In the wake of nationwide protests for racial equity and reform, the Times-Mirror reached out to Loudoun faith leaders representing various denominations for their thoughts on the current climate in the U.S. We asked two questions:

-What has been your message to your membership during the past month of protests?

-Explain the action/s, if any, you or your membership has taken regarding the protests:

Below are the responses we received this week. Answers have been edited for brevity.

__________________

Rabbi Amy Sapowith, Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation in Ashburn

Denomination: Jewish

Rabbi Amy Sapowith

Rabbi Amy Sapowith, of Beth Chaverim Reform Congregation in Ashburn.

In the wake of the police murder of George Floyd, a black man detained under the suspicion of passing counterfeit bills, I invite you to be part of a congregation-wide effort to identify expressions of implicit racism that may unwittingly influence our outreach, our welcome, our teaching, and our Judaism as practiced at BCRC. For reality calls us as a community to look at ourselves.

Tzvi Freeman captures the essence of this human tragedy when he writes: "slowly, coldly —'callously' does not do justice — not as a man kills an animal or even swats a fly, but as a man puts out a smoldering campfire before falling asleep, so a man snuffed out the soul of another human being" (Chabad.org). God forbid that we be like that police officer, Derek Chauvin, or his bystanders, but nor do we want to even unwittingly be contributing to the pain of implicit racism whose lessons can help reveal implicit anti-Semitism as well.

We begin with the assumption that none of us chooses to be racist. We also assume that we believe we are being welcoming, open and fair. I expect that most of us realize, at least intellectually, that some 10-15 percent of American Jews are Jews of Color, that the majority of Jews in Israel are Sephardic, and that to continue with a vision of Jews and Judaism as white and Ashkenazi will increasingly contribute to an inaccurate picture of who we are as the Jewish people.

To launch this effort, I invite you to participate in either a parent-teen book group to read “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone or an adult book group reading “Ibram X Kendi’s How To Be An Antiracist.”

This must stop and we must be part of the solution.

___________

Rev. Dr. David Milam, St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Purcellville

Denomination: Presbyterian

With anti-racism a frequent topic over the course of the last few years, this past month, our primary activity came through an invitation for St. Andrew and community members to participate in the Black Lives Matter march that took place in Purcellville on Sunday, June 7.

Indeed, we saw a strong turnout from our congregation, some of us marching behind our church’s Black Lives Matter banner. Sermons planned in advance of the month did not focus directly on the protests. In May, the sermon focus was on trust – how it is a gift to be built by our honest, generous interaction with all who share our society and nation.

The poignant tragedy of the passing of young Fitz Thomas brought home to our congregation the grief experienced by the families of George Floyd, Brionna Taylor, Amaud Abery and others. Fitz’ mother, Pastor Michelle Thomas (President of the Loudoun Chapter of the NAACP and Pastor of Holy and Whole Ministries) is beloved by our congregation, Pastor Michelle and I having swapped pulpits, our two congregations gathering as opportunity has allowed.

Our grief for Fitz and his family dovetailed with the grief experienced nationally, prompting the many protests in June. We are currently working to host an Allyship Training event, seeking not only to benefit the St. Andrew congregation but also others from the community who might like to participate, as well.

St. Andrew Presbyterian Church

Members of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Purcellville marched earlier this month amid the protest for racial equity and reform.

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Rev. Tracey B. Lyons, Mt. Zion United Methodist Cooperative Parish in Leesburg

Denomination: Methodist

Tracy Lyons

Rev. Tracey B. Lyons, of Mt. Zion United Methodist Cooperative Parish in Leesburg.

Mt. Zion UMC is the oldest African-American Methodist church in Loudoun County and in Virginia. The history of the church is filled with stories of injustice; a congregation of African-Americans who were considered unclassified members in a Caucasian church.

"We have come this far by Faith," moving forward, overcoming injustice, and taking action to build our own church. I encourage my members to continue to use their voices to speak against racial injustice through social media, writing letters to their Congressman, marching in protests, or by emailing others who can partner for progress for our people. Without the work of faith, racial injustice will not be dismantled.

The congregation and I have taken action during this time of protest. We have raised social injustice awareness to our youth. We have joined in protest with others. We have encouraged and endorsed voter registration. Our voices are being heard through the writing of letters, on social media, and partnering with others for change.

