Meeting House manager is bid farewell

Beanblossom honored after 24 years with interfaith center

June 16, 2000|By Diane Reynolds | Diane Reynolds,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A handcrafted glass peacock symbolizing hope and new life was a surprise gift to Linda Beanblossom, who has retired as manager of the Oakland Mills Meeting House.

The peacock, created by artist Stephana Toomey, was among the highlights of a dinner honoring Beanblossom and - indirectly - the flourishing of the interfaith center at the Meeting House. Beanblossom officially retired last month after 24 years of service at the 25-year-old facility.

"It was marvelous, a very enriching, wonderful evening," said Beanblossom. "The peacock was very, very special. The crowned jewel of the Meeting House is the stained-glass windows for both our worship spaces that were put in last year. The same artist created the peacock. ... [Having] it will help with all my fond memories."

About 80 people attended the catered dinner Wednesday, including the interfaith center's board of directors, Beanblossom's family and religious staff and administrators representing all of its congregations. The event was organized by Barbara Hope, Sherry Berlin, the Rev. Bill Hayman and Joel Barry Brown.

"Pretty good for a weeknight in June," said Brown, a member of the interfaith center's board. "It was our night to thank Linda, who served us very well for 24 years. She did everything she had to do so we could have a good religious experience."

The center's six permanent congregations participated in the appreciation through prayers, readings, presentations and benedictions. Burgundy tablecloths and a pink-and-burgundy color scheme added to the festive quality of the occasion.

"Linda's own personal style has contributed immensely to the success of this facility," said Hayman, emcee of the dinner and pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Living Word, which meets at the interfaith center. "There are not a lot of models for how to make an interfaith center work."

As facilities manager of Oakland Mills Meeting House - the building that houses the Jewish, Roman Catholic and Protestant congregations that comprise Oakland Mills Interfaith Center - Beanblossom ensured that the building functioned well and coordinated activities among the faiths.

"It's a large, very, very busy facility," Beanblossom said. "Sometimes there are 12 services a week. It's challenging and different from a single church." However, "the facility has had a wonderful working relationship and harmony between congregations. It was a good environment to work in."

Beanblossom added: "They would share each other's talent on a daily basis. It was not unusual for one congregation staff to be using the personnel resources of another congregation. Clergy consulted other clergy. There was a good feeling."

Brown agrees that Columbia's four interfaith centers mark a departure from traditional houses of worship. While some have criticized Columbia founder James W. Rouse's vision of shared worship spaces, Brown finds that "the interfaith concept is the only thing that distinguishes Columbia from any other suburb. They are the only thing we can point to that makes Columbia a better and different community from any other."

"The interfaith centers allow diverse people to work together, to pray together and to learn together," Brown said. "Different religions, males and females, blacks and whites work well together. I am honored to know them."

Congregations regularly using the Meeting House include the Jewish Temple Isaiah and Columbia Jewish Congregation, the Columbia Baptist Fellowship, the Lutheran Church of the Living Word, St. John's Roman Catholic Church and the Columbia United Church of Christ.

In addition to building bridges among diverse faiths, interfaith centers serve the practical need of allowing congregations to save money.

"It's a wonderful economic model. Money can be more appropriately spent helping with social services, not on brick and mortar," Beanblossom says. "If there is a leaky roof, it's one roof - not every congregation with a separate leaky roof."

She is optimistic about the future of the interfaith center concept because it has been embraced by the newer villages of Kings Contrivance and River Hill.

As for her plans in retirement, Beanblossom says: "I've worked hard for a long time. It was my time to retire. There are other personal interests I'll be pursuing."

It's Beanblossom's legacy, however, that Brown points to. "Look at how wonderful the [Oakland Mills] Interfaith Center is physically, and at the spirit and warmth and love of the people. We owe a lot to Linda for both the physical and spiritual aspects of the center."

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