Flemington Area Interfaith Picnic: Uniting a Diverse Hunterdon Through Faith, Understanding

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Flemington Area Faith Leaders Association include (from left) Seth Fisher, Daniel Lundquist, Joseph Forman, Jacob Malki, Harry Mazujian, Wonjae Choi, Carmela Vuoso-Murphy, and Yaser ElMenshawy. Credits: Suzanne Reeds
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FLEMINGTON, NJ - Building relationships within the community is the goal of the first annual Flemington Area Interfaith picnic.

The event will be rain or shine on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. at Deer Path Park in the Cedars Pavilion.

“For me, this isn’t just about interfaith,” said Imam Yaser ElMenshawy of the Islamic Center of Hunterdon County. “It’s about community. Having people learn about each other’s faiths is fine, but the more important thing is that we get people to come together and be one community. And that’s why I’m excited that this is a picnic. It’s okay that we don’t eat the same things and don’t worship the same things.”

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FAFLA members (Flemington Area Faith Leaders Association) are planning a day of fun and food with games such as pick-up football or soccer, quizzing games such as Jeopardy, and ice breakers such as human Bingo. In addition, everyone is invited to bring lawn chairs, picnic games, and those who play a musical instrument are encouraged to bring one for a little impromptu music.

FAFLA members believe that religion is community, and members within any community are diverse, which should not make them strangers. “We’re making a narrative together as a community; we’re dispelling that idea that we’re all fighting with each other,” said the Rev. Harry Mazujian, who recently retired after serving Calvary Episcopal Church for nearly 20 years. “The unifying key is that we here are all people of faith.”

Or not, said the Rev. Seth Fisher, of the First Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hunterdon County. “Our faith is the only one that embraces atheism as well,” he said.

Not everyone believes the same things. “We don’t even all share a faith,” Rev. Fisher continued, “but we learn more from hearing the perspectives of other people. We’re better and stronger together.”

In a society that has become increasingly polarized on all topics, members of FAFLA believe we are more alike than we know, but that there are not many opportunities to relax and enjoy each other.

“New Jersey is the most diverse but segregated state,” said Mazujian. “In other communities, people tend to live in their own groups within a community. That’s not as true here. In Hunterdon County, people are all over.”

“Wouldn’t it be cool if we all came together?” asked Rev. Wonjae Choi of Flemington Presbyterian Church. Getting to know each other is what this is about, leaders agree: Diverse but united.

This is an opportunity for all members of the Hunterdon community, regardless of religion or philosophy, to spend an enjoyable day together.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

“It is a challenge to help people get together independently from any denomination,” said Rabbi Jacob Malki of Flemington Jewish Community Center. “The more we can be a welcoming catalyzer, the more we will be successful as a community.”

The picnic is a potluck event and participants are encouraged to bring one entrée and either a side dish or a dessert. Because of the diversity of the community, each attendee is asked to provide information about their “dish” so that dietary, religious, and allergy restrictions are available to all. A “safe-food” information checklist will be provided for each food contribution. Beverages will be provided.

The Deer Path Park address is 120 W. Woodschurch Rd., Flemington.

This event is sponsored by FAFLA, whose members are:

Rev. Wonjae Choi of the Flemington Presbyterian Church

Rabbi Joseph Forman of Or Chadash Reform Temple

Rev. Harry Mazujian, Hunterdon Interfaith Outreach Council

Rabbi Jacob Malki, Flemington Jewish Community Center

Imam Yaser ElMenshawy, Islamic Center of Hunterdon County.

Rev. Daniel Lundquist, Grace United Church of Christ

Rev. Seth Fisher, First Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hunterdon County

Rev. Dave Hill of the Neshanic Reformed Church,

Rev. Lee Ann Zandstra, Living Waters Lutheran Church

Rev. Carmela Vuoso-Murphy, Unity Spiritual Center

Rev. Dr. Paul Jaw, Flemington United Methodist Church

Rev. Ann Holt, Calvary Episcopal Church

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