December 2018

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Hindu Group Commemorates Centenary of Sai Baba’s DeathSai Baba October 2018 was the centennial of the the death of Shirdi Sai Baba, an Indian spiritual master who was and still is revered by both Hindu and Muslim devotees. Sai Baba preached the importance of the realization of the self and criticized love towards perishable things. His teachings concentrate on a moral code of love, forgiveness, helping others, charity, contentment, inner peace, and devotion to God. Sai Baba also condemned distinction based on religion or caste. His teaching combined elements of Hinduism and Islam. Click here to read more about him. In October, Central Florida’s Hindu devotees of Sai Baba held a commemoration of the centenary of his death. They are now looking for a venue in either Volusia or Seminole County to start of temple in his honor. For more information about the project, send an email to Sridhar Rangaswamy.

December Is Big Month of Celebrations for Christians

Live Naivity 2Easter is huge in Christian theology, but Christmas evokes the more festive mood and creates more opportunity for celebration and festivity–which tends to span much of the month of December. For non-Christians who would like to visit a Christian church to see what it’s like, Christmas is a great time to do so. It’s a time of great pageantry, drama, music and grandeur in general. It’s also a time when it’s easy to slip in anonymously, because attendance at events is far higher than usual. One great attraction for children is the living nativity scenes that portray the story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. One such living nativity–which features the telling of the Christmas story, carols and live animals–will be at Winter Park Presbyterian Church (400 South Lakemont Avenue, Winter Park, FL 32792) at 7:00, 7:30, 8:00 and 8:30 pm on both Friday and Saturday evenings, December 14 and 15. Also featured at Winter Park Presbyterian as part of its Christmas repertoire is its annual “The Longest Night” service, scheduled for Sunday, December 23, at 7:00 pm. The service provides a time of quiet reflection, special music, healing prayer and candlelight for those experiencing loneliness, loss because of the death of a loved one, relationship problems, job insecurities, health concerns or even general weariness (perhaps from all the holiday preparations!). All are welcome. For more detail phone 407-647-1467.

Series about Small Christian Denominations Continuing
A once-a-month series focusing on some of Christianity’s smaller denominations is being hosted by community members in the Lake of the Woods subdivision at their Clubhouse (300 Carolwood Point, Fern Park, Casselberry). Each denomination featured is in some way out of the mainstream of Christianity—because of their mission, theology, methodology, history or some other defining characteristic. Among those being featured are (not necessarily in order): Seventh-day Adventists; the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers); Jehovah’s Witnesses; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons); the Church of Christ, Scientist (Christian Science); and the Moravians. On  Monday, December 10, Quakers will be the featured denomination, with Stephanie Preston-Hughes describing the group’s history, teachings, practices and milestones. The presentations, organized by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, are on the second Monday of each month, beginning at 3:00 pm and lasting one hour. Approximately 30 minutes is used for the presentation, with the balance of the time for audience questions. The series is free and the public is invited. For more information, phone 321-228-4599Click here for directions.

Friends Talking Faith with The Three Wise GuysThree Wise Guys
​Hear 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 complex aspects of life. These three clergy come together as friends to discuss topics from the perspective of the different religions they represent. They contend that “good religion works for peace, respects and values others regardless of their religious perspective, and works through acts of compassion to make the world a better place for everyone.” 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.

