Saturday, May. 11
--Staff Photo/Kipp Hanley
By Kipp Hanley
Times-Democrat Staff Writer
Whether Christian, Jewish or Muslim, you have a community service obligation.
A recently formed interfaith group in Warrenton wants to take that commonality one step further.
Thanks to the effort of St. James' Episcopal teacher Scott Christian, the Northern Piedmont will soon be home to a chapter of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.
The Richmond-based center is both a lobbying and educational outfit, communicating regularly with General Assembly members on poverty, at-risk youth, health care, hunger and environmental issues.
Center membership is made up of both individuals and much larger organizations like churches or even dioceses and presbyteries.
There are four chapters across the state with the closest to Fauquier County located in the Arlington-Alexandria area.
Christian was already an individual member and thought that forming a local chapter to address the issues experienced by those in the Northern Piedmont area was a good idea.
"This is our tradition," Christian said of his faith. "We don't need to go too far to realize that social justice is part of our nature."
Along with Christian, both Rabbi Rose Lyn Jacob of Fauquier Jewish Congregation, and Fauquier resident Melissa Hamid, who married a Muslim man, are heavily involved in the group.
Jacob was happy that someone like Christian put a face on the issues that many of the 55 Jewish families in her congregation are already involved with at some level.
"I found so many of our members doing good things in the community, but they weren't doing them as part of the congregation," said Jacob, who lives in Rappahannock County but shares space with Christian at St. James.
According to the center's director of programs Holly Coy, the idea is to start with things like coat drives, then ask "what else should we be doing if we really care about ending poverty in the community?"
Hamid first learned of the organization when she and her husband – a former Green Beret – met Christian at a meeting of the Sunday Supper Club last summer.
The Sunday Supper Club is a group of Piedmont area residents who meet monthly to discuss ways to move the "county, state and nation in a progressive direction."
For Hamid, joining the new Interfaith chapter should be as much about embracing each other's religious differences as it is about combating real world problems.
Experiencing those differences is sometimes difficult when one considers there are no places for Muslims to practice their faith in Fauquier County.
"I have been really pleased to meet very enlightened, open-minded people that are very supportive [of all faiths]," Hamid said of the new group.
The chapter hopes to hold a few events later this year in order to introduce themselves on a larger scale to the Fauquier County community.
The first event will be a simple dinner akin to a meal those who get by on food stamps might prepare.
The second event will likely be more educational in nature, with members from the Richmond office coming to Fauquier County to brief the group on how to go about making their voices heard at the state level.
"It gives them training wheels for people who might not normally do these things," Jacob said.
The group is also hoping to have an impact on the mindset of the local government, Christian wrote in an email.
"We are also interested in advocacy work here locally as governmental policies and procedures arise that relate to social justice," Christian said.
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