Honoring the Richness of Diversity, an Interfaith Service
On Saturday, September 17, 2005, an interfaith service entitled "Honoring the Richness of Diversity" was held at Joe Chillura Park in downtown Tampa, FL. About 125 were in attendance.
We met in response to the June 15th 2005, adoption by the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners of a policy that “county government abstain from acknowledging, promoting and participating in Gay Pride recognition and events, little “g”, little “p”.” We created a sacred space to offer healing and hope as we blended together musical offerings, symbols, chants, prayers, and other elements important to a variety of faith traditions. As people of faith, we stand in united opposition to any and all public polices that deny civil rights and protection for all people regardless of race, color, religion, disability, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. We also collected non-perishable items for the hurricane disaster relief communities.
Here is a link to an archive of the service:
Below is a description of various aspects of the service if you don't have time right now to view and read the entire service:
As part of the pre-service musical offerings the song Everything Possible, by Fred Small was included. Because the BOCC’s actions were prompted by complaints about a Gay Pride display at a public library, this lullaby that teaches inclusion and acceptance seemed appropriate.
Next came the sounding of the Shofar or rams horn, by Rabbi Shimon Moch. I know I must have heard the Shofar as a child when I attended the synagogue, but I think I confused it with the conch horn I heard in the Florida Keys as a teenager. This Shofar had a rather high pitch. There were several short fast notes followed by a long, sustained note. It really got your attention.
Then the Pagan group from the Unitarian Universalist church I attend here in Tampa performed a Sacred Drumming Circle. The energy level kept building and building. The sounding of the Buddhist Singing Bowls by Fernando Senior, kept the energy level high, but changed the mood a bit. As Rabbi Moch sang the Jewish Prayer, Shema Israel, it really brought back childhood memories for me.
The call to worship and the calling of the four Quarters were very moving. Each word seemed to be carefully chosen for the occasion. To hear the Ancient Ones invoked flowed seamlessly into the Processional Hymn, Bring Many Names. I wasn’t expecting to have an active part in the service itself, so to be given a part in the Flower Communion and to be asked to join the Processional at the last minute were very gratifying.
In his speech, “On Celebrating Diversity With Our Faith In God”, Rabbi Stephen F. Moch got everyone’s attention when he clearly stated “The Bible condemns homosexuality and transvestism as abominations. Well, the Bible condemns a lot of things as abominations, like those who eat shrimp, or those who work on the Sabbath.” He went on to say, “The majority of our County commissioners may be blind to it, but we all know that God treasures all of us equally. We people of faith who affirm God’s love for all find it difficult when the detractors of diversity use faith as their principle weapon.” Trust me, his entire speech is a must read.
In “Confrontations that Bring Transformations”, Rev. Dr. Warren Clark gave three examples of such transforming confrontations, encouraging us to be bold in our stand against the BOCC. Our efforts can have an effect. One of his illustrations was a very funny story about a person named Gay on an air flight. Another is the amazing Bible story about Jesus and the Phoenician woman. The third is a telling story about a congregant who stood up for inclusion at the YMCA and had good results. These three accounts coupled with the words from his church’s proclamation to the BOCC stand as a clear call to conscience.
Rick Ferriss, of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, took us on a cosmic journey from ‘just beneath our skin‘, to way out beyond the stars by means of a loving kindness meditation. I think of that journey when I see the photos of the statue at Joe Chillura park and read the inscription beneath it. (see photo link above) Indeed, every part of the Universe should be free from fear.
The, choir offertory, Something Inside So Strong, always grabs at the heart. We have strength in our numbers, no matter how small they seem. We have strength in the light of our truth. It is a curious thing that the ‘90’s a capella group, the Flirtations included both Everything Possible and Something Inside So Strong on their first CD.
Again, it was such a privilege to help bless the flowers during the Flower Communion. Notice two things about the photos of this part of the service. First the two young children in the loving arms of their parents. Secondly the guy with the open shirt that just wandered up and joined us. He said “Man, this is so cool, just like the ‘60’s, flowers and all.” At the calling of the Quarters, in closing, he thrust his flower in to the air in each direction with real gusto! Amazing!
How appropriate the words we sung: We are standing on the side of love: Hands joined together as hearts beat as one. Emboldened by faith, we dare to proclaim we are standing on the side of love. We are standing on the side of love.
In this world, hate never yet dispelled hate, Only love dispels hate, This is the law, ancient and inexhaustible.--The Buddha
We are grateful to each of you for joining hearts as we celebrate our rich diversity and proclaim as people of faith that all people count and deserve civil rights and equality. We also extend our gratitude to these worship centers and organizations for their generous contributions to this interfaith worship service and the work of social justice for all:
Buddhist Peace Fellowship-Tampa, FL, Bread of Life-Tampa, FL
Breathe of Life-Tampa, FL, Congregation B'nai Emmunah-
Tarpon Springs, Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans-
Tampa, FL, Equality Florida-St Petersburg, First United Church of Tampa-Tampa, FL, Flowers and More-Zephyrhills,
King of Peace-St Petersburg, Metropolitan Community Church
of Tampa-Tampa, FL, Potter House Fellowship- Tampa, FL
And our Friends in the Great Tampa Bay Community
It was a privilege and honor to share in this experience. May we all continue to raise united voices in opposition to injustice in the world and to promote a peaceful, inclusive society.