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Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association

North Shore residents of different religions gathered at the Islamic Association of Long Island in Selden March 28. Photo by Kate Jones Calone

By Donna Newman

The Village Times Herald and The Times of Middle Country April 4 covers “United we stand,” and the article by Rita J. Egan reporting on the interfaith gathering held March 28 at the Islamic Association of Long Island in Selden, were an important community service. The event itself was extraordinary.

Donna Newman. File photo

Members of the Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association presented a panel discussion highlighting the many similarities of the various belief systems it encompasses. Comments from the attendees focused on the necessity of doing more than just coming together in solidarity when terrorists target faith communities around the world. We need to come together often and work together to build bridges between our different faiths and realize that there is more that unites us than divides us.

There was a break in the proceedings on March 28 when the call to prayer was heard. Non-Muslims were invited to observe men and women in prayer. It was an extremely generous gesture to welcome outsiders into a very special and spiritual space.

After the panel discussion and a Q&A, the audience divided into small groups, bringing individuals of different faiths together to talk and get to know each other. My group included Christians, Jews, Unitarian Universalists and a Muslim who happily answered lots of questions — and asked a good number as well.

The evening struck a chord with many who experienced it, and I’m certain that plans began to form to expand the experience so more Long Islanders could benefit.

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky and Cantor Marcey Wagner of Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook have announced two upcoming events that build on this idea of bringing people together.

The temple will hold its Day of Good Deeds, or Mitzvah Day, Sunday, May 5. Social Action Committee Chair Iris Schiff reached out to other faith groups to invite them to join in various community-minded activities, culminating in an afternoon cleanup of West Meadow Beach.

A breast cancer screening van from Stony Brook Medicine will offer state-of-the-art 3-D digital mammograms from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to females 40 and over who schedule an appointment. For more information, call 631-638-4135.

On Friday, May 17 at 7:30 p.m. Sidlofsky will replicate an Invite Your Neighbor to Shabbat service that he originated at his previous congregation in Wilmington, North Carolina. Congregants are encouraged to bring non-Jewish neighbors and friends to a service, at which they may experience and learn about Jewish prayer, including a look at an open Torah scroll. The rabbi will be available during the social time after the service to answer questions.

The more we learn about each other’s faiths — their origins, practices and traditions — the more we will understand that we have shared values of peace, love and justice. We all want to be treated with dignity and respect, and we feel others should be as well.

The April 4 article quoted Building Bridges in Brookhaven member and former Ward Melville High School teacher Tom Lyon. As he so eloquently put it: “The most radical thing we can do is to introduce people to each other.”

Donna Newman is a freelance writer and former editor of The Village Times Herald.

On March 28, North Shore residents of various faiths gathered in Selden to show their support for Muslims around the world.

In response to the March 15 terrorist attacks in New Zealand mosques, a prayer vigil was held outside the Islamic Association of Long Island where more than 100 people, including members from the Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association and Building Bridges in Brookhaven, held hands and formed a ring around the mosque during a moment of silence. The symbol of solidarity took place after a brief prayer led by Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky of Temple Isaiah of Stony Brook.

Syed Rahman, current president of the Islamic Association of Long Island, said he was touched by the number of attendees.

“I’m glad so many people made the time to come over with busy workday schedules,” he said. “This is a big turnout. I think this is the biggest turnout since I’ve been president.”

Tom Lyon, a member of Building Bridges in Brookhaven, said more than half a dozen people from the organization attended. One of the group’s founding principles, he said, is based on a motto the members adapted when it was formed — “The most radical thing we can do is to introduce people to each other.”

“Sadly, on Long Island today, developing a diversity of friendships requires far more effort than it should,” Lyon said.

Rev. Steven Kim, pastor of Setauket United Methodist Church, who is also part of the Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association, attended the event.

“It was a night for Three Village residents to stand by the Islamic community regardless of our religions or persuasions in the wake of the tragedy in New Zealand,” he said. “It would be beneficial for us to pursue further opportunities in enhancing the mutual understanding and assuring the same humanity among the different ethnic and religious groups in our community.”

After the prayer vigil, the Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association hosted a discussion held inside the mosque titled “Belief and Truth from a Multifaith Perspective: Finding Unity in Diversity.” Professor Chris Sellers of Stony Brook University’s history department and director of the Center for the Study of Inequality and Social Justice moderated the discussion.

TBR News Media publisher Leah Dunaief, center, with this year's honorees

The 2018 TBR News Media People of the Year in Brookhaven were honored at the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook on March 24.

Publisher Leah Dunaief presented the awards to Linda Johnson, Gloria Rocchio, Brian Hoerger, Andrew Harris, Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr., Heather Lynch, Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association, Susan Delgado, Angeline Judex, Janet Godfrey, Gina Mingoia, Boy Scout Troop 161 and Boy Scout Troop 204 at the event.

