May 2015

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Interfaith Council Lobbies for Expanded Health CareLobby 2 2
On April 14, the Interfaith Council of Central Florida coordinated a press conference at the Sheraton Orlando North Hotel in Maitland at which representatives from an array of faith traditions highlighted the mandate within their respective faith’s teachings to care for the disadvantaged. Pictured signing letters to Florida’s legislative leaders are, from left: Ms. Rana Tiwari, Hindu Society of Central Florida; Imam Muhammad Musri, Islamic Society of Central Florida; Rev. Frank Thompson, African-American Council of Christian Clergy; Pastor James Coffin, Interfaith Council of Central Florida; Rev. Joel Hunter, Northland, a Church Distributed;  Mr. Navtej Khalsa, Sikh Society of Central Florida; and Mr. Joseph Buranosky, Catholic Charities of Central Florida. Also participating but not visible in the photo were: Rev. Kathy Schmitz, First Unitarian Universalist Church of Orlando; Rev. Bryan Fulwider, United Church of Christ; Father George Nursey, Catholic Diocese of Orlando; and Rabbi Steven Engel, Congregation of Reform Judaism. One week later, April 21, a smaller group (representing the Christian, Sikh, Muslim and Jewish faith traditions) conducted a press conference in the Rotunda of the state capitol in Tallahassee, in addition to meeting with President of the Senate Andy Gardiner and several other senators and representatives or their aides 

Interfaith Series Continuing at Retirement Community
BrookdaleTo foster interfaith understanding, the Interfaith Council of Central Florida is coordinating a series of presentations at the Brookdale Island Lake retirement community (formerly Chambrel; 160 Islander Court, Longwood, FL 32750). The first six of the eight presentations in the series have been delivered (Hinduism, Baha’i, Judaism, Islam, Sikhism and Buddhism). Each presentation lasts about 25 minutes, followed by another 25 minutes of questions from the audience. Each presenter addresses three questions: “How does your faith promote human dignity for all and work to eradicate prejudice and bigotry?” “What does your faith teach about humanity’s moral/spiritual obligation to help those who are less fortunate?” “What is the role and what are the forms of prayer within your faith tradition?” The final two presentations will be on May 1, Christianity; and May 15, Unitarian Universalism. The presentations are free of charge and the public is invited to join the Brookdale residents for the series.
Fiddler on the Roof Cast to Include Local RabbiFiddler on the Roof
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando  (851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751) is offering movie and stage-play aficionados a nostalgic journey as the JCC hosts live performances of the classic musical Fiddler on the Roof on May 2, 3, 7, 9 and 10. Some who attend the local performance may have been among those who saw the movie immediately after its release 50 years ago. But what they would have missed out on then—but can enjoy now—is that Rabbi David Kay of Congregation Ohev Shalom is among the cast, as Lazar Wolf, the butcher – which is perhaps an unlikely role for Ohev’s vegetarian rabbi! Check out the entire cast of the JCC performances. For tickets and schedules, click here.


Buddha’s Birthday and Asian Food Festival

Buddha's birhdayGuang Ming Temple (6555 Hoffner Avenue, Orlando, FL 32822) invites the public to its 2015 Buddha’s Birthday Celebration and Asian Food Festival from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm on Sunday, May 3. The event is free, though the food must be purchased. The Celebration Ceremony and Offering Procession in the temple will begin promptly at 10:00 am. The food festival and entertainment are expected to begin outside at 11:30 am. Entertainment will include a performance by the Taiko Drummers. Guests will Drummers 3also have the opportunity to tour the temple. This is one of the largest events Guang Ming Temple presents each year, attracting thousands from across the state. It is hosted by the Florida Chapter of Buddha’s Light International Association. For more information, contact Guang Ming Temple at 407‐281‐8482


City Newsletter Helpful for Faith-Based Groups
City NewsIf your faith-based organization isn’t on the list to receive the email newsletter from the City of Orlando—City News—it might be worth checking out. The newsletter, which is sent every other Friday, contains only a limited amount of information that’s directly related to faith-based organizations. But it contains an abundance of information that would be of interest to many faith-based organizations because it announces events, describes services and highlights resources that faith-based groups might with to promote, partner with and/or benefit from. Click here to learn more and to subscribe.


