Local Interfaith Group Works to Strengthen, Unify and Educate Community
Above: Members of the Interfaith Clergy Association of Greater Lansing in August, 2017. Photo courtesy of ICAGL.
As a local interfaith clergy group expands its borders, member organizations are offering programs in East Lansing to promote the understanding of Islam and Judaism.
The Interfaith Clergy Association of Greater Lansing (ICAGL) currently consists of at least 30 members of the clergy representing area mosques, synagogues and several Christian denominations. The current chair is Rev. Andrew Pomerville, Senior Pastor at The Peoples Church in East Lansing.
The group meets monthly, according to Rev. Alice Townley, Parish Associate at The Presbyterian Church of Okemos, “to support one another, to share news about upcoming events, to study topics such as each other's sacred texts and local justice work, and to lead interfaith responses to current events.”
Townley, an East Lansing resident and longtime member of the clergy group, says membership is growing because ICAGL is “increasingly drawing clergy from a wider area.” She added that, “In this time, being able to discuss issues and develop relationships with Jewish, Muslim, and Christian clergy is a gift.”
These sentiments are echoed by Rev. Phiwa Langeni, Director of Salus Center and Pastor of Salus Center UCC. “Now more than ever before, it matters to have a group such as this that encourages showing up in ways that are consistent with the radical love, persistent compassion, and transformative peace that span across our different traditions.”
Langeni adds, “This group is a great embodiment of how to not only celebrate our similarities but also to choose relationshipping that honors our differences. In so doing, it informs and shapes our capacity for being relevant and responsive to the needs in our communities and in the world.”
Another member of the group is East Lansing resident The Rev. Dr. Kit Carlson, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church. Carlson says, “This group has provided friendship, support, challenge, and courage for me for ten years. It has connected us all across denominations and across faiths to support each other, our congregations, and our wider community.”
Speaking personally, Carlson adds, “These are my go-to people when there is trouble afoot, because I can count on all of them to stand together to display our fundamental unity as people of faith, committed to love and peace and mutual respect. We are a better community because of this group. I am a better clergyperson because of this group.”
Although mutual support and learning are major components of ICAGL, the group is no stranger to taking an active stand in the community. The All Faith Alliance for Refugees (AFAR) was developed through a collaboration between ICAGL leaders and local refugee resettlement professionals.
“After the Executive Travel Ban was announced in January, AFAR, the Clergy Association, and area congregations sponsored a prayer vigil for our President, Refugees, and our Muslim neighbors. Three hundred people came to the Islamic Center to pray, led in many languages by leaders of several faiths” says Townley.
The group also sponsored an Interfaith Pilgrimage in East Lansing in the spring of 2017, beginning at Congregation Shaarey Zedek and continuing first to the People's Church and then to The Islamic Center. Hundreds of participants made the journey, and at each of the three stops, prayers were led by clergy from faiths different from the hosting house of worship.
After the recent events in Charlottesville, ICGAGL decided to promote the PeaceQuest efforts already being planned throughout the community for the week of September 17-24, in honor of the United Nations International Day of Peace. They also hold an annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service which will take place this year on Monday, November 20, at 7 p.m. at The Peoples Church in downtown East Lansing.
Rev. Jenn Tafel, Religious Advisor for Q-CROSS@MSU echoes her colleagues’ emphasis on the benefits of bringing faith leaders together to help each other and the community. “This group matters to me because of the support I receive from my clergy colleagues across traditions and faiths. We collaborate, lift one another up, and support the community at large through education, worship, and prayer.”
That “education” and outreach component can be seen in two upcoming events. On Sunday, September 24, at 8 p.m., the Islamic Center of East Lansing will offer an interactive presentation called “Understanding Islam.” The presentation is part of PeaceQuest, and is free, and open to the public.
Although not related to ICGAGL programming, Congregation Shaarey Zedek in East Lansing will offer an Introduction to Judaism course on Wednesday evenings, October 18 through December 20, taught by group member Rabbi Amy Bigman. Class will meet from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and students will learn about “Jewish holidays, life cycle events, philosophy, theology, and more.” The class is free for Shaarey Zedek members and costs $36 for non-members.
To register, or for further information, please contact Rabbi Amy Bigman at (517) 351-3570 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Islamic Center of East Lansing is located at 920 S Harrison Road.
Congregation Shaarey Zedek is located at 1924 Coolidge Road.