Coral Gables

Service brings together clergy of many faiths

A choir comprised of members from several local choirs sing during an interfaith service at Coral Gables Congregational Church in Coral Gables, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. More than 150 people turned out for the service which also featured a reception.
A choir comprised of members from several local choirs sing during an interfaith service at Coral Gables Congregational Church in Coral Gables, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. More than 150 people turned out for the service which also featured a reception. For the Miami Herald

Imams, rabbis, priests and ministers came together for an interfaith service in Coral Gables on Sunday.

One by one, the religious leaders took turns delivering messages that went in line with the services’ theme “Pursuing Peace: A Common Path.”

“This is one of the best things we do down here,” said Imam Khalid Salahuddin, an assistant imam at Masjid Al-Ansar in Liberty City.

The fourth annual interfaith service was held at the Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ and was organized by MCCJ, formerly known as the Miami Coalition of Christians and Jews.

The program started as a way to mark the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with a prayer session, but the interfaith service became a tradition ever since.

The Rev. Dr. Laurinda “Laurie” Hafner, senior pastor at the church, said she was touched to see people from different backgrounds and faiths come together for the service.

“I found it very meaningful,” Hafner said, adding that the message of peace, “could change a community, and maybe even the world.”

One unique aspect of the service was that it wasn’t all conducted in English.

An Islamic call to prayer was recited in Arabic, a cantor sang a song in Hebrew, and a prayer was said in Greek. Even the interfaith choirs that performed borrowed words from Swahili and other languages in their songs.

“The music was good, and what really touched me a lot was when it was in a language I didn’t speak,” said Jeanette Smith, 48, a Quaker who lives in the Country Walk area. “When I couldn’t understand the words I could focus on the feeling and the spirit.”

The interfaith event is the result of a partnership among the Archdiocese of Miami, Coalition of South Florida Muslim Organizations, P.A.C.T (People Acting for Community Together), Faith in the City, the Rabbinical Association of Greater Miami and South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice.

For Rabbi Solomon Schiff, the director of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation’s Community Chaplaincy Service, the interfaith service exemplifies the diversity of South Florida.

“It showed the richness in our community in that though we speak in different languages and have different traditions, the basic element of joy and love and compassion exists throughout the different communities,” said Schiff.

Leon Patricios, 47, who is of the Greek Orthodox faith, said he left the service feeling inspired by the message of peace.

“I thought it was fantastic,” said Patricios, of Coral Gables. “What I took away from every speaker is: Don’t think it’s too much of a task, each of us can make a difference.”

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