“Friends Talking Faith with The Three Wise Guys
3 Wise GuysHear the varied perspectives of the Rev. Bryan Fulwider, Rabbi Steve Engel and Imam Muhammad Musri as each week they discuss how faith impacts both the simple and the complicated aspects of life. “Friends Talking Faith with The Three Wise Guys” airs on Tuesdays at 6:30 pm on 90.7 WMFE FM in Orlando. Tune in on your radio or listen online. You can also listen to any show already aired. The Friends Talking Faith schedule for May features the following:

  • May 5: Faith and Religion: The Future of Faith (with guest Dr. Peter Rollins)
  • May 12: Faith and Society: Rebuilding Community (with guest Jeff Triplett, Mayor, Sanford, FL)
  • May 19: Faith and Culture: Privacy in Our Technological Age (phones, drones and other technology)
  • May 26: Faith and Religion: Deciding Right and Wrong


Houses of Worship Need to Know About PCANPCAN
Although we may not typically think of faith communities as “first responders,” the reality is that many people in need turn first to their house of worship—or any house of worship, for that matter—when they’re road-blocked by seemingly insurmountable circumstances. And too often leaders in the faith community aren’t aware of the array of help that’s just a phone call or a few keystrokes away. One such resource is Orange County’s Primary Care Access Network, also known as PCAN, which “is a dynamic collaborative among Orange County Government, primary health care centers, community agencies, hospitals and other social services. PCAN’s mission is to improve the access, quality and coordination of health care services to the underinsured and uninsured populations of Orange County.” Please note that the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace is still open for enrollment for individuals who have had a change in circumstance such as getting married, losing coverage through a divorce, having a baby, being released from incarceration, having an increase in income that moves them out of poverty or becoming a lawful immigrant. Go to their website to learn more.


Sneak Peek: World’s Religious Landscape 2050
Projected Growth rateAccording to a major study by the Pew Research Center, here are a few things we can expect in the year 2050, assuming trends continue at their current rate: “The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world. Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population. The global Buddhist population will be about the same size it was in 2010, while the Hindu and Jewish populations will be larger than they are today. In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population. India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia.” And there’s a lot more information in the article.


Interfaith Discussion: Impact of Religious DogmaAdventist University
The topic for the Interfaith Discussion on Wednesday, May 13, is: “To what extent does your faith tradition’s dogma influence your perceptions, decisions and actions? What other influences play an important role as motivators in your life?” The discussion group meets from 7:00 to 8:30 pm on the second Wednesday of each month at Adventist University of Health Sciences (671 Winyah Drive, Orlando, FL 32803) on Florida Hospital’s main campus. The discussions are respectful, open and candid, and the participants represent a variety of faith traditions as well as those who question the validity of faith altogether. For directions to the meeting place, click here. Admission is free. Everyone is invited.


First Unitarian to Host “Solar Co-op” Launch, May 16
1st UnitarianHave you ever thought that you’d like to “go solar” and help save the environment, but backed off because of how much you thought it would cost and how difficult it would be to do? Well, a group of creative people at First Unitarian Church of Orlando (1901 East Robinson Street, Orlando) believe they have the solution: a solar co-op. Their plan is to team up with fellow homeowners to take the solar journey together—and in the process secure a large volume discount on rooftop solar systems. The inaugural solar co-op information meeting will be held at First Unitarian on Saturday, May 16, from 9:00 to 11:30 am. The meeting is free and open to everyone—although membership in the first solar co-op will be limited to homeowners in the city limits of Orlando and Winter Park. Once 20 homeowners join, the solar co-op will begin its work, facilitated by a small group called Central Florida Solar Advocates. Click here to register or to make inquiries.


Muslim Lawyer Wrties About Respect and Free SpeechShahzad Ahmed
Central Florida lawyer Shahzad Ahmed, a “Board Certified Immigration and Human Rights Lawyer, has written an important article addressing this subject following the Charlie Hebdo incident. The universal value of freedom of speech is constantly tested globally and different societies have different legal and social answers as to where the balance lies.” Attorney Ahmed highlights the differing perspectives people in different regions and from different cultures and religions bring to the discussion. The article can be read here.


Birds, Butterflies and Burials at the Ethel Settlement
friends of WekivaFor those who love both nature and Florida history, Friends of the Wekiva River is sponsoring the ideal outing at 9:00 am Saturday, May 16. First, hike through a section of the sand-pine scrub and pine flatwoods in Rock Springs Run State Reserve. Then listen to Paul Lammardo, environmental specialist/biologist for the Wekiva River Basin State Parks, share his knowledge of the ecology, flora and fauna in the area, after which Florida history author Jim Robison will provide background information on the settlers who once lived at Ethel. Old grave markers are the only remaining signs of Ethel, which started in the later 1800s with sawmills and turpentine stills. Ethel had a church with a school and a railroad flag stop. Sanford’s newspaper covered family dinners, social events, school calendars and the burials that took place in this small town west of Sanford. The round-trip hike and talks should take less than two hours. There is no charge, except for the state’s $3-per-vehicle entrance fee. Bring water, sunscreen, hat and snacks if desired. Rock Springs Run State Reserve is near Sorrento. From Orlando, take Interstate 4 to Exit 101C and travel west on State Road 46 for about 10 miles to the park entrance on the left. The park entrance, framed by a tall chain link fence, is about 3 miles west of the Wekiva River bridge on State Road 46. Once inside the park take the first left towards the horse stables. Drive 0.7 of a mile and park on the right at the kiosk that describes the Ethel settlement. Call the park at 407-884-2008 for additional directions. For more information on the hike, contact Jim Robison at or 407-677-4004.

