Islamic civil rights leader to speak at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. interfaith service

Article from the Tampa Bay Times https://www.tampabay.com/news/pinellas/2020/01/16/islamic-civil-rights-leader-to-speak-at-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-interfaith-service/

ST. PETERSBURG – Hassan Shibly, CEO of the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Florida, recalls what happened when he met for coffee with a group of Muslim businessmen in Tampa for the Republican National Convention in 2012.

Someone in the McDonald’s restaurant overheard them speaking Arabic and called police, who showed up at Shibly’s home and his CAIR office.

But times have changed since, he said. Shibly, 33, who leads Florida CAIR’s efforts to help non-Muslims understand Islam and promote civil discourse, said the organization trained nearly 5,000 law enforcement officers in the Tampa Bay area last year.

He added that about 25 percent of those who receive help from the civil rights group aren’t Muslim. “Somebody who is anti-Semitic, in my eyes, is anti-Muslim, as well,” he said. “We have to fight all hatred together.”

Sunday, Shibly will be the keynote speaker at the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Memorial Service at First Baptist Church of St. Petersburg. This year’s theme is, “Vision for Humanity in 2020.”

“I think Dr. Martin Luther King’s message is needed now more than ever in the United Sates, at a time when our political leaders are trying to pit one human against another human, one American against another American, on account of race, or religion or national origin,” said Shibly, a civil rights lawyer who grew up in Buffalo, N.Y.

King taught that all people are equal in the sight of God, he said.

Sunday’s service, sponsored by Interfaith Tampa Bay, has been held at different houses of worship through the years. Most recently it was at Congregation B’nai Israel of St. Petersburg. The year before, it was held at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle.

Keynote speakers have included Dr. Roy Kaplan, former executive director of the National Conference of Christians and Jews for Tampa Bay and author of The Myth of Post-Racial America. Another recent speaker was the Rev. Dr. Russell Meyer, executive director of the Florida Council of Churches and whose interfaith work includes climate, healthcare, justice reform, refugees and civic engagement.

Chair of Sunday’s service is Imam Abdul Karim Ali, whose father, Joseph E. Savage, organized the civil rights era sanitation strike in St. Petersburg and after whom the city’s sanitation complex is named.

Ali, who also is vice president of Interfaith Tampa Bay, said it is the second organization to sponsor the service and has been doing so since 2015. “We try to move it around throughout the city, because we feel that the message that was presented by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a message of peace, justice and fairness for everyone, so we feel that our job is to continue to promote that,” he said.

Ali also was part of that first sponsoring group, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Organization Inc., which holds an essay contest as part of the King events. The winner of the essay and oratorical contest will be presented during the interfaith service.

Shibly is the son of Syrian immigrants, who, his online biography states, instilled in him “a strong determination to enhance interfaith understanding and defend civil rights.”

It’s important to remember America’s “troubling past so we can learn from it and grow from it,” said Shibly, who has headed CAIR’s Florida chapter for about eight years. “America is a great nation because of the people who have spoken truth to power and called for equality of humanity.”

If you go

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Memorial Service, 4 p.m. Sunday, First Baptist Church, 1900 Gandy Blvd. N, St. Petersburg.

Sermon 1/12 A New World Order

Date: January 12, 2020
Scripture Lessons: Psalm 72:1-7, 12-14 and Matthew 3:13-17
Sermon: A New World Order
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells

I find myself amused when I hear a speaker, a preacher or politician, decry the
threat of a new world order ginning up fear and trembling. A new world order is
dangled as evidence of Satan himself undermining all we hold dear. A new world
order is maligned like an enemy invader in a science fiction movie. We cannot
allow a new world order to emerge. We must prevent it!

To me this is amusing because the speaker is usually Christian and seen as a
defender of the faith against the threat of a new world order. But a new world
order is exactly what Jesus came to inaugurate. He is the one who embodies the
new world order of the reign of Divine Love. Jesus is seen as breaking into human
history and initiating God’s reign of peace and love. A new world order? Yes, that
is exactly what Jesus about.

