[Sun Jul 13 2003]

CARBONDALE -- People of all religious faiths and backgrounds need to take the messages they learn in their houses of worship and come together as a unified force for the betterment of their communities.

That was the message of Rabbi Mark Shook of Temple Israel in St. Louis, who spoke at the Carbondale Ethnic Festival Interfaith Service Sunday afternoon at the First United Methodist Church in Carbondale.

Shook is co-chairman of the board of Faith Beyond Walls, an interfaith community service organization in St. Louis.

"Let me tell you the story about the Muslim imam, the rabbi, the pope, the Baptist pastor, the Episcopal priest and the missionary Baptist preacher," Shook said. "It sounds like the beginning of a joke that most of us have heard all too often, but this story is no joke, and it begins with a tragic prologue."

Shook said that in the days following the Sept.11 terrorist attacks, there was a bomb threat directed at an Islamic day care and mosque in St. Louis. A multifaith group quickly organized to patrol the grounds of the day care and mosque.

"The interfaith partnership was able to respond quickly because it already existed," Shook said.

"The imam, the pastor, preacher and the rabbi were committed to interfaith understanding long before 9/11. The moral to the prologue is, the time to organize a fire department is not when the building is in flames."

A wide variety of faiths were represented at Sunday's service, which wrapped up the first Southern Illinois Ethnic Festival, sponsored by Carbondale in Harmony, Memorial Hospital of Carbondale, the Carbondale Interfaith Council and the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce. The St. Francis Xavier Spanish Mass Choir performed, as did the Bethel AME Men's Choir. There was an Islamic call to prayer, a reading of Hebrew scripture by Sam Goldman of Carbondale's Congregation Beth Jacob, and a Baha'i reading by Joel Smith of the Carbondale Baha'i Congregation. The Pelham Road Baptist Youth Group of Greenville, S.C., did an interpretation of "Let There Be Peace on Earth" and the Rev. Sidney Logwood of Rockhill Baptist Church gave the benediction.

"The message is that, really, every community should have its own Faith Beyond Walls as a way of bringing faith communities together," Shook said before the service. "By not focusing directly on religious issues you can bring your community together and create a sense of understanding that you may not have been able to do through dialogue groups.

"If two, three, four or five faith communities are working together on a project to help some third party, in the process of working together on the project they become closer to one another," Shook said. 618-529-5454 x15078

©Copyright 2003, The Southern Illinoisan (IL, USA)

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