Celebration Highlights Loudoun's Diverse Faiths

November 15, 2009

Author: James Hohmann

Source: The Washington Post


Loudoun County religious leaders privately wrestled with how to address the shootings at Fort Hood, Tex., in the days before a long-planned interfaith celebration drew together more than 175 people from six faiths in Leesburg last Sunday.

For three years, the monthly gatherings of people interested in networking across religious boundaries had grown. The first annual Day of Thanks event at the Ida Lee Recreation Center was to be a culmination of these efforts, the biggest event to date sponsored by what i[s] now known as the Loudoun Interfaith BRIDGES group. Three days before the event, authorities say, a gunman who seemed motivated in part by religious fervor killed 13 people on the Army base.

The group decided that the Rev. Anya Sammler-Michael of the Unitarian Universalists of Sterling would address the 800-pound elephant in the room during her opening words.

"It raises fear," she said, reflecting on the event at Fort Hood. "It raises anxiety. And it proves to us that if we're going to combat the fear and anxiety that comes up, we're going to need to come together as a community and find a space to grieve together, as well as to celebrate our commitments to togetherness."

The ceremony highlighted the increasing diversity of Loudoun by recognizing the contributions of residents who have worked across the boundaries of faith.