01/27/08 — Annual interfaith breakfast held

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Annual interfaith breakfast held

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on January 27, 2008 2:00 AM

More than 100 people from around the city, county and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base gathered Friday morning for breakfast -- and to talk about faith's role in their community's future.

Goldsboro Community Affairs Commission and Wayne County sponsored the first annual Interfaith Breakfast, hoping it would be used as a time to reflect on different faiths and showcasing how each can work together for a better community.

So after the line for food grew smaller and the stomachs grew fuller, the time came to get down to business -- God's business.

"We want to promote respect and harmony for all of our citizens," said Kim Copeland, breakfast chairwoman and mistress of ceremonies. "We wanted to make everyone aware of the roles that faith plays in the community."

During the event, three clergy members of different denominations spoke about the effect of faith on everyday life and society as a whole -- but there was a catch.

"To help get these people back to work by 9, they have to keep their words to three minutes," Ms. Copeland said.

And, after the audience chuckled, the Rev. Drew Clark of First Presbyterian Church, started his short sermon.

"One of the mottos in a program we have at the church is 'You are a child of God, and I'm going to treat you that way,' " Clark said.

The creed, which he said is written on buttons or desk signs to help churchgoers remember, will make everyone a better person.

"I encourage you to see each other as a child of God," he said. "If we do, we could be the community, the city on the hill, that God intends us to be."

The Rev. Thomas Norris of St. Mary's Church followed with a joke.

At a world hunger conference, he said, a person announced that there was a food shortage in the rest of the world.

"The Africans asked for a clarification of 'food.' The Europeans asked for a clarification of 'shortage.' And the Americans asked for clarification of 'the rest of the world,' " Norris said to small bursts of laughter.

"We are challenged to see beyond our own back yards," he added. "When we hear about a different faith, see a different color or hear a different language, we interpret this as a threat, not a holy opportunity or a sacred moment."

He encouraged members of the audience to think outside their own worlds and to help those whose worlds aren't so blessed.

The Rev. David Harvin of St. Luke United Methodist Church spoke last and reverted his talk toward Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."

"These are words I just can't seem to get out of my head," Harvin said. "He addresses those who prefer 'a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.' "

And as he repeated King's words again, he urged the audience to return to the calling of justice and change.

"... Ourselves have to change, our churches have to change, our calling patterns have to change, our schools have to change," he said.

And he called on God to help.

"Point us to a day when all of our distinctions are gone -- no central attendance district, mayor; no secret red lines in the mortgage community, Realtors; no segregated Sunday morning congregations, pastors," he added. "I pray that 2008 will be a launch point for change."

And after all of the preaching, the applause and the amens, Mayor Al King and Wayne County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bud Gray stood up to give each of the three clergymen a token of appreciation.

"I think we just witnessed mission impossible," the mayor said. "We had three preachers, not five but three, speak, and it's not even 9 o'clock. That's a feat.

"The citizens of this great city appreciate you, appreciate what you do and really appreciate your message and appreciate that you are able to say so much in such a short period of time."