Anyone who ever had any familiarity with the clergy understands just how busy we are on a daily basis with meetings after meetings. So the idea of bringing clergy together from different faith traditions into one room can feel like herding cats. I include myself in that mix of multi-tasking mania that seems to be part of the calling of hearing God’s message for us to serve. Yet, there are some unique moments when we can get them all together and one of those moments may have just arrived in Hilton Head.
On August 29, at 7 pm the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina will play host to an interfaith celebration on behalf of the Town of Hilton Head. Our goal is to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the town and in addition observe the 360th anniversary of the first sighting of Hilton Head. The town has invited faith community leaders to organize a service of thanksgiving for these blessed events. I am proud to share that we will have a wonderful selection of clergy and choirs presenting a unified message of thanksgiving for the blessings which God has bestowed upon us all by being able to live here as well as reflections about where we are going too. The fact that clergy and their musical partners will be presenting themselves sends a clear message that unity is possible. Maybe that will send a message to a broader constituency of community leaders that that kind of unity is desperately needed.
In this case what is also beautiful is to see how town staff and the clergy have worked together in preparing for this special evening. Government and the faith community can work together without chipping away at the venerable wall of separation between church and state in American society. Over the past few years we have had a variety of meetings between our town leaders with faith community leaders. These meetings have been so important towards educating our faith leaders about the pressing issues going on in our community. At the same time our town leaders have benefited as well by realizing that faith community leaders are an important component of what makes Hilton Head unique and a great place to live.
One of the things we will see at this event is the striking diversity that we have in our faith leaders. That includes gender, LGBTQ, religious diversity between different faith traditions and race. We probably have more women senior pastors today than ever before. And our faith leaders volunteer their time in the larger community just as they exude their congregants to do as well. We have quite a few faith leaders who serve as volunteer chaplains for both the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department and the Hilton Head Fire department. There are many other areas that clergy give of their time and energy beyond their own duties to their congregants to make Hilton Head the place where we are all proud to reside.
The overarching theme of the event of celebrating our history comes from Psalm 118:1 which says; “O give thanks to the Eternal; for God is God; because God’s loving kindness endures forever.” We are all grateful for the beauty of the land we live in and the ocean and sea life that we marvel at when we sail or fish or just gaze at the beauty of God’s creation. We also have a fascinating history and the fact that the religious community, especially the African American Community were amongst the first to establish churches deserves our respect. First African Baptist Church was founded in 1865 and St. James Baptist Church was established in 1886. One of the oldest buildings in Hilton Head is Queen Chapel African Methodist-Episcopal Church, located on Beach City Road (map) and founded in 1865 by missionaries. It served as a house of prayer for enslaved people on the Pope Plantation.We will acknowledge that history at this convocation of joy. It is all part of the spiritual heritage that the past has bequeathed to us as residents of our community.
No matter how effective the pastor is at preaching a sermon the beauty of the service always comes down to the music. Whether it is a soloist or a choir, it is the music that turns the soul loose. It is the sounds of our friends in the congregation singing their hearts out that brings us back and solidifies that sacred community. Regular every day people enter the house of worship and put on a robe and led by the minister of music transform themselves to being messengers of God to elevate the worshippers closer to God in prayer and reflection. The music can make us smile and it can draw us to tears as well. Rest assured that our master of music, Lavon Stevens, will provide us with a spiritually uplifting experience.
The clergy community has a social conscience too. True that we all have different viewpoints about God and about politics too. We have may have different positions on theology which overlap into modern day politics in the secular and or religious worlds. Yet we definitely have so much more in common in the work we do from performing lifecycle events, listening to the problems of our congregants, and working with the board of directors of our respective congregations. So we too can use this opportunity to see in each other that despite differences we have in our religious traditions we have all chosen the calling to serve God and our communities.
The clergy are just as concerned about the moral and economic vitality of our community as anyone else. They are concerned about housing for the working families and feeding communities in dire need of assistance. They see like we do that not everyone lives like many of us do and are blessed with such resources. They have a conscience born out of their commitment from the biblical Prophets to the New Testament to care for those in need.
Please join us for an inspiring evening to celebrate our past as we move forward into what I believe will be a bright and productive future.
Link to the event page