Listen. Reflect. Share.


The Common Heart Project was a way I lived out my desire to serve the common heart of humanity from 2016-2017. These interreligious conversations give you windows into the reality of lived spiritual ideas, creating connection and mutual understanding.

If we reflect upon our self from the viewpoint of others, or allow others to reflect upon us, and to say what we are like, then for the first time we are able to know our self. Otherwise we can never learn, but remain in our own illusions, and from them, reflect upon others.
— Emanuel Swedenborg

Love, Community, Respect

Akbar's father passed away only three years after his family immigrated to America from Saudi Arabia on a Diversity Lottery Visa in September, 2001. The Muslim community of a nearby mosque reached out to help his family cope and make ends meet. He had moved from a majority Muslim country to a Philadelphia suburb with a church and a synagogue all sharing one intersection with his mosque. In our conversation we discuss the value of religious institutions and spiritual community and what the bigger, core values are that connect us beyond the particularities of religious practices.  


Akbar Hossain, Muslim
Chelsea Odhner, Swedenborgian

"There’s no religion out there that says go out and do terrible things. When you think about the core values of what I was learning at the mosque—besides the nitty gritty of how to pray or what to do—but the very inherent values that I was learning were the values of love, community, respect—things that exist in any religion you can think about—and that was easy to get behind. It was easy to recognize that community matters, that helping those in need matters. And I was seeing that in my real life actions: they weren’t just talking about it, they were doing it with my family." —Akbar



Living What We Believe

My conversation with Nahid is a celebration of the simplicity and beauty of life, even amidst the unavoidable hardship. We talk about the support we can get from loved ones who have passed on, letting God “interfere” in our lives, and the importance of respecting and valuing all people.

Conversation Partners

Nahid Motahar, Baha'i Faith
Chelsea Odhner, Swedenborgian

"I truly believe that Baha’u’llah came for the empowerment of individuals, to empower individuals on a grass roots level, to raise our consciousness, to build communities…because we are all in it together...Whether we like it or not, we are all one." —Nahid



Grief, Sensing the Spiritual World, & the Hard Work of Love

Jane shares wisdom about grieving the physical loss of loved ones and slowly, gradually coming to sense that a connection is still there. Perhaps even our grieving itself is a spiritual tool for bonding our spirits with the loved ones we've lost.

Conversation Partners

Jane Isaacs Lowe, Episcopalian
Chelsea Odhner, Swedenborgian

“Once you begin to grieve the physical loss, you begin to feel that that person’s spirit moves into you in some way, but you can’t really do that until you grieve the physical loss.” —Jane



Reincarnation, the Afterlife, & Spiritual Community

We explore reincarnation and the afterlife from a Jewish and Swedenborgian perspective, how we can have a sense of the presence of God in our lives, and the power of community.

Conversation Partners

Tammy Zebovitz, Jewish
Chelsea Odhner, Swedenborgian

“In Judaism there’s certain parts of the prayer service that you can’t say unless you have at least ten people present…including the prayer that mourners say for reaffirming their faith in God when someone has died. There has to be at least ten people, so basically Judaism requires a community. And that definitely has always helped me…That’s one of those things that I think is somewhat unique to Judaism that I find really special and speaks to me in so many ways.” —Tammy



Sacred Scripture, Dance, & Redemption

What does midrash and a Swedenborgian hermeneutic have in common? A deep reverence for the text and its personal relevance, that's for sure.

We explore from both a Jewish and a Swedenborgian perspective the question, "How can you have a trustworthy interpretation of scripture?"

Marion opens my eyes to Movement Midrash: using bibliodrama and arts modalities as an entry into text.

Conversation Partners

Marion Yager Hamermesh, Jewish
Chelsea Odhner, Swedenborgian


"That’s what I love in the text, is that when you read it deeply, you see that there’s no expectation of being perfect. There’s no moral—it’s not straight and narrow…All the sacrificial rites which make our eyes glaze over, and it seems just so ancient, but the point of them is, you mess up and you confront it, and you deal with it. So you have to look at that system and say that it’s really humane. That’s what I love about digging into the text, is that it gives you a sense of what the religion means, about what it means to be religious as opposed to some superficial idea." —Marion



Reviving Tradition, Our Idea of God, & Living from Love

Is there justification for people using religion to hurt and offend other people?
How do you grapple with an image of God if you don’t resemble the personification you’re being offered?
Can we live toward a vision of all people of faith having a common core that transcends ideology?  

Conversation Partners

Br. Deen, Muslim American
Chelsea Odhner, Swedenborgian


“Being a Muslim, meaning one who submits their will to God—in Arabic, Allah—we have a practice that we do that is similar to a ritual…which is called Dhikr, which actually means to think or to reflect or to remember, and we go over the attributes of God. Growing up we were taught that God had over 99 names and we would learn those…For example one of the names of God is called The Trusting One…or in times of difficulty, The One Who Restores.” —Br. Deen



Grace, Divine Providence, & the Interplay Between Ideas & Reality

What does it mean for our dark times if we can never really be outside of God? We need to dig deeper than appearances.

Conversation Partners

Scott Marmorstein, Spiritual
Chelsea Odhner, Swedenborgian


“All of the spiritual components of my earlier life are pieces of myself that have informed how I want to interact as a human being with another human being—and I find that’s got the most value to me at this stage of the game.” —Scott

A life of neighborly love involves thinking well of people, wanting what is good for them, and feeling personal joy in the notion that others too are saved. If we wish to see no one saved but those who believe as we do, and particularly if we resent any other arrangement, our life is not one of neighborly love.
— Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven 2284:5