___________

Sardarni Adarsh Khalsa, Raj Khalsa Gurdwara (Sikh Temple in Sterling)

Denomination: Sikh

Sardarni Adarsh Khalsa

Sardarni Adarsh Khalsa, of Raj Khalsa Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) in Sterling.

[The] message to our 95 percent South Asian congregation has been our continued support to counter and respond to all the racist incidents and confrontations. We have offered ongoing legal and financial support to those who have been challenged. We have also shared opportunities for government assistance programs.

In addition, we have mounted efforts to feed and serve the larger community of Loudoun and Fairfax counties through meal preparation and food pantry donations.

____________

Chair Rizwan Jaka, All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling

Denomination: Muslim

Rizwan_Jaka.jpg

We have reminded the community that we must all continue to work to counter systemic racism against African American community. We all reaffirm Black Lives Matter. We must continue to ally and partner with people of all faiths for justice, reform, equity and inclusion in all aspects of public policy.

Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said in his last sermon over 1400 years ago, "There is no superiority of any race or ethnicity over another.”

Twenty-five percent of American Muslim Community is African American. Approximately 30 percent of enslaved Africans were of Muslim ancestry.

My family and I have been members, volunteers and supporters of Loudoun NAACP since 2006. ADAMS has also been supporting Loudoun NAACP since 2006.

We encourage the community to donate to Loudoun NAACP and Fairfax NAACP.

I helped out in the support of the planning of the June 7 Purcellville Peace & Justice March. We encouraged people to go to the Loudoun and Fairfax NAACP rallies and marches wearing a face mask and practice physical distancing.

My sons and I were personally at Leesburg, Purcellville, Sterling, and will be going to Chantilly NAACP rallies.

On May 31, interfaith leaders held a response to the killing of George Floyd. The leaders included Imam Magid (ADAMS), Ahsan Ullah (President, ADAMS), Rizwan Jaka (Chair, ADAMS), Imam Talib Shareef (Masjid Muhammad, The Nations Mosque – Historic African American Mosque), Pastor Jim Eaton (Christian), Rabbi Lustig (Jewish), and Pastor Michelle Thomas (Christian and Loudoun NAACP leader).

On June 5, we took part and said prayers at Washington Hebrew Congregation Shabbat Service with “Interfaith Healing, Hope, & Solidarity.” Then on June 24, multiple faith leaders prayed during a statewide prayer with such leaders as Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D).

__________

Dr. Charles Whitlow, Community Church in Ashburn

Nondenominational

Charlie Whitlow

Dr. Charles Whitlow, pastor of Community Church in Ashburn.

First, my response was and continues to be one of solidarity with and compassion toward our African American brothers and sisters here in the Loudoun community. I do not know what it’s like to be Black in America. I never think or worry about the color of my skin. I will never know the emotional, financial or familial devastation that slavery and years of systemic racial discrimination has unleashed.

My heart goes out to our fellow citizens of color, and I want to be part of the solution. That is why I have done some of the things we have in my church as a white Pastor. I am listening. Our leadership is engaged and listening closely. When one part of your body is hurting, it affects the entire body. So, I’ve tried to be present and to understand as much as possible. We’ve prayed together, cried together and yes, even laughed together.

Secondly, I’ve tried to keep the attention — the focus of this moment on racial justice and reconciliation. Early on, I refused to let this moment be hijacked by lawless individuals and instead joined in peaceful protest myself in solidarity with those seeking earnest change. In all of my conversations, I have not met one person — black or white — that supports anything other than a positive way forward where we can work together as brother and sisters.

Thirdly, I have tried to lead my congregation in some very uncomfortable conversations. I believe that a problem can only be addressed when we become aware of it and acknowledge it. We rarely tackle something we don’t even know exists. And I am proud that we have set up a connect group around racial healing, called “the bridge.”

We immediately began a series of messages called “Uncomfortable Conversations.” In this mini-series I tried to educate our people on what was happening in this post-George Floyd moment and why it mattered that we as Christian got involved as part of the healing process.

We began featuring African-Americans from our church family every day in our “Daily Prayers.” We not only got to hear and listen to our black parishioners at community church, but we got to pray together, as well. I wanted people to actually see a different picture—a better picture and message than what was being seen daily on TV.

My executive pastor, Mike Taylor and his family, who are African-American, as well as me and my son went to D.C. to join in peaceful protest. Our care pastor, Fred Vann marched with our members in the “Ashburn March for Racial Justice.” This march was actually organized by our members, Keith and Katrice Nolen. We were a part of the Racial Justice prayer rally held at Ida Lee. We are making sure our actions line up with our faith.