TBR News Media would like to thank Stony Brook University, the Three Village Inn, Dan Laffitte and the Lessing Family for sponsoring the reception, the Setauket Frame Shop for framing the award certificates, and Beverly Tyler for being our event photographer.

Members of the Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association lead a prayer vigil at Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook after the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Photo from Facebook

For approximately two decades, clergy members from a variety of faiths have been working together in the Three Village area to bring residents from different religions together for community discussions. The hope is to achieve a better understanding of the issues that face the world today.

The Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association recently set up a website where members alternate writing blogs. To view the site, visit www.3vclergy.blogspot.com.

The TVICA includes leaders from various religious organizations in the Three Village area including:

Rabbi Aaron Benson, North Shore Jewish Center, Port Jefferson

The Rev. Richard Visconti, Caroline Church and Cemetery, East Setauket

The Rev. Chuck Van Houten, Stony Brook Community Church

The Revs. Margie Allen and Linda Anderson, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook

Ismail Zahed, Islamic Association of Long Island, Selden

Father Farrell Graves, All Souls Episcopal Church, Stony Brook

The Rev. Kate Huddelson, Stony Brook University Hospital

The Rev. Steven Kim, Setauket Methodist Church

Elaine Learnard, Conscience Bay Quaker Meeting

The Rev. Gregory Leonard, Bethel AME Church, Setauket

Father James Mannion, St. James Roman Catholic Church, Setauket

Sister Edith Menegus, St. Charles Hospital and Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky and Cantor Marcey Wagner, Temple Isaiah Stony Brook

The Rev. Kate Jones Calone, Open Door Exchange — Mission of Setauket Presbyterian Church

The Rev. Mary Speers formerly of Setauket Presbyterian Church

Because of this mission, members of the Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association have garnered the honor of being among TBR News Media’s People of the Year 2018.

“The goal of the clergy association, since the beginning, is to promote understanding among the different faith traditions in our community, to learn from one another, and to come together as people of faith interested in connecting with what’s happening in the world and in our community,” said the Rev. Kate Jones Calone, director of Open Door Exchange, a mission of Setauket Presbyterian Church.

Jones Calone said the members organize events where residents can discuss issues such as the 2017 Muslim ban, children being separated from their parents at the U.S. border and gun safety in the country in such a way that helps to build bridges. She said another hope is that the conversations will get residents involved in a positive way that may “allow us to cross the lines that divide us.”

In the past year, events have included the association’s annual Community Thanksgiving Service and prayer vigils for the victims of the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and those who were separated from their families at the U.S. border. In addition, the group hosted an event titled Interfaith Dialogue on Guns in America and a Good Deeds Day cleanup at West Meadow Beach. The clergy members have also come together to compose letters to the editor, which have been printed in The Village Times Herald.

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said she first learned about the TVICA several years ago when she was invited to the annual interfaith Thanksgiving program. She said she finds the events warm, inclusive and responsive to the issues existing in the country, including political and religious segregation.

“Since that time, my staff and I have attended their events whenever the schedule permits,” Cartright said. “The TVICA is a vibrant, dynamic community group within Council District 1.”

She said the association’s mission is not only of critical value and importance to the area but also to the world.

“The act of bringing together religious and spiritual ministers and leaders from all backgrounds has created a ripple effect that encourages diversity of thought, compassion for others, and respect for the rich cultural and religious diversity that exists in our area,” Cartright said.

Since the association’s inception, Joan Marino, an elder at Setauket Presbyterian Church, has attended many of the events along with her husband, Frank. She said events such as the prayer vigil for Tree of Life not only recognize the pain of those who are suffering but the pain of the mentally ill.

“Everybody has a different theology of various types, but we all recognize the sanctity of life and loving your neighbor and standing up for those who are oppressed,” she said.

“Everybody has a different theology of various types, but we all recognize the sanctity of life and loving your neighbor and standing up for those who are oppressed.”

— Joan Marino

Marino added one of her favorite events is the Thanksgiving service because she enjoys witnessing residents of all faiths coming together to give thanks. She also appreciates how the events are held in different houses of worship.

“That’s really wonderful because you go to be with the people in their place of faith,” she said.

Jones Calone said the TVICA has held educational programs where community members have been invited to learn about each other’s faith traditions, touching on topics such as end-of-life rituals and understanding other faiths practicing of prayer.

Marino said the events make her feel optimistic.

“From singing together to praying together, to lifting each other up — when there’s a world out there that’s pretty full of hate — and to find a way to bring people together into a more loving community, we have that here in Three Village,” Marino said.

Jones Calone said the Three Village community and surrounding areas are religiously diverse, and the clergy members have seen how meaningful the events have been to residents of different faith traditions.

“People are just hungry for opportunities to support one another — to be in a relationship with one another — and hopefully doing events like this gives people that chance to really know who their neighbors are even if we spend worship hours in different places,” she said.

 

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