King Herod knows this. We see it in the story of the magi visiting Herod as they
try to find the baby Jesus so they can worship him. Herod knows about the arrival
of a rival king. The religious leaders know that Jesus represents a new world order
and they want to squash this upstart. They want to protect their power and
influence. The people in the gospel stories who are from the underclass and from
enemy groups know that Jesus represents a departure from religion as usual in their
time. That is why they are attracted to him. He represents a new world order.

Jesus doesn’t introduce a new form of government or a new political philosophy.
He doesn’t found a new political party. He doesn’t write a constitution. He initiates a new world order and then it is up to his followers to work out the details in their culture, setting, and historical era.

We can see what Jesus is doing as a new world order because he is talking about
God in a way that is universal. Jesus shows us God in all of humanity including
those we exclude and name as enemy. With Jesus, there is no “other.” It’s one
human family in God not one nation under God or one religion preferred by God.
Jesus breaks down the cultural and religious barriers that separate and divide
people. He is talking about everyone unconditionally loved. No exceptions.

In our context, this means North Korean, South Korean, Israeli, Palestinian,
Chinese, Russian, Ukrainian, Irani, Iraqi, Indian, Pakistani, Arab, Muslim, Jew,
Buddhist, Hindu. As we sing, on occasion, every color, every kind, every body,
every mind. All one family. With Jesus, there is one human family in God. All
related. All created in the image of Divine Love. It’s a new world order.

And today, we know that the kind of new world order Jesus imagines for humanity
includes the natural world as well. Not only does Jesus show us a reality that is
free of ethnocentrism, and nationalism, he shows us a reality free of speciesism.
All life forms, sacred and holy within the reality of God because we now know that
we are all interdependent. So, the new world order of Jesus is characterized by
compassion for creation and all creatures as well as everyone in the human family.

What else can we say about this new world order founded by Jesus? Yes, it
includes all people so we can also say that it includes all religions. Jesus is Jewish
and his message comes from within the framework of Judaism, but it is not limited
to Judaism. Jesus heals people who are considered enemies of the Jews. And he
does not ask them to “convert” to his religion before serving them. In fact, he
doesn’t insist on any qualifying conditions from those he forgives, feeds, or heals.
Jesus simply offers divine grace in whatever form it is needed. He brings the
blessings of God to all. He embodies universal love. That is the foundation of his
new world order.

We also see that in the new world order of Jesus there is no role, no place, no
endorsement of violence in any form. Even in self defense. Period. That is a key
component of the new world order of Jesus. There were weapons available in his
day. In fact, there were factions of Jews who were adamantly intent on fomenting
a violent rebellion against the Romans. This was carried out after Jesus’ death and
it led to the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the temple, the cultic center of
Jewish life. From love your enemies to turn the other cheek to the one who lives
by the sword dies by the sword to the story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, we see
that in the new world order of Jesus there is no place for weapons or violence, even
in “keeping the peace.” You can’t keep the peace through violence. If you need
threat and intimidation to maintain order, then it’s not true peace.

In the psalm that we heard today, we were told of the holy template for a godly
ruler. A ruler, king, or leader, endorsed by the Divine is concerned about the weak
and the oppressed: Those who are forgotten, marginalized, or ignored. Those who
are made poor and are struggling. With the new world order, there is no
fragmentation or endorsement of disconnected individualism. There is no
protection based on race, class, nation, creed, gender identity, or any other humanly
constructed system. In the new world order of Jesus, the community is to serve
those in need and to embody justice and protection for those who have been
victimized.

So in Jesus’ new world order, we would not see the economic, racial, ethnic, or
social inequalities that we see in society today. Jesus is talking about a new world
order in which there truly is liberty and justice for all.

Jesus shows us the new world order where the hungry are fed, the thirsty are given
drink, the sick are visited, and the imprisoned are released. Humility and
meekness are revered, not hubris and arrogance. Every life is sacred and valued.

A new world order. Exactly. That is exactly what Jesus is about. And that is what
his followers were drawn to. They wanted to be part of this new value system, this
new world view, this new reality.