We started a small group called “Be the Bridge” that continues the conversation on race relations and what we can do. It was so well received that we had to launch two groups.

___________

Paria Akhavan, The Northern Virginia Bahá'i Center in Sterling

Denomination: Bahá’í

The Bahá’ís of the United States join our fellow-citizens in heartfelt grief at the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others whose lives were suddenly taken by appalling acts of violence. These heartbreaking violations against fellow human beings, due only to the color of their skin, have deepened the dismay caused by a pandemic whose consequences to the health and livelihoods of people of color have been disproportionately severe. This has come to pass against a backdrop of longstanding racial injustice in virtually every aspect of American life. It is clear that racial prejudice is the most vital and challenging issue we face as a country.

Yet, amidst these tragedies, there are also signs of hope. Countless citizens have arisen to proclaim the truth that we are one nation, and to demand specific actions to address the pervasive inequities that for too long have shaped our society. We have remembered who we aspire to be as a people, and are determined to make a change for the better. This moment beckons us to a renewed commitment to realize the ideal of E Pluribus Unum—out of many, one—the very ideal upon which America was founded.

To create a just society begins with recognition of the fundamental truth that humanity is one. But it is not enough simply to believe this in our hearts. It creates the moral imperative to act, and to view all aspects of our personal, social, and institutional lives through the lens of justice. It implies a reordering of our society more profound than anything we have yet achieved. And it requires the participation of Americans of every race and background, for it is only through such inclusive participation that new moral and social directions can emerge.

Whatever immediate results might come from the current demonstrations, the elimination of racism will require a sustained and concerted effort. It is one thing to protest against particular forms of injustice. It is a far more profound challenge to create a new framework for justice. Our efforts can only succeed when we learn to build relationships with each other based on sincere friendship, regard, and trust, which, in turn, become pillars for the activities of our institutions and communities.

It is essential for us to join hands in a process of learning how to create models of what we want to see in every dimension of American life, as we learn to apply the principle of oneness through practical engagement and experience. To this end, we offer the following thoughts.

An essential element of the process will be honest and truthful discourse about current conditions and their causes, and understanding, in particular, the deeply entrenched notions of anti-Blackness that pervade our society. We must build the capacity to truly hear and acknowledge the voices of those who have directly suffered from the effects of racism. This capacity should manifest itself in our schools, the media, and other civic arenas, as well as in our work and personal relations. This should not end with words, but lead to meaningful, constructive action.

There are already significant efforts underway to learn how to create models of unity in neighborhoods and communities throughout the nation. Bahá’ís have been persistently engaged in such efforts for many years. The aim is not unity in sameness—it is unity in diversity. It is the recognition that everyone in this land has a part to play in contributing to the betterment of society, and that true prosperity, material and spiritual, will be available to us all to the degree that we live up to this standard. We should earnestly discover what is being done, what truly helps to make a difference, and why. We should share this knowledge throughout the country as a means of inspiring and assisting the work of others. If we do this, we could soon find ourselves in the midst of a mass transition toward racial justice.

Religion, an enduring source of insight concerning human purpose and action, has a key role to play in this process. All faith communities recognize that we are essentially spiritual beings. All proclaim some version of the “Golden Rule”—to love others as we do ourselves. Take, for example, the following passage from the Bahá’í Scriptures in which God addresses humankind:

“Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest.”

To understand and firmly believe that we are all children of God provides us with access to vast spiritual resources, motivating us to see beyond ourselves and to work steadily and sacrificially in the face of all obstacles. It helps to ensure that the process is consistent with the goal to create communities characterized by justice. It gives us the faith, strength, and creativity to transform our own hearts, as we also work for the transformation of society.

We believe that the tribulations now encompassing much of the world are the symptoms of humanity’s failure to understand and embrace our essential oneness. The interrelated threats of climate change, gender discrimination, extreme wealth and poverty, unfair distribution of resources, and the like, all stem from this deficiency and can never be resolved if we do not awaken to our dependence upon each other. The world has contracted to a neighborhood, and it is important to appreciate that what we do in America impacts not only our own country, but the entire planet.

We should also never forget that the richness of our diversity, and our founding ideals of liberty and justice, attract the eyes of the world to us. They will be influenced by what we achieve, or fail to achieve, in this regard. It is not an exaggeration to say that the cause of world peace is linked to our success in resolving the issue of racial injustice.

