Picnic brings together those of various faiths

August 13, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Paula Myers was a practicing Catholic when she began to think there had to be more to religion. The Clear Spring resident said she "church hopped" for a bit before finding her faith in Baháí.

"We use our skills, we work," Myers said. "We teach our faith in our actions."

Myers is a member of the Washington County Interfaith Coalition and was among about 60 people who attended the group's annual picnic Sunday at Washington County Regional Park.

Baháí is the belief in the oneness of God, religion and mankind, Myers said.

"It doesn't matter what faith you are," she said. "You should accept and love people for who they are."

Ed Poling, pastor of Church of the Brethren in Hagerstown, said that is one of the goals of the picnic and other Interfaith Coalition events.

"It's to have an informal opportunity for people to gather from different faiths," he said. "It's building community and understanding each other better."


Poling said that Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and people of the Baháí faith gathered Sunday. He said it was an opportunity to break down some of the barriers among those different religions.

Syed Q. Burmi of Hagerstown, the Islamic Society of Western Maryland minister, said he attends the Interfaith Coalition picnic each year. Burmi said he enjoys socializing with people of different faiths.

"It's a very friendly, peaceful environment," he said.

Michael Hydes, pastor at New Light Metropolitan Community Church in Hagerstown, said his congregation is very diverse and includes a large number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered members. He said events like Sunday's picnic are a chance to hear from a welcoming and tolerant group.

"Sometimes, the loudest voices are the ones that are filled with the most hate," he said. "It's easy to get the impression that the world is a terrible place, and it can be. But it's a beautiful place."

Hydes said the community is overwhelmingly tolerant of those with different religious beliefs, but there is work to be done.

Loyal Vanderveer of Williamsport recently retired after 19 years as a chaplain at Hospice of Washington County Inc. He said he's been to several of the picnics and believes they are important.

"It's helpful to come together and learn about other's beliefs," he said. "It helps us accept each other more."

Myrtle Haldeman of Hagerstown attends Church of the Brethren and said she enjoys the diversity of the Interfaith Coalition events.

"I think we're becoming a global society," she said. "It's good for us to learn about different people, and how they feel and about different religions."

The Herald-Mail Articles