It’s not surprising that we find ourselves buffeted and reeling in our society today.
We are here in church because we have been attracted or led or drawn to the way
of Jesus and the new world order that he represents. So, yes we find ourselves in
stunned shock, not only as an active shooter attacks a worshipping congregation,
but at the perhaps even more horrific response – congregants in a Christian church,
followers of Jesus, drawing guns and shooting the attacker in the head. What are
followers of Jesus, those who are part of his new world order, doing with guns?
And in worship? In a context committed to love of enemy, how is it that a shooter
is gunned down? What have we come to when the church has strayed so far from
the new world order that Jesus initiates? The church has become unhinged,
unmoored, from its message, it’s purpose, its raison d’etre.

What are we to say when our so called Christian country foments prejudice and
violence? This is wrong. But how does it happen that there is rising anti Semitism
when Jesus was Jewish? How can our society supposedly with a foundation of
Judeo-Christian values tolerate this? How can someone enter into a rabbi’s home
and open fire on people celebrating a holy season? This, too, leaves us in stunned
shock.

And how does it happen that a church, church leaders, followers of Jesus, openly,
in the sacred space of a sanctuary, validate and affirm the leadership of a president
who embodies the opposite of the godly ruler that we heard about from the Psalms
this morning? How can they endorse one who is not devoted to the the well being
of the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed? A leader who in fact endorses
oppression and abuse and violence? This is a leader who should be prayed for.
This is a leader who needs wise counsel. This is a leader who is unfamiliar with
the message of the gospel and needs to be taught about the new world order of
Jesus since he evidently hasn’t heard about it in the churches he has visited.

A new world order. That is exactly what we see in Jesus. And we see this
presented in the story of Jesus’ baptism. As the story is told, crowds of people are
coming to John in the desert to be baptized. They are looking for a new beginning. Jesus comes. And in the story of his baptism, we are told of a new beginning, not
just for him, but for the community and for humanity of every time and place.

“This is my beloved in whom I am well pleased.” This story, written after the
crucifixion, endorses Jesus and the new world order that he initiates. It is a reality
of blessing for everyone where there are no victims. No one’s wellbeing is at the
expense of someone else. There is no racism, sexism, classism, or oppression of
any kind. Every life is sacred. Including the life of a perceived enemy. Jesus’
baptism paves the way for us to be part of the new world order. And when we join
the Christian path, as followers of Jesus, we commit to making this new world
order real, incarnate, in ourselves and in our society and in the world here and now.

Jean Vanier founded the L’Arche communities. This movement involves people of
differing abilities living together in Christian community. And in the stories of
those communities, we see the beauty of the gospel lived out. Vanier tells us: “In
one of our communities, there is a man called Pierre who has a mental handicap.
One day someone asked him, ‘Do you like praying?’ He answered, ‘Yes.’ He was
asked what he did when he prayed. He answered, ‘I listen.’ ‘And what does God
say to you?’ ‘He says, ‘You are my beloved son.’’” [Resources for Preaching and
Worship Year A: Quotations, Meditations, Poetry, and Prayers, compiled by
Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild, p. 48]

That is what Jesus is all about. Everyone beloved. A new world order. Amen.

A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in
this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church
of Christ.

Weekly Update 1/16

This Sunday: This Sunday will be the annual commemoration of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  There is an opportunity in the service for congregants to recommit themselves to the mission of Dr. King.


Church School: The theme for this Sunday is justice.  The gathering will be led by Earl Waters.


Memorial Service: There will be a memorial service at the church on Saturday Jan 25th at 2:00 p.m. in remembrance of the life of Bruce Drouin, Bruce was Wally LeBlanc’s partner.  A Celebration of Life luncheon/party will follow the service. If planning on attending please only wear bright or colorful clothing, nothing dark or black.


Before I Die. . .  The installation on the chalk boards remains available in the sanctuary.  You are welcome to add to the responses finishing the sentence, Before I die, I am going to. . .   You are also encouraged to look at the boards and see the responses of others.


Maximo Elementary: The staff of Maximo Elementary was thrilled to receive the sweatshirts, jackets, and other warm clothing to be provided to students as needed. This school, just behind the church, has 80 homeless students. Thank you to all who donated and contributed and to Patti Cooksey, Claudia Rodriguez, and Olivia Gibson for helping with the delivery.


