My Interfaith Speech Last Night

Celebrating Interfaith

Many thanks to Michael Doughty at the Shreveport Times for covering our Interfaith gathering last night at Evergreen Baptist Church.  It was a time to thank the City Council for the passage of the Property Standards Amendment as well as to celebrate the role Interfaith of North and Central Louisiana had in making it a reality in Shreveport.  The article in the Times is here.  One correction I would note:  I should have been more clear: the Highland Blessing Dinner I mentioned in the introduction of my speech was mentioned as an example of the power of interfaith relationships. It is not a ministry of Interfaith.

It was a moving experience to be together with so many other faith groups, celebrating what can happen when we work together on issues in our community.  It was also amazing to stand where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood when he preached at Evergreen Baptist Church.

The Shreveport Times article is here.

Check out the Interfaith Facebook page here.

My speech from last night:

“Why We are Here” Speech for Interfaith Leader’s Meeting
Thursday, September 20, 2012
Interfaith of North and Central Louisiana Leader Meeting, Evergreen Baptist Church, Shreveport, LA

A Catholic, a Baptist, a Methodist, and a Unitarian Universalist walk into a room together . . . Sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it?  But it actually is no joke.  These people, along with Greek Orthodox, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, and others walk into the Highland Center gymnasium every Thursday night to host and serve a free, hot, nutritious, family-style meal to 100 people.  The food is delicious, provided by the Food Bank of North Louisiana, cooked at the Highland Center by a cajun chef moved here by Katrina.  It is not just the food that is remarkable.  What I think is most remarkable is the highly-visible collaboration and diversity of the religious groups in the room.  People of various faiths, colors, socio-economic levels, who may vary greatly in religious beliefs, agreeing together with their busy hands and feet that one thing we all have in common is the call to take care of each other; to show compassion to people in need.  I think this is partly what was in Jesus’ mind when he talked about in his prayer, that God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven.” The display of the power of such interfaith relationships in our community is truly no joke.

One reason why we are here tonight and why Interfaith exists is because we are truly at our best when we are working together for the good of others.  This is what we have found in Interfaith.  We do not overlook the fact that each of our institutions has a distinct mission.  Interfaith of North and Central Louisiana wants to support those individual missions of each of our institutions by caring about what each of us cares about.  This comes by building relationships with one another, asking each other, “What are the needs of people in your congregation as they live here in this community?”  “What are some things we can do together to support each other?” “What are things we can agree on that need change in our city?”

The list of our needs is always a long one.  The pressures on the people in our congregations is increasing with each passing day.  Families are in crisis, finances are tight, expenses are increasing, while the job market for livable wage jobs is moving slower than the pace of our incoming needs. The pressures are not only on our people, but they are on our institutions as well.  We need an institutional response to buffer the pressures on us, but our institutions reel from their own pressures as well.  Interfaith has the vision, as you can see tonight, to strengthen individuals by strengthening the institutions, building up the foundation of strength and power for the good of the community.

A Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Unitarian, Muslim, Mormon, Disciples of Christ, Presbyterian, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Pagan, Bahai, walk into a room together . . .   No, this isn’t a joke, but the reality of how we will build a sustainable future together, pooling the power of interfaith relationships with focused action to make a measurable difference in North and Central Louisiana.

“A pipedream! We have no power, no voice,” you or others around you might say. Aren’t you glad those who came before us, some of whom are in this room today, didn’t say that nor settle for that kind of thinking, as the KKK gathered just outside of that door with the challenging power of their hatred.  It could not stand up against the strength of the “Beloved Community” forming across the nation.  Today, though, who will make positive change happen? You, your institution, probably can’t by itself.  But, we can!  As Gandhi once said#, “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”

May we be those determined spirits.  That’s why we are here.

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