Baha'i News -- Ecumenical effort a 'new dawn' for area churches Web posted Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Ecumenical effort a 'new dawn' for area churches

Religious leaders plan to address community concerns, social justice

Staff writer

A group of nearly 40 religious leaders from more than a dozen denominations met Tuesday to build ecumenical relationships and to lay the foundation for a group that will address community concerns and work for social justice.

Mission statement

The mission statement of Religious Leaders in Dialogue:

"We affirm our common bonds as sisters and brothers of our one God creator and will work together to gather faith leaders for the purpose of: praying for our community and world; building ecumenical relationships; enhancing awareness of one another's ministries; addressing social concerns that affect our communities; wrestling with issues of social justice; working for understanding and reconciliation; strengthening community relationships between the cities and the townships and voicing perspectives of religious leaders on community issues."

"Everyone thought it should be a gathering of religious leaders of all faiths -- this is a new dawn in the Holland-Zeeland area," said the Rev. Dennis Remenschneider, pastor of Peace Lutheran Church, which hosted the inaugural Religious Leaders in Dialogue forum.

"I think it's a historic moment," said Sister Pat Lamb of St. Francis de Sales and Our Lady of the Lake Catholic churches. "We're founding a whole new way to come together as faith believers. It's a moment of great openness."

The group formed in response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Ottawa Area Summit on Racism.

Denominations and other religious associations represented included Bahai, Catholic, the chaplain's office at Holland Community Hospital, Christian Reformed, Episcopalian, Free Methodist, Lakeshore Interfaith Institute, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Quaker, Reformed Church in America, Seventh-day Adventist, United Methodist and Vineyard.

"I put a lot of stock in praying together with people of other faiths," said the Rev. Rodney Otto, pastor of Christ Our Savior Lutheran.

"My desire is that we will find ways to express our deepest convictions while being sensitive to others," said the Rev. Tom Toeller-Novak, rector at Grace Episcopal Church.

Some from non-Christian faiths expressed their gratitude for being included in the forum that will meet about three times a year.

"I grew up in Holland -- I prayed for this for 50 years," said Annie Olson, public information representative for the Bahai community. "I'm very thankful for this meeting."

Swami Tapasananda with the Lakeshore Faith Institute in Ganges said Religious Leaders in Dialogue could be the start of a "historic beginning" in this area, but it needs participation from more faith backgrounds first.

"I didn't see any Hindus, Jews, Buddhists or Muslims here," Tapasananda said.

©Copyright 2002, The Holland Sentinel (MI)

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