For the first time in Leesburg, four faiths joined together on a cold windy day to celebrate winter holidays on the grounds of the Loudoun County Courthouse. About 25 adults and children were in attendance from 8 – 9 Loudoun congregations including: the Sikh Community, All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation, St. James Episcopal Church, Unity Church of Loudoun, St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church, St. James United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalist Church of Sterling, and others. Four speakers, one each from the Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Sikh communities provided remarks for the Invocation, and Holiday Displays were arranged by Beth Chaverim and the Sikh community to join the creche on the Courthouse grounds.
The Invocations focused on the courage that our religious leaders have shown in the face of adversity, and the faith that brings us together today to work for peace, understanding and community. Special thanks was noted to Circuit Judge Horne who approved the interfaith displays this year, and to the individuals who place the creche each year on the Courthouse grounds, who invited other faiths to join them this year.
Published in the Leesburg Today, December 29, 2009
In light of the recent controversy over holiday displays, the undersigned members of Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES wish to express our gratitude to the members of Leesburg’s Christian community who reached out last year to include other faiths in this long tradition. While not all in our group agreed that the courthouse grounds are an appropriate venue for religious displays, several of our congregations responded to the gracious invitation. Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation and the Sikh community provided holiday displays to join the creche on the courthouse grounds, and speakers from the Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Sikh faiths provided remarks for an invocation given in the spirit of holiday celebration and community. This simple celebration of faith and understanding across boundaries remained throughout the holiday season for passersby to enjoy; readers can find photos and more information at www.loudouninterfaithbridges.org.
Unfortunately, some of the public comments following the prohibition of displays indicate a lack of awareness of these events. Many seem to believe that the display prohibition was intended as a ban on expressions of the Christian faith; some who signed the petition demanding reversal of the decision even made hateful remarks directed at other faiths. This misdirected anger is as disheartening as it is destructive.
Now that the Board of Supervisors has reversed the display prohibition, our hope is that in coming years we can return to the example put into practice last year, and that those communities of faith who wish to share a public celebration of the holiday season will do so with mutual respect, reverence, and great joy.
Unity of Loudoun County
St. James United Church of Christ, Lovettsville
Unitarian Universalists of Sterling
Sheila Kryston, Debra Dalby, Goose Creek Friends Meeting
All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Main Center
All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Ashburn
Guru Angad Institute of Sikh Studies
Rev. Dr. David Milam
Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation, Ashburn