As many of you know, I am a member of a hyper-local interfaith clergy group called Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association. The Rev. Kate Calone (Open Door Exchange) leads us now and the Rev. Dr. Linda Anderson, my spouse and our affiliated UU Community Minister, serves as secretary. Other active members include the Rev. Canon Richard Visconti (Caroline Episcopal), the Rev. Mary Speers (Setauket Presbyterian), Rabbi David Katz and Cantor Marcey Wagner (Temple Isaiah), Rabbi Aaron Benson (North Shore Jewish Center), Father James Mannion (St. James Roman Catholic Church), the Rev. Chuck Van Houten (Stony Brook Community Church—Methodist), the Rev. Steven Kim (Setauket Methodist Church), the Rev. Greg Leonard (Bethel AME Church), Elaine Learnard (Conscience Bay Friends Meeting, St. James), and Ismail Zahed (Selden Mosque).
We meet on the first Monday morning of the month at one or other of our congregations to support one another as colleagues, to learn about each other’s faith traditions, to describe what’s going on in the congregations we serve, to look for opportunities to partner in ministry, to make joint public statements, and to plan interfaith events. Many of you have attended the Community Interfaith Thanksgiving Service we lead every year. Most years, we also offer an educational forum, often a panel and discussion about how our faiths address universal religious concerns—topics like birth, coming of age, religious education, marriage, prayer, death, and scripture. Our group has covered a lot of common territory over the 25 or so years that it has existed.
For this year’s educational forum we are designing an “Interfaith Dialogue on Guns in America.” I hope many of you will be able to attend the forum at North Shore Jewish Center on Sunday, March 4, 3:00-5:00. We’ve asked former LI Council of Churches Executive Director, the Rev. Tom Goodhue, to facilitate an innovative conversational process. The process will look something like this, though the plan is still evolving. We’ll begin with small groups of clergy talking to each other in response to three broad questions. We’ll then invite four members of different faith groups to come out of the audience and sit with each other to discuss a common question. After several such mixed groups have had a chance to interact around their question, we’ll bring the event to a close with a Q & A directed from the audience to individuals on the whole clergy panel. We’ll also provide some sort of fact sheet, as balanced as possible, about relevant NY State laws, the wording of the 2nd Amendment to our Constitution and various interpretations, and national and state statistics about various kinds of gun use and abuse.
This year’s educational forum is a stretch for us as an interfaith clergy group. A lot can go wrong. It is clear to us, though, that people of faith can play an important role in modeling and encouraging civil discourse on issues that concern us as citizens.