Local group promotes interfaith understanding

October 16, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

Five months into her term as president of the Washington County Council of Churches and other houses of worship, the Rev. Jan Dorsey would like nothing better than to deliver the group's message of interfaith understanding to anyone who will listen.

To that end, she is hoping the turnout for today's forum at Hagerstown Community College will be as well attended as those sponsored in the past by the organization.

The topic of tonight's forum, which starts at 7 p.m. in the Kepler Theater, is "Women and Faith: The Role of Women in our Muslim, Jewish and Christian Traditions." Representatives of those religious communities will speak and audience participation will be elicited.


Now 57 years old, the council has evolved from a strictly Christian group to its current diverse makeup in the 1990s and culminating in 2000, when the ranks were opened to encompass all faiths. In 1995, the name was changed to reflect that new diversity.

"We've had a Jewish rabbi, the Rev. Charles Rabinowitz, as president of the council," Dorsey said. "This seemed a natural step since we have been a gathering organization when we began in 1946."

The council has lay and clergy representatives from some of the 200 houses of worship in the county, with a core group of about two dozen active members, Dorsey said.

Washington County Hospital Chaplain Cheri Baker heads up the chaplaincy committee within the council, coordinating nursing home, hospital and prison chaplains, as well as those affiliated with police, firefighters and other emergency personnel.

The Rev. Ed Poling is coordinator of the interfaith committee and has spearheaded the previous and current forums such as the one tonight.

The Social Help Center is chaired by Betty Willson, who previously had directed the council's site for food and clothing distribution at Trinity Lutheran Church on Randolph Avenue. That center currently is closed for lack of a director, Dorsey said.

Jane Drawbaugh recently completed heading up the annual fall round of CROP Walks around Washington County, which raise funds for the needy at home and abroad. The council organizes those walks each year.

The Revs. Fred Harris and Ken Valentine work together on the ecumenical committee, which plans all special services on holy days and holy seasons. Currently, they are firming up the details for the 92nd annual Community Thanksgiving service, which will be held this year on Nov. 26 at First Christian Church.

Partnering with other groups to study and work together regarding social concerns in Washington County are the Revs. Valerie Wills and David Schlicher and their committee members.

The council does not receive government money, but accepts contributions from individuals and churches as well as annual dues from members. Those funds pay for putting out newsletters, setting up seminars and paying a small stipend to the council's executive director, Robert Hyssong Jr.

Contributions may be mailed to Hyssong at the council office at Christ's Reformed Church, 130 W. Franklin St., Hagerstown, MD 21740.

For more information on the council, call 301-491-0785.

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