I was privileged recently to attend the Greater Rochester Community of Churches’ Faith In Action awards banquet, which annually honors individuals and groups whose work makes a difference in the life of their own faith organization or the larger community.
For those of not familiar with GRCC, it is an association of Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, religious-based agencies, seminaries and lay/clergy groups that has served Monroe County since 1991. The Diocese of Rochester has long been a member. Formerly Genesee Ecumenical Ministries, the roots of ecumenical work in this agency date back to 1919 when early churches in the city began to work together to address the common good for all people.
Over the many years of its existence, GRCC has been instrumental in bringing together people who may have different religious beliefs but share a commitment to the larger community’s issues and needs, harnessing our energies and serving well the cause of better ecumenical and interfaith relations. Special effort has been made to find common ground and projects with our Jewish and Muslim sisters and brothers, as well as people of other faiths.
On a delightfully warm June night, hundreds of people turned out at the Diplomat Party House to honor individual efforts. Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Muslims, Jewish people — to name but a few — joined together in heartfelt prayer and song. As I gazed around the room, I was pleased to view a sea of diversity, and not only “seniors” and middle-agers but young people, too. What a delightful testimony to the richness and diversity of God’s people!
While I was quite humbled and grateful to be given a Lifetime Achievement Award, I was just awed by the litany of ways individuals contribute their time and talent in helping their own religious organizations and, in many cases, work for the betterment of our entire community.
For instance, the Metropolitan Award went posthumously to Alberta Moss, whose worked tirelessly for decades to help wherever she could, fighting against community violence, helping needy youths, championing education, assisting the homeless.
The list of Faith in Action recipients, all nominated by their individual faith communities, filled several pages of the dinner program, a litany of love, faith and service to others.
One by one, each holding a tiny candle, people came forward to receive recognition for such work as ministries that touch the lives of hundreds, such as Blessed Sacrament Church’s Next to New Sale Committee, and to individuals like Duncan Montgomery of Church of the Assumption, Fairport. Duncan’s nomination described him as “a man of gentle manner and strong faith who works with youth in Religious Education, small groups of adults and at early morning Mass and faithfully serves at funerals and helps in any way needed around the church.”
There were others, of many faiths, like Duncan Montgomery — people like Sister Peg Brennan, who has operated a ministry on Lyell Avenue in Rochester to help neighbors with many needs, or Larry Winter of St. Paul in Webster, who has volunteered many, many hours to help those in poverty or struggling with life’s challenges. I could go on and on.
As people came forward, I noticed how many times the words “selfless devotion” and “helps anywhere she/he is needed,” or “always willing to help” were used to describe the award recipients.
In an age when time is a precious commodity, what a legion of generous people we have!
I was especially pleased to see recognition given to a group of young Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim youths who received a special Community Award as the “Next-Geners.” They have dedicated themselves to learning about the challenges and opportunities of interreligious relations and carrying this crucial torch into the future.
These are people who by deeds large and small weave the strong fabric of faith in our community, and I am blessed and inspired by them.
Peace to all.Tags: Bishop Matthew H. Clark, Faith in Action