Fourth Annual Tampa Bay Interfaith Week Kicks Off

On Sunday, October 1, the Abrahamic Reunion attended the Opening Ceremony for Interfaith Week 2017, put on by Interfaith Tampa Bay. The Reverend Canon Katie Churchwell welcomed everyone to the Cathedral Church of St. Peter for an afternoon of worship and connection. The theme of this year’s Interfaith Week is “I am your Neighbor.”

Len Seligman leads everyone in singing “God is Too Big for Any One Religion”

The service began with an energetic and interactive prelude by Len Seligman, followed by a Call to Gather by Rev. Canon Katie Churchwell. Everyone stood together and sang “Abundant Life.” After an opening invocation by Circling Eagle, calling upon the four directions, along with the sky and the earth, Win Thompkins sang a song about unity called “What If.” Mayor Rick Kriseman then read the Interfaith Proclamation, which officially declares October 1-8 2017, to be the Fourth Annual Tampa Bay Interfaith Week.

“Interfaith Week celebrates our religious and cultural differences, and acknowledges the ways in which this diversity enriches our society,” reads Mayor Kriseman

Rev. Canon Churchwell led everyone in a call and response, ending with “All people, regardless of race, status, gender or faith are my neighbors.” Representatives of different faith communities then came forward and shared how their faith calls upon them to care for their neighbors. First was Sister Aida Mackie (Islam), followed by Reverend Chris Miller (Sufism), Father Victor Ray (Christianity), Robert Harris (Baha’i), and Mayor Kriseman (Judaism). Sheikh Ghassan Manasra went last, reciting a prayer from the Qu’ran.

Rev. Canon Katie Churchwell thanks the speakers for sharing their faith’s teachings

An address was given by Dr. Roy Kaplan, who spoke of the importance of embracing differences and encouraged everyone to be open to all of their neighbors. He stressed that “Diversity is not deficiency,” but instead enriches our lives. Closing remarks were given by the President of Interfaith Tampa Bay, Joran Oppelt. A blessing was then offered by Reverend Patrice Curtis of the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater.

Dr. Roy Kaplan delivers the address

Everyone stood together one last time to sing “Build Me a World,” ¬†then Win Thompkins concluded the opening ceremony with the song “Charity.”

As a group, everyone sings, “I’ll build this world if you’ll stand beside me. Give me hope. Give me faith. Give me love”

On Thursday from 7-8:30 pm, the Abrahamic Reunion will be hosting a panel and discussion titled “The Other As Neighbor.” More information on that event can be found here. For the full Interfaith Week schedule of events, click here.