Creation Justice Task Force:The next meeting will be Jan. 17 at 12:30 p.m. New members welcome! Please speak with Claire Stiles about what’s ahead for 2020.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Service: This moving service will be held Sunday 1/19 at 4:00 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 1900 Gandy Blvd. The speaker is Hassan Shibly, Chief Executive Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of Florida.


Just Mercy Community Conversation: You are encouraged to see the movie Just Mercy and then participate in a community conversation Saturday Feb. 1 from 2-3:30 p.m. at James Weldon Johnson Community Library ( 1059 18th Ave. S, St. Pete). Everyone is welcome!


Opportunities Knocking: Here are several projects from the wider church that may be of interest:
The Florida Conference UCC women will be meeting Sat. Feb. 8 at Church of the Isles, Indian Rocks Beach.  There is information on the bulletin board at church.  Contact the Church Office for more information.  

Pinellas County CROP Walk for Hunger.  This Walt is scheduled for Sunday March 1 at 2:00 p.m.  The money collected is donated locally to DayStar Life Center and the St. Petersburg Free Clinic.  Funds are also donated to Church World Service to be used in other areas of the US and abroad.  For LUCC to participate, a coordinator is needed.  Please speak with Rev. Wells if you are interested in this mission project.  

Church Women United of Greater St. Petersburg meets regularly and is seeking addition participation.  Church Women United is involved in a variety of projects locally and beyond to foster a sense of compassion and community among diverse people.  For more information, please contact the Church Office.  


Letter Writing: Earl Waters has petitions to be signed about getting an assault weapon ban and legalizing recreational marijuana on the next FL ballot. You can fill them out on Sunday.


Operation Attack: Operation Attack is very much in need of clothes for men, boys, and girls as well as diapers and peanut butter and canned fruit. Donations may be placed in the shopping cart in the entryway to the sanctuary.

Operation Attack is an ecumenical effort serving families with children located at Lakeview Presbyterian Church, 1310 22nd. Ave. S., St. Petersburg. LUCC was a founding member of Operation Attack in the 1960’s!


Hearing Augmentation: Devices are available from the usher in the sanctuary during worship.


January Birthdays: Martha Lamar 1/2, Elinor Ross 1/4, Chip Cosper 1/7, Jackson Cosper 1/9, Hilton Jones 1/23, Bob Bell 1/28. Someone missing? Contact the church office with birthday information.


Circle of Concern: Family and loved ones of Esther Ryland, Amaiya Washington, Tony Rogers, Wally LeBlanc Sherry Santana, Jen Degroot, Carolyn Moore, Ann Quinn, Maggie Brizendine, and Ann Rogers.


Recent Post:


Weekly Update: If you are involved with an activity or event that you would like to share with the LUCC family, please send the information to the church office by Tuesday since the Update usually is sent out on Wednesday.


Weekly Update 1/9

This Sunday: With the Christmas decorations stowed away for another year what difference does the birth of Jesus make? Has anything changed? That’s the topic for this Sunday.


Church School: There will be church school this Sunday led by Malcolm Wells.


Rev. Wells Away: Jan. 10-11, Rev. Wells will be helping to lead a retreat for the women’s group of First Congregational UCC, Winter Park. The retreat will be in Daytona Beach. The leader of the women’s group is Lisa Rotenberger, daughter of Genie Terrell of LUCC.


Maximo Elementary: The staff of Maximo Elementary was thrilled to receive the sweatshirts, jackets, and other warm clothing to be provided to students as needed. This school, just behind the church, has 80 homeless students. Thank you to all who donated and contributed and to Patti Cooksey, Claudia Rodriguez, and Olivia Gibson for helping with the delivery.


No Concert 1/10: The folk music concert series that was being held at LUCC will now be hosted by the Friends Meeting of St. Petersburg. There will be not be a concert at LUCC on Friday, Jan. 10.


Westminster Suncoast Lunch: All those connected with the church who are residents of Westminster communities are invited to lunch on the third Wednesday of the month, Wed. Jan. 15 at 11:30 a.m. in the main dining room at Westminster Suncoast.  


Creation Justice Task Force:The next meeting will be Jan. 17 at 12:30 p.m. New members welcome! Please speak with Claire Stiles about what’s ahead for 2020.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Interfaith Service: This moving service will be held Sunday 1/19 at 4:00 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 1900 Gandy Blvd. The speaker is Hassan Shibly, Chief Executive Director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of Florida.


