Diversity group wants to enlist clergy in dialogue

Roundtable's goal is to encourage leaders to discuss `respect' issue in congregations

March 04, 2007|By David P. Greisman | David P. Greisman,Special to The Sun

The South Carroll Diversity Roundtable will meet with clergy from about a dozen area churches and the county's only synagogue, enlisting the power of the pulpit toward initiating a dialogue within congregations.

The roundtable, which formed in 2004 amid cases of racially motivated vandalism and other incidents, has met with groups to discuss tolerance and respect.

But the 12-member roundtable believes that the gathering Thursday at St. Joseph Catholic Community church in Eldersburg is the easiest way to encourage discussion with a greater number of people.

"Many people have a tie with some faith in the community," said Laura Rhodes, the group's founder. "We focus with the faith leaders so that we can get the message out to a good number of adults that we couldn't reach by ourselves.

"The goal is to encourage conversation and reflection ... about issues of respect. We'll maybe start thinking about our actions [and] how we treat each other, [and] make sure we're modeling respectful behavior for our children to learn."

The Rev. Chris Reuwer said he would attend the meeting to become better acquainted with his fellow ministers and to confront racism and intolerance.

"There's great value in the coming together of ministers and people who have a shared concern for what's going on in the community," said Reuwer, the senior pastor at Freedom Christian Church in Eldersburg. "Our responsibility is to work for justice and promote mercy and grace."

Yet the clergy must learn the full extent of the problem before coming up with a solution, Reuwer said.

"We have kids in high schools; these are things that they're faced with to some degree," he said. "Part of it is to find out what that degree is ... and then help them to understand that they can be positive influences."

In addition to the roundtable presentation and the subsequent discussion, Brother Stephen Strausbaugh, pastoral associate for Christian service at St. Joseph, will speak about affordable housing.

"We think it's important to educate the clergy on the social justice issues facing South Carroll -- issues of race, issues of immigration, issues of affordable housing [and] issues of poverty," Strausbaugh said.

Reuwer agreed.

"We can really put into practice the faith that we profess to have," he said.

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