Make a Difference in the Life of a Child–Volunteer!Oasis
Are you 50 or older and would enjoy making a difference in the life of a child in Winter Park or Eatonville? Then OASIS CATCH Healthy Habits needs you as a volunteer to help children from kindergarten to 5th grade learn the benefits of healthy eating and exercise. The adults no less than the children have a lot of fun as they learn together how to stay healthy and fit. Volunteers work in teams of six to eight with children in schools, youth organizations and other settings. The VOICE (Volunteers Organized in Community Engagement) program of the Rollins Center for Lifelong Learning is the local sponsor, funded by a grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation. All training and class materials are provided free of charge. OASIS CATCH Healthy Habits is a wonderful way to improve your own health and celebrate healthy living while making a difference in your community with an investment of just one hour a week for eight weeks. Contact Holly Tanyhill at 407-646-2459 or email her. The next training session is May 19 and 20.


Huffington Post Article Asks, “Who is a Hindu?”
Sadhvi Bhagawati SaraswatiAlthough Hinduism is the third-largest of the world’s major religions, many Americans know little about what Hindus teach, the spiritual values Hindus hold and how Hinduism manifests itself in the daily life of its adherents. Not only is Hinduism the oldest of the world’s major religions, it is perhaps the most comprehensive, addressing and integrating nearly every conceivable aspect of life. For those interested in a quick overview of just some of the themes and emphases of this faith tradition, writer Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati shares her observations in an article on the Huffington Post. Central Florida has several Hindu temples, as this partial Hindu Society Temple 2listing demonstrates. The temple at the Hindu Society of Central Florida has particularly beautiful artwork, and tours can be arranged by phoning 407-699-5277. And in the Community Building on the temple grounds is a restaurant that, from Friday evening through late Sunday afternoon, serves tasty Indian food for a very reasonable price.


Interfaith Council Director to Speak at Nu Class
James Coffin 2James Coffin, executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, will speak at the Nu Class of First United Methodist Church of Orlando on Sunday, May 24. The public is invited. The title of his presentation is: “God, the News and How We Christians Are Losing Our Credibility.” The Nu Class “provides an alternative learning experience for adults of all ages where diverse opinions are discussed in a spirit of mutual respect. Embracing Jesus’ message that God loves and accepts every person, we welcome all into full participation in the life of the class regardless of age, sexual orientation, gender identity, family configuration, racial or ethnic background, economic status, or mental or physical disabilities. In celebrating our human family’s diversity, we declare ourselves to be an Open and Affirming Reconciling Community.” The Nu Class meets on the First Floor, Room 6, of First United Methodist Church of Orlando (142 East Jackson Street, Orlando FL 32801). The class goes from 9:30 to 10:45 am each Sunday. Click here for location and parking information.

State Department Seeking Exchange-Student Homesvolunteer_1
Each year American Councils for International Education sponsors some 2,000 scholarship students from the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, the Balkans, Africa or Southeast Asia, creating an opportunity for Americans to open their hearts and homes, sharing U.S. culture, gaining a new family member and promoting mutual understanding. The students come for one academic year on fully funded U.S. State Department merit scholarships. They attend the local high school of the host family and receive a monthly stipend and medical coverage from American Councils. Host families provide meals, accommodation and a nurturing, English-speaking home environment. The students are encouraged to be active in volunteering and learning about American society. Sometimes students seek a host family of a specific faith tradition. You can be part of changing the world one family and one student at a time. View a brief video explaining the program. For further information, send an email to Susan Peterson, local coordinator of American Councils. Or phone her at 321-439-1105.
Your Tax-Deductible Contributions Always Appreciated
The Interfaith Council of Central FloridaFriends Talking Faith With the Three Wise Guys radio program, Building US and the just-emerging InterDiversity Institute–all of which work closely together–invite those who are blessed by the contribution we make to the community to help us in return. All contributions are tax-deductible and may be sent to: PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310. Indicate which of the four entities above you wish to receive the benefit of your gift. Thanks to all whose support has made our activities possible.


Buddhist ReflectionDalai Lama
“Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.”—Dalai Lama






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  James Coffin, Executive Director
PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310
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