WESTFIELD, NJ - War and tensions across the globe. Calls for mass deportations and public shootings at home. A wave of violent crime locally. Amid all this turmoil and discord comes the second annual Union County Day of Prayer.
"Praying for peace in the midst of violence" will be held Wednesday, Oct. 7, 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the First Methodist Church in Westfield, at 117 Ferris Place.
The event will feature readings and comments from religious leaders of all faiths from throughout Union County, as well as music. The Union County Day of Prayer is open to the public and members of all faiths.
The annual Day of Prayer is an interfaith gathering of the faith-based, nonprofit and government communities to unite people from throughout the county regardless of race, religion or disability and to bring greater awareness of the support services available to them, according to Sid Blanchard, executive director of Community Access Unlimited (CAU).
CAU is a statewide Elizabeth-based nonprofit providing support programs and services to adults with disabilities as well as youth served under the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to enable them to live independently in the community, in areas including housing, vocational and life-skills training, education, advocacy and recreation.
The event is sponsored by the Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council, an organization comprising 40 interfaith congregations and community-based nonprofits, including CAU. The council promotes inclusion of all people within the community, without regard to race, religion or disability, and creates a clearing house of faith-based, nonprofit and government community services available to the public, according to Blanchard.
"There is no community unless everyone is included and embraced," Blanchard said. "The council's mission is to better position everyone in the community to reap all that the community has to offer, including support for seniors, families and children, people with disabilities and those less fortunate economically. Collectively we offer or know how to access a variety of services, including housing, employment and financial help.
"Our theme this year is a reflection of the turmoil ripping apart communities worldwide. It seems the world, our nation and our neighborhoods have become more violent and angry and it is our goal through our annual Day of Prayer to unite the community against this discord."
Speakers will include: Blanchard; Pastor David Mertz of the First United Methodist Church in Westfield; Rev. Dr. Erika Crawford of the Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Rahway; Rev. LL DuBreuil of the Faith United Church of Christ in Union; and Pastor Nathan Bullock of the First Baptist Church in Kenilworth.
Readings and prayers will be provided by Cantor Matthew Axelrod of the Congregational Beth Israel in Scotch Plains; Father Anthony Randazzo, Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Westfield; Rev. Dr. Kirk Morton of the Community Church of God in Plainfield; Imam Ali Jaaber of the Masjid Darul Islam Mosque in Elizabeth; Ven. Duhk-Song Sunim of the So Shim Sa Zen Center in Plainfield; Rev. Bobbie Arrowsmith of the Connecticut Farms Presbyterian Church in Union; Rev. Ron Thomas of the Imani Temple Baptist Church in Union; Pastor Carmine Pernini of the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rahway; Pastor David Ford of St. Matthew Baptist Church in Roselle; Rev. Manny Cruz of the Common United Methodist Church in Roselle Park; and Rev. Dr. Mark Boyea of the First Congregational Church in Westfield.
Music selections will be provided by Denise Lowe, chair director of the Greater St. John MER Church in Elizabeth and Kevin Caldwell, chair director of the Community Church of God in Plainfield.
About the Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council
The Union County Interfaith Coordinating Council is an organization of interfaith congregations and community-based nonprofits with the mission to facilitate regular interfaith meetings in order to make way for the building of bonds between a community of different faiths and to respect the inclusion and encourage welcoming of others regardless of faith, race or disability and to be proactive on social issues. The council's objectives are to sponsor regular engagement opportunities that facilitate the building of bonds within the Union County interfaith community and their congregations; strengthen the Union County religious congregations through involvement, action and education in self-help; and build working relationships between Union County religious organizations and Community Access Unlimited that create opportunities for youth and people with disabilities and their support staff.