Interfaith service attempts to heal the divide

Members of the community are invited to an interfaith prayer and solidarity service on Tuesday evening, Feb. 7, from 7 to 8 at Wilton Presbyterian Church, 48 New Canaan Road.

Members of Wilton clergy who plan to participate include Dr. Kareem Adeeb of the American Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies, Rabbi Rachel Bearman of Temple B’nai Chaim, the Rev. Dr. Anne Coffman of Wilton Congregational Church; the Rev. Alon White of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, and the Rev. Shannon White of Wilton Presbyterian Church. Louise Herot, a representative of First Church — Christ Scientist, will also attend. The Rev. Reggie Norman of Our Lady of Fatima is unable to attend.

The service is not meant to be a political event, White told The Bulletin. “There will be no politicians, no individuals speaking,” she said. While the format was to be finalized on Wednesday, the focus will be on prayer.

“Leaders of the religious community are coming together to lead us in prayer, which is central to all our faiths, and to seek some unity in a time when many people are anxious,” she said. “For those who can’t come, we will hold them in our prayers, too.”

Bearman said the service will focus on inclusiveness.

“In the past several months, and especially in the past couple of weeks, we have seen more and more people telling us that there is so much that divides us,” she said in an email message. “In the face of those types of divisive messages, the interfaith community of Wilton reaches out in friendship to one another. We celebrate the deep and supportive bonds that connect our congregations, and we draw comfort and inspiration from the friendships and the respect that exist between our communities.”

Both White and Adeeb said it is important for people to see their clergy standing up and taking a strong leadership role.

“We are coming together because the world is hurting right now. Some people are not feeling hurt and are very happy with the way things are,” she acknowledged, adding that “there is room for all sides to come together and see the face of God in each other.”

Adeeb agreed. “The last presidential election has unleashed the lowest feelings in humans,” he said when reached on the phone Wednesday. Whether people are “Muslims, Christians, Jews or even atheists, they are still humans and they deserve our affection and respect.”

Adeeb, who is the first Muslim elected president of the Interfaith Council of Southwest Connecticut, asked, “Was Adam Jewish, Christian or Muslim? He was human.”

Bearman said the most powerful response to fear or hate is “reaching out and grasping the hand of your neighbor. Standing in front of someone very unlike you and calling that person family for the simple reason that they are human. On Tuesday, we will come together as a community to draw strength from the knowledge that we care about one another and will stand with one another.”

White told her congregation during the election season she would not use her church pulpit as a bully pulpit. “I will not be political but I will be prophetic. I have to lead in the way I feel God is guiding me to lead. There’s got to be a place and room for everyone. This is a time for people to come together and meet one another and to pray.”

“We are supposed to be our neighbor’s brother and look after one another,” Adeeb said. “We have to help each other. We cannot unleash anger and madness and hate.”