During the rite of baptism in my faith tradition, the Episcopal Church, the candidate for baptism and the congregation promise to “strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of all human beings.” I joined the Interfaith Works Board earlier this year because it helps me work each day to stay focused on this promise.
As Interfaith Works prepares for its 40th anniversary in 2014, we want to express our deep gratitude to the community for its continuous support of our mission: social change through interfaith understanding and cooperation.
Through your graciousness and generosity, we have accomplished so many things — serving the marginalized; bringing people together for reflection in times of tragedy and uncertainty; and finding ways to celebrate the many joys that surround us with many faith traditions — Jewish and Christian, Buddhist and Baha’i, Unitarian and Muslim.
In our years as Interfaith Works, once known as Associated Ministries, we have founded, or been the catalyst for, organizations many of you are familiar with and participate in: the Thurston County Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, the Thurston County CROP Hunger Walk, the STARS program for senior citizens, the Dispute Resolution Center and dozens of others who serve thousands of people in our community each year. We have sponsored music festivals, youth camps, and interfaith services too numerous to count.
For the past 20 years, one of our primary focuses has been on sheltering, and more recently on housing, for people who have found themselves without a roof over their heads. In 2012-13 alone, our winter shelter had nearly 2,000 bed nights.
And, because we recognize that sheltering is only a temporary solution to getting people off the streets, we founded Sidewalk, which has specialized in rapid rehousing. Sometime this fall, it will have placed 100 people into permanent housing. The small Sidewalk staff and many volunteers have accomplished much.
As we prepare for Sidewalk to spin off as an organization separate from Interfaith Works within the next year, we have begun work on a new kind of shelter for our community. The People’s House, once up and running, will include those unserved or underserved by other types of shelters.
We recognize and value the community conversation spurred by our plans for this shelter. And we look forward to constructive, respectful conversation as we continue — as we have for the past four decades — working for social change through interfaith understanding and cooperation.
In closing, I offer this prayer from Rabbi Harold Kushner. It seems appropriate to our season:
Let the rain come and wash away
the ancient grudges, the bitter hatreds
held and nurtured over generations.
Let the rain wash away the memory
of the hurt, the neglect.
Then let the sun come out and
fill the sky with rainbows.
Let the warmth of the sun heal us
wherever we are broken.
Let it burn away the fog so that
we can see each other clearly.
So that we can see beyond labels,
beyond accents, gender or skin color.
Let the warmth and brightness
of the sun melt our selfishness.
So that we can share the joys and
feel the sorrows of our neighbors.
And let the light of the sun
be so strong that we will see all
people as our neighbors.
Let the earth, nourished by rain,
bring forth flowers
to surround us with beauty.
And let the mountains teach our hearts
to reach upward to heaven.
Amen.Mindy Chambers has been an Interfaith Works Board member since May 2013. The Persepective column is coordinated through Interfaith Works. Opinions are those of the author and not necessarily of Interfaith Works or The Olympian.