The oneness of humanity is the foundation of our future. Its realization is the inevitable next stage in our life on this planet. We will replace a world society based upon competition and conflict, and driven by rampant materialism, with one founded upon our higher potential for collaboration and reciprocity. This achievement will mark the universal coming of age of the human race. How soon we achieve this, and how easily, will depend upon the commitment we demonstrate to this cardinal principle.

We have come to a moment of great public awareness and rejection of injustice. Let us not lose this opportunity. Will we commit to the process of forming “a more perfect union”? Will we be guided by “the better angels of our nature” to choose the course of wisdom, of courage, and of unity? Will we choose to truly become that “city upon a hill” to serve as inspiration to all humanity? Let us then join hands with each other in commitment to the path of justice. Together we can surely achieve this.

Bahá’u’lláh said: “So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.”May that light grow brighter with every passing day.

__________________

Related: "Loudoun Clergy and Faith Leaders Group call for Leesburg Confederate statue's removal"

(29) comments

loudouncommonsense

louidoun4trmp: What's your "research?" You tend to make a lot of slash and burn comments without facts or sources.

RoundHillGuy

their research is that they open their eyes and read most of the content LTM puts out. It's really that simple.

Loudoun4Trump

I didn't realize BLM is a Marxist organization until I did a little research.....I wonder if all these wonderful people of the cloth are Marxists?

scottva

Either that or they're illiterate or have not done a modicum of research

scottva

LTM Asked:

Q - What has been your message to your membership during the past month of protests?

Q - Explain the action/s, if any, you or your membership has taken regarding the protests

First of all, George Floyd was no angle, however, he did not deserve to be murdered. At least one of these "religious" leaders attributed Floyd's death the result of him being black. That has not been proven and is a foolish suggestion.

It seems that many of these "religious" leaders are lock-step with BLM and NAACP. That is just sad. Not one of these "religious" leaders rejected the movement to defund the police nor did they mention anything about the massive amounts of violence, especially in black communities by other blacks and NOT cops. Nothing about the significant increase in violence in all our major cities, including DC.

If anyone including these "religious" leaders thinks all of this racial strife going on, riots, looting, condemnation of America, and destruction is all because of George Floyd, then everyone's out to lunch. It takes literally 5 minutes to see what BLM is all about in their own words and website. Aren't any of these "religious" leaders interested in the family unit? The importance of family? BLM: "We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement". Shouldn't these "religious" leaders be pushing for a solid family unit? We hear all the time that 70% of black kids are growing up in a fatherless home, does this no longer matter?

Personally, I think LTM had an opportunity to ask some really good and meaningful questions and they lobbed softballs and these "religious" leaders responded in kind. I suspect they were carefully chosen to avoid going off-script. Their responses did nothing for me except to see none of them had the guts to turn the questions around and really throw some thought-provoking realities into their answers. Lord knows there's an awful lot of truth out there no one wants to touch with a 10' pole and ironically, that is the type of discussion that we need to have if expected to make progress.

Comment deleted.
Virginia SGP

Hey Bye-bye, why are you so racist? Why do you promote affluent, white teachers over the education of black youth? You really stop the systemic racism of teacher unions as blacks support education vouchers by 70%+. Time to look in the mirror and accept your sinful ways.

Comment deleted.
KK153

Adios. Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.

jke

These people are not your friend.

Virginia SGP

A counter movement should be started called "All Black Lives Matter". It should focus on two main things:

1. Minimizing the number of blacks killed by homcide (homcide includes both unjustified killings like murder/manslaughter and justified killings like self-defense/police)

2. Ensuring blacks get a quality education

So far, BLM has negatively affected #1. Far more blacks will be killed in 2020 (including innocent victims) than were killed in prior years. While the number of police killings may be down because of police hesitancy, that is not a victory when hesitancy causes MORE blacks to die. BLM has been an abject failure on this point.

On #2, we must put an EFFECTIVE teacher in front of every black student. So far in 2020, our teachers' union and politicans have abjectly failed on this front. They have barred black students from the classroom when there is very little risk and sentenced black students to INEFFECTIVE teachers. We need to give all black students (even all students) full vouchers and let them choose how to spend their educational $$ to obtain an effective education. Little talk from BLM on this.

These are the priorities that matter. We need a new movement to promote the actual interests involved.