Just Mercy Community Conversation: You are encouraged to see the movie Just Mercy and then participate in a community conversation Saturday Feb. 1 from 2-3:30 p.m. at James Weldon Johnson Community Library ( 1059 18th Ave. S, St. Pete). Everyone is welcome!


Letter Writing: Earl Waters has petitions to be signed about getting an assault weapon ban and legalizing recreational marijuana on the next FL ballot. You can fill them out on Sunday.


Operation Attack: Operation Attack is very much in need of clothes for men, boys, and girls as well as diapers and peanut butter and canned fruit. Donations may be placed in the shopping cart in the entryway to the sanctuary.

Operation Attack is an ecumenical effort serving families with children located at Lakeview Presbyterian Church, 1310 22nd. Ave. S., St. Petersburg. LUCC was a founding member of Operation Attack in the 1960’s!


Hearing Augmentation: Devices are available from the usher in the sanctuary during worship.


January Birthdays: Martha Lamar 1/2, Elinor Ross 1/4, Chip Cosper 1/7, Jackson Cosper 1/9, Hilton Jones 1/23, Lakewood UCC 1/23, Bob Bell 1/28. Someone missing? Contact the church office with birthday information.


Circle of Concern: Amaiya Washington, Tony Rogers, Wally LeBlanc Sherry Santana, Jen Degroot, Carolyn Moore, Ann Quinn, Maggie Brizendine, and Ann Rogers.


Recent Posts:


Weekly Update: If you are involved with an activity or event that you would like to share with the LUCC family, please send the information to the church office by Tuesday since the Update usually is sent out on Wednesday.


Weekly Update 1/2

This Sunday: Sunday, Jan. 5, will be a special service themed around the beginning of a new year.


Communion Sunday: The first Sunday of the month is a Communion Sunday.  That means the communion offering will be received.  This offering is used to help people in the church and the community with basic needs such as rent and utility assistance, bus passes, prescriptions, etc.  There has been heavy need for these funds in recent weeks.  Please consider how you can help the community through this offering.


Church School: There is no church school on communion Sundays. Childcare is available in the nursery.


Free Introduction to Permaculture: Want to get a better idea of what permaculture really is and what it can do? What does sustainability and whole system design have to do with permaculture? Learn more in Fellowship hall at LUCC Sat, January 4, 2020 at 9:00am-12:00pm Eastern Time.


Maximo Elementary: Sweat shirts and jackets in any color are needed, along with navy or black leggings, for Maximo Elementary’s homeless children.  The Education Ministry Team will be collecting these items or donations of money Sunday January 5th.There are 80 homeless children at this one school.  These gifts are very much appreciated.  The clothing will be delivered to the school by Claudia and Olivia the week of the 6th when the school  re-opens from the holidays.


Letter Writing: A letter writing station has been set up at church. Look for opportunities to share your faith perspective on immigration, the environment, and gun safety with elected officials.


Operation Attack: Operation Attack is very much in need of clothes for men, boys, and girls as well as diapers and peanut butter and canned fruit. Donations may be placed in the shopping cart in the entryway to the sanctuary.

Operation Attack is an ecumenical effort serving families with children located at Lakeview Presbyterian Church, 1310 22nd. Ave. S., St. Petersburg. LUCC was a founding member of Operation Attack in the 1960’s!


Hearing Augmentation: Devices are available from the usher in the sanctuary during worship.


January Birthdays: Martha Lamar 1/2, Elinor Ross 1/4, Chip Cosper 1/7, Jackson Cosper 1/9, Hilton Jones 1/23, Lakewood UCC 1/23, Bob Bell 1/28. Someone missing? Contact the church office with birthday information.


Circle of Concern: Amaiya Washington, Tony Rogers, Wally LeBlanc Sherry Santana, Jen Degroot, Carolyn Moore, Ann Quinn, Maggie Brizendine, and Ann Rogers.


Recent Posts:


Weekly Update: If you are involved with an activity or event that you would like to share with the LUCC family, please send the information to the church office by Tuesday since the Update usually is sent out on Wednesday.