Group tries again to bring us together
One Huntsville hopes to create dialogue that encourages acceptance
By PATRICIA CAVANAUGH STUMB
Times Staff Writer
Breaking barriers while breaking bread is the aim behind the re-launch of One Huntsville.
Just as they did in early 1992, the Huntsville Chapter of the National Conference for Community and Justice, or NCCJ, and Interfaith Mission Service, or IMS, are sponsoring One Huntsville to bring people of diverse faiths, cultures and races together over a meal. In the new effort, the meal site is Barnhill's Buffet on University Drive at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Here is how the dialogue-based program works: Participants bring with them to the meeting a person of different religion, race or culture. Then the group, hopefully 100-strong, will dine at small tables. Preferably, a true variety of residents will be represented, and those people can convey what is important to them for a greater understanding of one another. The Rev. Frank Broyles of Faith Presbyterian Church and NCCJ said potential discussion questions will be placed at each table to get the dialogue going. Invitations for the One Huntsville meeting have been sent to local congregations of seven faiths: Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Baha'i, Sikh and American Indian. Humanists are welcome, too, Broyles said.
"The purpose of this is to strengthen the ties among open-minded people and teach them how to reach out to those in their community who are not so open-minded about people different from them," said Broyles, the local coordinator of NCCJ.
"We want to teach conversation skills and to share data about the importance of acceptance.
"The reality is, our state and our country are becoming more diverse. We need to be proactive by fostering healthy human relations now."
Edison Conner, a retired engineer who volunteers with several local charitable organizations, was involved in the first round of One Huntsville. He and his wife, Mary, plan to jump into the new round as well.
"It worked sort of like a chain letter," Conner said. "You brought someone new, and the next meeting they brought someone new. It was very effective for getting together people of different denominations and races.
"The dialogue was really excellent. You know how it is in Huntsville. If you've got eight people sitting around a dinner table who don't know each other, chances are they are from eight different states. The interplay was great."
One Huntsville initially met at Britling's cafeteria at Governors and Memorial Parkway, where the Medical Mall is now located. Conner said the enthusiasm faded when the group had to find another location. According to IMS records, the last meeting was in December 1993.
"The timing is perfect for this to happen again," Conner said. "IMS just started its program to help better integrate Latinos into our community. I think Huntsville is a great place, but there's lots more work to be done to help people out."
For more information, contact NCCJ at 880-2074 or IMS at 536-2401. Dinner, dessert, tax and gratuity will cost about $9 a person. Reservations are not necessary.
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