Virginia SGP

It is unbelievably ironic that ADAMS would note that some enlasved Africans brought to the Americas were Muslim or that Muhammad said no race was superior to another. Let's get the facts.

Muslims banned slavery of Muslims, NOT any other race. Muslims enslaved and traded more African than European Christians. That is a fact. Maybe ADAMS should have a weekly repentence for the sins of the Muslim world incuding Africans from the 8th century all the way to the 1900s. Talk about indifferent hypocrites. Is ADAMS a religious organization or a PAC?

Loudoun4Trump

All True...reading crusaders by Dan Jones that goes into how muslims enslaved the infidel in mass numbers....both sides did it to each other depending on who won the battle.....thankfully, most humans have evolved to understand that slavery is an outdated and evil institution....africans enslaved africans too......

BobOhneiserEsq

No doubt we would hear virtue signaling but why not show the local community you care about taking action against injustice. How - Demand the School Board stop busing the Plaza Street area children "away" from THEIR LOCAL PUBLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOL which they could walk to (Frederick Douglas Elementary). Every other community in Loudoun gets the benefit of the boundary policy which emphasizes PROXIMITY EXCEPT this area. In my opinion after 8 years on the school board this is a simple task yet with all the rhetoric seems to go unfixed. See something - say something - DO SOMETHING! :-)

Sean11733

Last time I checked America was founded with freedom of religion and the right to vote as basic constitutional rights. If one feels religion is too influential in politics then go vote. Just as you believe the “man in the sky doesn’t exists” we have the right to believe he does. And that’s our right. I would rather have faith, hope and trust in a God I can’t see than in men that I can.

loudouncommonsense

Perhaps it's the ROLE of religion IN politics that's the largest part of the problem. Remove that little situation and you'll remove a good deal of unhappiness and controversy.

Loudoun4Trump

A lot of talk, but not much substance in any of these comments other than bumper sticker talk....real issues are the inner city union public schools that fail these kids generation after generation - vouchers would work....the second biggest issue is the number of single parent households in the cities which is fostered by perverse welfare benefits that promote single parenthood financially.....throw in a lock down due to the chinese flu and bammm -- massive killing fields in the cities...so what do liberals want to do? Defund the police.....I cant make this stuff up....

springerdad

Religion has to be on of the most outdated concepts left. Get rid of Religion and politics and we will have a much more peaceful world.

Loudoun4Trump

actually you would have anarchy....without politics you have no government and without religion you have no conscience....

springerdad

You don't need religion to have a conscience..The big man/woman in the sky does not exist.

Religion and Politics have lead to the murder of millions perhaps billions of people. I would be willing to take my chances without them.

Jeanne T

Everyone has a religion.

Voltaire

Springerdad--the comment about "...The big man/woman in the sky does not exist" is subjective. You cannot prove that he/she doesn't. I would also argue that there are more causes, than simply religion and politics that have led to the death of millions/billions of people.

RandomName2019

Some of the nicest, kindest, most giving people I've ever met have been atheists, so clearly conscience is not the end-result of religion. Nor is religion a good barometer of moral behavior as many religions, worshiping many gods, have dictated and displayed morals that we find reprehensible today.

I suppose morality has always been a shifting concept and, oftentimes, religious institutions are on the tail end of those shifts because they challenge the core concept of their superiority and the control they exert over their various denominations.

Sean11733

Most religions teach peace kindness and helping helping others. Not all but most, so how is teaching millions of people these skills making the works less peaceful?? Lack of politics is Called a dictatorship. Sound like maybe you should consider living in China.

springerdad

Sean - Most religions focus on converting others to their religion. That has been going on since they were invented. I remember growing up watching people "speaking in tongues" and then hitting the pavement after church to convert the heathens.

Too many wars have been started over religion and my guess is WW III will be an example of that.

Jeanne T

"Most religions teach peace kindness and helping helping others."

But only Jesus Christ commanded His followers to love their enemies. No other religious system demands this. Jesus reduced all the 613 commandments to two and said that ALL the others derive from these two:

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40

LetSanityPrevail

Jeanne, a little item that might interest you. Jewiswho flouh tradition taught: “Love thy neighbor is one of the great principles in the Torah” (Sifra 2:12). The famous Jewish sage Hillel said: “Don’t do unto others what you would not want do to you – that is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary” (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbos 31a). Sounds very similar.

Sunday Sinner

Absolutely no one practices this in reality lol. The followers of Christ are some of the most hateful and small minded people I've ever met.

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