrie Koplinka-Loehr, environmental writer,) and is a father of 4 grown children. He has over 35 years of non-profit management experience and 18 years of elected/appointed leadership experience (2 school boards and Tompkins County Legislature; the final 2 years serving as Chair.) Additionally, Mike has been an active participant and leader in an international peer counseling network for over 25 years, leading men’s groups and periodic healing workshops regarding listening, clarifying emotions and thinking, while goal setting for healthy life balance. He is starting a regional non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources to victims of child sexual abuse, known as T.H.R.I.V.E.: The Healing Resource Institute for Victim Empowerment.

"I have been involved in helping professions for over 40 years and believe that healing is needed more than ever in our times of polarization. May we all contribute to a world of greater tolerance and healing action, for the benefit of future generations."

Rebecca Ruggles: (Bio coming soon)

Susan Raith Sloan: Susan comes to ICAH with over 25 years experience in the areas of marketing, higher education enrollment management, and communications. Her prior volunteer experience supported educational opportunities for children and adults and she is passionate about the role education plays in the expansion of personal opportunity and growth in one's life. She joined the ICAH Steering Committee as a means to support positive change in our communities.

"It feels as if the divisions among us are growing rapidly and we must find ways to come together for meaningful dialogue. The world has changed and there is no longer an "us" and "them" - it is now "we" and we must all find ways to live peacefully together."

Felicity Wright: Reverend Felicity Wright is a spiritual director, writer, and miniter who delights in helping people translate spiritual truths into everyday realities, without the outmoded creeds and hurtful dogmas of the past. She recently retired from parish ministry to devote her time to spiritual direction and writing.  Her special interest is with seekers and those who consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.”

Prior to her work in the church, she managed energy and environmental programs in state and local government.  Although she now has two grown children who live in Texas and California, she lost two infants (at 3 hours and 3 months) many years ago.  As a result, she has a special interest in grief work with parents and grandparents.

She believes that God is experienced rather than understood, and that doubt is to belief as dissent is to democracy — to have the latter without the former is sham. The important thing is the journey, not the destination, and it is most joyful when we travel together, with all of our differences and uncertainties. Her goal is to help people “get off the power seesaw and on to the merry-go-round.”  For more information, see https://felicitywright.com.