Bahai News - The Winchester Star - Different Faiths Come Together For Peace Service 107TH YEAR
JANUARY 31, 2003

Different Faiths Come Together For Peace Service

By Linda McCarty
The Winchester Star

People from many faiths were joined together Wednesday night by a common thread — a plea for peace in the Middle East.

And they came in numbers.

The fenced lawn behind Winchester Centre Quaker Meeting house, at Washington and Piccadilly streets, was filled with vehicles of all descriptions.

The old brick house of worship, which has heard messages from peacemakers for more than 130 years, was packed with people — many of whom wouldn’t commonly worship together.

There were Quakers, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptist, Roman Catholics, Jews, Unitarian Universalist, Baha’is, and members of the Sufi Order of the West and the Islamic Society.

Following in the Quaker tradition, the service, sponsored by The Shenandoah Peace Coalition and Valley Interfaith Council, began with a period of silence.

And except for the heating system’s faint sound that wafted throughout the room and reached to the balcony and high, open, white ceilings, the meeting house was quiet.

The silence was broken when the moderator, John Copenhaver, asked the worshipers to stand and participate in a reading from Hebrew scriptures printed in the bulletin.

“I am for peace,” Copenhaver read near the end of the scripture.

“But when I speak, they are for war,” the group responded.

“Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear God,” Copenhaver read again.

“On those who hope in God’s steadfast love,” the worshipers concluded.

While still standing, many joined together and read a common prayer, also printed in the bulletin.

The congregation then sat again on the straight-backed, cushioned benches and spent a period of time in silence.

The silence ended with readings, prayers, and reflections on peace.

Susan Burke read selections common to the Secular Franciscans Order of the Roman Catholic Church.

Rabbi Garson Herzfeld, of the Beth El Congregation in Winchester, read from Jewish scripture first in Hebrew and then in English.

Mohammed Bhatty of the Islamic Society read from the beginning of the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

Michael Fitzgerald recited an original peace poem and Robert Lesman read two poems on peace.

Ann Lesman shared thoughts on peace from the Unitarian Universalist perspective. Janet Bixby of the Baha’i Community and Ramana Heyman of the Sufi Order of the West did the same.

The evening ended with the congregation singing Amazing Grace and saying in unison: “We Depart in Peace.”

As one woman left the service, she said, “Things don’t look promising for a peaceful resolution in the Middle East, but I am a Christian and Christianity is based on hope.

“That’s why I came. I’m still hoping that meetings like this will help bring about a peaceful ending with Iraq. Not war.”

©Copyright 2003, Huddersfield Daily Examiner (UK)

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