Hackensack: Prayer gathering mirrors service in Assisi, Italy
By CHARLES AUSTIN
The prayers were voiced in the traditions of more than a half-dozen religious movements, but all had the same theme: a call for religions to foster peace on earth and end human suffering.
The Interfaith Prayer Vigil held Thursday night at Hackensack's Church on the Green was sponsored by the Bergen County Council of Churches and the Interfaith Brotherhood and Sisterhood Committee. It was attended by about 40 people, 10 of them representing their faith communities as prayer leaders.
The service was intended to mirror the world gathering of religious leaders that same day in Assisi, Italy, where Pope John Paul II hosted a daylong series of prayers for peace.
"We offer these prayers in confidence that, with God's help, anything is possible," the Rev. Stephen Giordano, president of the Council of Churches, said as the service began.
Rabbi Neal Borovitz of Temple Shalom in River Edge told the worshipers that "shalom," the Hebrew word for peace, "is closely linked to the word 'shalem,' which means 'wholeness.'"
"We cannot have peace if we are fragmented from one another," he said, offering a prayer calling for "justice, mutual respect, integrity, and compassion."
The international aspect of the New Jersey gathering was evident as Bhai Manjit Singh, a Sikh, prayed in Punjabi and Mohammed Abbasi, a member of the Dar-Ul-Islah Mosque in Teaneck, told of experiencing firsthand the sufferings of war in his native Jordan.
"How many children have suffered because of war?" he asked, "and how many no longer have fathers to take them to soccer games?"
"We may call you by different names," prayed the Rev. Donald Sheehan of St. Matthew's Roman Catholic Church in Ridgewood, "but we have all come here to ask for peace." Sheehan echoed some of the other worship leaders in asking that God "place in our hearts the willingness to forgive each other."
In Assisi, where more than 200 dignitaries from 12 world religions gathered at the invitation of the pope, the series of ceremonies and prayers took inspiration from the birthplace of St. Francis, the medieval saint known worldwide for his prayer, "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace."
In Hackensack on Thursday, the Rev. Richard Husted, a Franciscan priest who is pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in East Rutherford, sat in the congregation during the one-hour service, distinguished by the brown robe unique to his order. The priest said he was having his parishioners say the prayer of St. Francis "about a million times."
Discussing his presence at the interreligious service, he commented, "I thought that if there were going to be prayers for peace, a Franciscan should be here."
Other prayer leaders at the Hackensack service were Jyoti Gandhi of the Arya Samaj Hindu Community; Terry Madison, a Bahai; Deacon Robert Robinson of Mount Olive Baptist Church in Hackensack; the Rev. Fred VanderMeer of the Church on the Green, and the Rev. Jonathan B. Whitfield, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Hackensack and president of the Fellowship of Black Churches.
©Copyright 2002, The Bergen Record