By Roger McKinney
The interfaith service, scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Joplin’s Landreth Park, will explore the theme of “Different Faiths — One Community.’’
The community service is held around the anniversary of the May 22, 2011, tornado, but organizers say the focus is not specifically on the tornado.
“The tornado is what brought us together, but we are a community with or without the tornado,” said one of the participants, the Rev. Jill Michel, with South Joplin Christian Church.
The event also follows the destruction of the Islamic Society of Joplin mosque in a suspicious fire on Aug. 6. That followed damage to the mosque last July 4 in what was an arson fire. People of other faiths in Joplin responded with a rally and other events to support local Muslims.
“I was very proud of the community for the support given to our Muslim friends,” Michel said. “Our great challenge is to be a community when there’s not something horrible going on.” Toward that goal, she said the organizers of the interfaith service want to keep that spirit going throughout the year. They have developed a list of activities and events in which members of the different faiths will participate this year. The list will be available at the service. Events include panel discussions, service projects and a multicultural meal.
As the first service project, those attending Sunday’s service are asked to bring cans of food for the pantry at Crosslines Churches.
Another aspect of the service will include examples of the call to worship or call to prayer for the different faiths.
There also will be a variety of music from the different religions. Jewish, Muslim and Christian young people also will make presentations.
Among other participants will be the Rev. Frank Sierra with St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, Student Rabbi Michael Harvey with the United Hebrew Congregation, Imam Lahmuddin with the Islamic Society of Joplin, and pastor Craig Tally with First Community Church.
Sierra said it continues to be important to get to know people of other faiths.
“The more we know each other and understand each other, the less we fear each other,” he said. “Members of the synagogue and the mosque, they’re our brothers and sisters.”
Michel agreed, saying people are too polarized about so many things, including religion. She said people of faith need to understand things they have in common and their differences.
“We share more in common than we often realize,” she said.
Another organizer, Paul Teverow, with the United Hebrew Congregation, said the entire community is welcome, regardless if one has a strong faith or none.
“I think all of them will find something interesting,” he said.
Those attending the interfaith service at Landreth Park are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets.