Spotlight House of Worship: Interfaith series addresses sensitive topics
By DEBORAH ANN TRIPOLDI
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The Rev. Campbell Singleton III started the Interfaith and Ecumenical Series of Sacred Studies Race, Justice and Liberation in 2015, to “build a bridge for us to have meaningful conversation, break the racial bias, raising justice — what the Quran, Bible and Torah teach,” Singleton said in a telephone interview.
The fourth annual series is underway, and will continue every Wednesday at 7 p.m. through March 14.
Three will take place at Union Baptist Church, 14 Midland Ave. Others will be at First Congregational Church, Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, Grace Presbyterian Church and St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, all in Montclair.
Singleton heard about diversity in Montclair when he came to the township in 2013, but he said he was not seeing the people come together.
Instead of just holding the series in his own church, Singleton decided to hold sessions at other places of worship, too. “Usually blacks go to black churches, whites to white churches, Protestants to Protestant churches, Baptists to Baptist churches etc., it’s very divided,” Singleton said. “To build bridges, to come out of our houses of worship, to relate to one another and break down walls of our comfort zone. It’s a way to inspire more activism, especially in the Trump era, with the racist comments on Haitians, ban on Muslims. Everything you do is about race and yet no one wants to talk about it.”
Singleton’s session in the series is titled “What Is Patriotism,” and will be held on Feb. 14 at Union Baptist Church. “How much misunderstanding there is about patriotism,” he said. “It is not about loyalty to the flag or the anthem. Patriotism is loyalty to the First Amendment; the right to protest. We have diversity in Montclair but not everybody is liberal. We have similar values. All of us come together, what Dr. King talked about, what his vision was and to remember his legacy,” he said, referring to Martin Luther King Jr. Singleton chose the topics in accordance with each of the speakers, whom he said were effective in starting conversations and keeping their passions in mind.
Speaker Jeannine Hill Fletcher, professor of theology at Fordham University, a Roman Catholic constructive theologian, discussed her book, “Sin of White Supremacy: Christianity, Racism and Religious Diversity in America.”
When she spoke at the first interfaith presentation last week, Fletcher said, “I just don’t know that many groups of clergy and congregations that are coming together not only around racial justice but also around the roll of our Scriptures and our religious traditions.”
The Scriptures, she said, have historically been misused: “These practices were weaved into law and the legal practices of discrimination that create the legal outcomes of the disparities.
“The protocol that was practiced was if a people who were Christian came to a land but there was a Christian nation that already discovered it, they had no rights to the land.”
The Rev. Scott Sammler-Michael of Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, said from the audience, “The 1493 Doctrine of Discovery… you can do anything with the people and anything you find.”
At the end of the lecture Singleton introduced the new ministers allowing them a few minutes to speak. Sammler-Michael said, “We are aware of this but don’t always say it out loud. You know beliefs have consequences, so we are taught to believe what we are set to have to live by, what we are told by our preachers and theologians is true, is going to set our world views.”
12-14 Midand Ave.
14 Midland Ave., Rice Hall
What is Patriotism
Union Baptist Church
14 Midland Ave., Rice Hall
Justice and Othering: Developing a Culture of Inclusion in a Bullying World
First Congregational Church of Montclair
40 S. Fullerton Ave.
When Faith Oppresses: The Doctrine of Discovery, Christian Supremacy and ‘Legalized’ Racism
Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair
67 Church St.
Wrestling with White Fragility
Grace Presbyterian Church
153 Grove St.
Reflections on Modes of Protest
St. Mark’s United Methodist Church
51 Elm St.