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Picnic 'builds bridges' between faiths

August 01, 2010|By DAVE McMILLION

HAGERSTOWN --David C. Baker has noticed that as the Hagerstown area becomes more diversified, so do the types of religion being practiced.

Those religions have included Wiccan-based beliefs focusing on the appreciation of nature, said Baker, who oversees spiritual care services at Washington County Hospital.

To celebrate diversity in religion, the Interfaith Coalition of Washington County held its annual family picnic Sunday at Pangborn Park.

The coalition represents about nine religious beliefs in the area and the picnic is designed to allow people with different backgrounds to get to know each other, said Ed Poling, pastor of Hagerstown Church of the Brethren.

About 25 people were gathered at a pavilion for the picnic Sunday afternoon to enjoy a meal of kosher hamburgers and hot dogs, along with food items participants were asked to bring.

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Baker, who saw the picnic as an opportunity to "build bridges," said the event is important to have when there are religious groups feeling antagonistic toward the U.S. as wars are waged abroad.

Baker said it is important to remember that not everyone shares extremist views.

Barbara Neumann of Smithsburg, a guest at the picnic, said she thinks it is a good idea for people of various faiths to socialize and exchange ideas.

"Nobody thinks his or hers is the best," Neumann said.

"I think learning doesn't necessarily mean you embrace it," Baker added.

To encourage members of the group to mingle, the guests played a game in which they had to find people who have practiced yoga, grow their own tomatoes or who have been married more than 50 years.

In another game, guests were encouraged to shout out what type of religions a string of small flags hung along an edge of the pavilion represented.

Not all was serious at the picnic.

A flag representing the Tibetan Wheel was among those on display. The symbol it bears represents that Buddhist perspective on life, but when it was pointed to in the game, someone yelled out "Wheel of Fortune!"

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