June 4, 2020
Over the years our group (what was once known as the Ministerial Association) has grown from a gathering of just Christian congregations to a truly interfaith and inter racial gathering. This Interfaith Community is a group of clergy and faith leaders who started with meeting the last Tuesday of each month for lunch many years ago. Over time we have organized and participated in community events and celebrations: Martin Luther King Jr parade, annual joint Thanksgiving Service, Four Chaplains service. From responding to the Pulse Night Club Shooting to a service of healing after the attack on the Muslim community in New Zealand, we have also gathered in moments of sadness to offer collective healing. This year we embarked on an interfaith dialogue program inviting the community to hear how each tradition or community approaches different values. Through all of these activities and meetings, we have come to know and understand each other better and have actually become friends in many ways.
Our Interfaith Community group has been working for years to “integrate” our spiritual communities. It seemed only logical that we might take this historic opportunity to try to set a course for the establishment of a more equitable world for people of color at this time. Our various Scriptures and the moral bases of our faith traditions speak powerfully to the basic dignity and equality of every human person.
Indian River County is a perfect microcosm of America in terms of race and ethnic diversity. We have an incredible opportunity here to significantly work on increasing awareness and understanding of cultural and racial differences that have long divided and separated us. Perhaps the road to a more peaceable and just America begins right here in Indian River County, if we take the time and effort to engage one another across communities. The interfaith community has a unique and vital role to play here. In the wake of the death of George Floyd, we wrote and now share this letter as one more example of how leaders of many faith communities, right here in Indian River County and the Treasure Coast are working together to bridge the gaps and the polarization that is so hurting our country and world. We hope our words and actions will inspire and empower you to reach out and seek dialogue and fellowship with people of all walks of life around us.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd and all that has followed members of the Interfaith Community group wrote this letter to our community.
So many of our traditions call us to “love our neighbor as ourselves”; to “let justice roll down as water and righteousness as a mighty stream”; to “beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks”; and to create a world where everyone can “sit in peace under vine and fig”… a world in which “there are no throwaway people”. These words and these values are all over Sacred texts, even if you have a different Sacred text or no sacred text, they resonate as a vision of what could and should be.
We lament that some who have sworn to serve and protect have chosen instead to dehumanize, cause pain and inflict harm.
We lament that people have taken cover from those protesting peacefully with righteous indignation and have acted to bring violence, chaos, and destruction into our midst.
We lament that leaders who could bring us together, offer prayers of justice and peace and call us to our highest American values have instead sowed division and directed the use of indiscriminate force.
We are uplifted by so many who come out not to just call for a country and communities of compassion and caring but have themselves stepped up to act to live out these values.
We are uplifted by so many of our law enforcement and first responders who, in these confusing and scary times, still rush forward to take care of all of us, both in body and in spirit.
We are uplifted by leaders who don’t just speak words about what we should do, but instead respond to inspire and empower all of us with action as individuals, communities and as a country so we might find our best selves.
We must be a mindful listener and graceful witness. We challenge ourselves and those around us, in this time and place to reflect on our actions, to connect with family and community and not just hope or pray for a world of compassion and peace, caring and kindness but to go forth and do what we can with an open heart, an open mind and open hands to build it. We stand up to care for and seek justice for people of color and all who are marginalized in our society.
Rabbi Michael Birnholz, Temple Beth Shalom
Rev. Linda Tice, Roseland United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Charles E. Johns, Affiliate Minister Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Vero Beach
Sasan Rohani, member of the IRC Bahá’í Faith.
David Kimball, Humanist Chaplain
Cantor Sara Kheel, Temple Beth Shalom
Rev. David Johnson, Minister of Mission and Education Community Church of Vero Beach
Rev. Scott Wells Alexander, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Vero Beach
Chaplain Mindy Serafin, Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital
Swami Anjani, Kashi Ashram.
Rev. Denise Hudspeth, Assistant Priest, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church
Imam Derrick Peat, Resident Scholar at the Islamic Association of Treasure Coast
Swami Dhumavati. Kashi Ashram
Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Jackson, Lead Pastor, Life Changers Global Nation Ministries
Rev. Z. Melinda Witter, Pastor and Director, Institute for Spiritual Development Treasure Coast
The Rev. Nicole K. Eastwood
The Rev. Mark A. Bernthal
The Rev. Jack Diehl
Rev. Dr. Crystal Bujol, First Woman’s Church in the City of the Angels
Carol Ludwig, Executive Director, Center for Spiritual Care
Gerry Lamothe, Pastoral Counselor.
Rev. Dan Holloway, Unity Spiritual Center
Rev. Kathy McManus, Unity Spiritual Center
Rev. Dr. Jacqueline Clanton Pastor, New Bethel A.M.E. Church Vero Beach (Gifford), Florida
Rev. Dr. Joe LaGuardia
Rev. Dr. John G. Brown III ministerial affiliate, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Vero Beach
Father Michael Goldberg, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church