120 registered two weeks in advance for the latest Interracial/Interfaith Dialogue on Racism: Seeing the Divine in Each Other. Evaluations showed people wanted to stay beyond the 3 hours; they were taken back by how invisible white privilege is to white people; they found it difficult to believe the discrimination people of color face everyday; they value a safe place for sharing personal stories; they want to maintain the dialogues; and they want to work together in addressing racism.
The Town Hall, Working Together for a Better Community, was co-sponsored by the Office of Human Rights, Faith Community Working Group, MC Police Department and NAACP. It followed up progress made since the earlier town Halls in July and pointed out what needs to be done today. Chief among the outcomes were the Police Department being engaged in over 500 meetings with community groups, partnership between faith communities and NAACP, Black Ministers Conference and one another, and the Interracial/Interfaith Dialogue on Racism: Seeing the Divine in Each Other.
Our County Executive asked the faith community for leadership and we delivered with hundreds of people and leaders from 10 faith traditions. Standup for the Montgomery Way was the theme for a rally affirming our values of inclusion and justice for all in the face of division, bigotry and hate.
We opened with an awesome National Anthem from People’s Community Baptist Church; next came the Muslim Call to Prayer followed by Buddhist and Christian prayers; and on from there came inspiring remarks by US Labor Secretary, Tom Perez; Senator Elect, Chris Van Hollen; Congressman Elect, Jamie Raskin; County Executive, Ike Leggett; County Council President, Nancy Floreen; Police Chief, Tom Manger paired with Rev. Dr. Carol Flett and our Faith Leaders Response Team and Emotional, Spiritual Care Volunteers; Superintendent Dr. Jack Smith paired with Lubna Ejaz and our Education Committee; and many more.
Here are pictures of the throng committed to living out the values at the core of our faith traditions and embodied in the resolution passed last week by the County Council and signed by the County Executive reaffirming community safety and trust, and denouncing racial bias, discrimination, hate speech, hate crimes and harassment.
Together we find strength and courage for facing the challenging days ahead.
Diverse in Faith: United in Thanksgiving was the theme for the Interfaith Thanksgiving Service at Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac. Rabbi Adam Raskin opened the service, with hundreds seated in the full sanctuary, acknowledging the division and fear related to the expressions of hatred following the election.
It seemed everyone agreed with him that these circumstances made it all the more important come together acknowledging our essential unity as sisters and brothers made in the divine image. The music, scripture, poetry and messages from seven faith traditions expressed gratitude and praise for the gifts of life and love.
The pictures include the faith leaders, musicians from Har Shalom, St. Peter and Paul Antiochia Orthodox Church, Hare Krishna Temple, and the Zaynab Girls from the International Center (ICC); and messages being offered by leaders from St. Raphael Roman Catholic Church, Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter day Saints, Potomac Presbyterian Church, St. James Episcopal Church, Islamic Community Center of Potomac and the Baha’l Faith Community. A picture shows food boxes collected for the Manna Food Center.
We are living in an extraordinary transition and it is important to be holding one another in love and prayer. It is also important to be standing up for those who are subjects of hatred and otherwise afraid to wear a hijab, go to school and share their anxiety. In short, it is time for people of faith to come together with our elected and appointed officials to reaffirm our fundamental values and reassure our neighbors of our respect and appreciation.
Our County Executive and County Council have taken the lead by unanimously passing a resolution (click here to view a copy) affirming the beliefs and best practices of our faith traditions. It also denounces anti-immigrant, racial bias, hate speech, hate crimes and harassment in Montgomery County. Read it and be grateful for the Montgomery Way and the benefits of being a majority-minority county with one-third of us foreign born.
Next our County Executive has asked the faith community to take the lead and bring our people to Veterans Plaza this Sunday at 2:30. Faith leaders are asked to wear vestments and stand behind the speakers as a sign of solidarity and commitment to diversity, inclusion and respect for all. Here is the flier calling us to STAND UP FOR THE MONTGOMERY WAY.
We are planning this as an intergenerational event and focusing on those in need of reassurance from our government officials and ourselves. You will find our Chief of Police and Superintendent of Schools standing with faith leaders who are partners in creating social cohesion and public safety.
Kindly promote it and encourage people to make life affirming signs such as Love Overcomes Hate, Diversity is Our Strength, Ready to Love and We Shall Overcome.
Looking forward to seeing you and standing up together for the sake of maintaining the Montgomery Way.
Shalom, Salaam, Namaste, Om Shanti, Peace,
Rev. Mansfield “Kasey” Kaseman
Empowering Places of Worship drew in excess of 100 into dialogue with nine departments and agencies related to how to successfully build, expand and otherwise locate in Montgomery County. Issues ranged from environmental protection to taxes, from road access to health and safety concerns, and from zoning to alternative use of space.
The lessons learned, resources provided and connections made will save faith communities precious time and treasure. 25 pages of frequently asked questions and answers related to eight priorities together with links to all departments will be on our website soon. Power Point Presentations will be coming soon.
Special credit is due the Religious Land Use Working Group Co-Chaired by Joseph Chang and Rev. Ken Howard.
Our Interracial/Interfaith Dialogue on Racism: Seeing the Divine in One Another on November 3rd engaged people in difficult conversations leading to a strong sense of solidarity and deep appreciation. People left with a song in their heart, “Don’t Let the Circle be Broken,” thanks to the diversity we enjoyed, the unifying power of love and the musical gifts of Rabbi David Shneyer. Rev. Dr. Carol Flett trained and led facilitators for small diverse groups where people could share one-on-one. The pictures reflect the rich diversity and love that unites and keeps hope alive. Note the next dialogue will be January 3 at the Civic Building in Silver Spring.
The Episcopal Church of Our Savior was one of over 300 hate related incidents since Election Day. A large “Trump Nation Whites Only” banner greeted a diverse congregation Sunday morning. The same message covered an exterior wall.
Bishop Mariann Budde was in hand for the 1 pm Spanish service with colored chalk used by families for writing alternative messages seen in the pictures.
I spent several hours with Pastor Robert Harvey, reporters from Israel, Czech Republic, CNN and other networks, people bringing flowers and faith leaders including Rabbi Shmuel Herzfield who brought members of his congregation pictured with Rev. Harvey.
Empowering Places of Worship on November 9 will feature nine government departments and agencies providing essential information ranging from environmental protection to building permits, taxes to road access, water and sewer to reforestation, life safety codes to emergency response access, and buying property to sharing space and services. The program is designed with small groups and time to answer questions and connect with faith leaders with subject experts for future reference. Faith communities are encouraged to bring a team and return with information and contacts to save time and treasure. Register by clicking here.
Empowering Places of Worship Flyer