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Keeping a faith

Interfaith Coalition sponsors prayer breakfast, discussion

Interfaith Coalition sponsors prayer breakfast, discussion

March 12, 2006|By MARIE GILBERT

HAGERSTOWN

As coordinator of the Interfaith Coalition of Washington County, the Rev. Ed Poling has had the opportunity to meet people from many different religions.

"Our beliefs may vary," he said. "But there is a common thread. Prayer with God brings us all together."

A discussion on prayer took place Saturday morning at a prayer breakfast sponsored by the Washington County Council of Churches and the Interfaith Coalition.

The event, held at the Hagerstown Church of the Brethren, featured presentations on the experience of prayer from Baha'i, Christian, Jewish and Muslim perspectives.

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According to Poling, pastor of the host church, there is a long history of prayer breakfasts in the Christian community, especially during the Lenten season.

"But this year, we wanted to be more inclusive," he said. "So, through the Interfaith Coalition, we found speakers from four different religions to participate in a low key discussion on prayer."

The idea, said Poling, "is to try to build an understanding and a sense of tolerance among different faiths. I hope that each person attending today's event will take away more of an appreciation of other people's spirituality, as well as an understanding that we are all a family of God."

Dr. Stephen Robison, president of the Washington County Council of Churches and pastor of Otterbein United Methodist Church in Hagerstown, gave credit to the Interfaith Coalition for making Saturday's program possible.

"Coalition members have done a wonderful job of bringing different faiths together, learning how we compliment each other, how we can work together and have a new appreciation for each other," he said.

Robison, who called the event "a groundbreaking breakfast," noted that "it's to everyone's benefit to talk and share."

In an effort to be more inclusive, he said the Washington County Council of Churches is planning on changing its name to the Hagerstown Area Religious Council.

"The executive committee is working on the revisional process," he said. "Nationally, the Council of Churches is a Christian organization. Washington County is ahead of the curve in making a concentrated effort to reach out to other houses of faith."

Poling explained that the Interfaith Coalition, formed in 2001, grew out of the Washington County Council of Churches.

"We came up with the idea after Sept. 11," he said, "as a way to bring people together from all faith traditions in order to promote peace, respect and compassion."

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