RNS: Hate Crimes Rise for Third Year in a Row in 2017
From a November 13 Religion News Service report and commentary: “Last month, after a gunman entered a Pittsburgh synagogue, yelled anti-Semitic hate speech and opened fire on the congregation, killing 11 people, many responded with a message that was both defiant and hopeful: ‘This is not the America I know.’ . . . While I understand the intention behind such clichés, I also think it’s time for us to move beyond that and face reality. The massacre in Pittsburgh is, unfortunately, precisely the America we all know. . . . Today the FBI released its 2017 annual report on hate crimes in America, and the data is simultaneously astounding and unsurprising. Hate crimes are up for the third year in a row, with 7,175 reported last year, representing a 16.7 percent rise from the previous year, the second-highest increase since the FBI started tracking hate crimes. . . . The total number of incidents on the basis of religious identity rose by 23 percent in 2017. Anti-Jewish incidents surged by 37 percent and anti-Muslim hate crimes are still far above historical averages. The official count of anti-Sikh hate crime offenses increased 243 percent, from seven in 2016 to 24 in 2017. . . . The official statistics come as no surprise to those who experience such marginalization personally or who work on these issues professionally. . . .” Click here to read the entire report and commentary.

U.S. Christians: Class Divide Extends to Searching for Church
Finding ChurchFrom the Pew Research Center website: “Looking for a new religious congregation is common in the United States. In fact, about half of American adults (49%) have at some point searched for a new church or congregation. But how likely Americans are to look for a new church varies by their education and income levels. About six-in-ten (59%) college-educated Americans have searched for a new religious congregation, compared with only 38% of those with a high school education or less, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of survey data collected in 2015. Likewise, higher-income Americans are more likely to look for a new church than those with lower incomes.” Read the full article here.

Interfaith Discussion on Hiatus for Month of December
The next Interfaith Discussion sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida will be held on Wednesday, January 9, 2019. There will be no Interfaith Discussion during the month of December 2018. Interfaith Discussions, sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, are held 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. Details of the January Interfaith Discussion will be in the January issue of the Interfaith Council email newsletter. Admission is free. Everyone is invited.

‘Slave Bible’ Focused on Servitude, Left out Freedomslave bible
Christianity’s failure to condemn slavery has left a negative impact that isn’t likely to be overcome for decades, if ever. An example of what that failure led to is currently on display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. You see, America’s slave owners wanted the interpersonal tranquility and deference advocated by the Bible, but they didn’t like the emphasis on personal freedom taught in those same writings. So they prepared an abridged scripture for those in bondage that shared only what they wanted shared. They removed 90 percent of what Christians call the Old Testament, and 50 percent of the New Testament. Of the 1,189 chapters contained in Protestant Bibles, only 232 were deemed appropriate to be passed on to slaves. Religion News Service has a fascinating article on its website about the history of this selective use of scripture. Click here to read the whole article.

Jewish Youth Theater Group to Present Spellbound
Children and youth of the Roth Family Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando (851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751) will star in an original musical produced by Theatre South Playhouse. Come enjoy a journey into the world of Spellbound, featuring the music of MatildaPippin and Mary Poppins. The musical will be performed in the JCC’s Harriett and Hymen Lake Cultural Auditorium Sunday, December 16, 2:00 to 4:00 pm; and Tuesday, December 18, 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Click here for more detail and to buy tickets.

How Do European Countries Differ in Religious Commitment?
Europeans generally are less religious than people in other parts of the world. But within Europe, there are sometimes sizable differences in levels of religious commitment, according to an analysis of recent Pew Research Center surveys in 34 countries. To make it quick and interesting, the Pew Research Center has created an interactive map. Just click on a country to see where it ranks in overall religiosity. Check it out here.

Treat ‘Em and Street ‘Em Not the Answer, Doctor Says
Dr. Don Diebel and his wife, Cindy, friends and supporters of United Against Poverty, are offering a $20,000 matching grant this month to assist with the organization’s work. Dr. Diebel describes one well-intentioned—but woefully inadequate—approach to medical care commonly referred to as “treat ‘em and street ‘em.” Like the name suggests, he says, “this approach focuses on treating symptoms and discharging the patients as quickly as possible.” While such a method may appear to work well in the short term, it doesn’t identify and address the root cause, and leaves patients susceptible to chronic, recurring symptoms. “Unfortunately,” Dr. Dielbel says, “this treat ’em and street ’em mentality is also common among social service organizations. Again, with the best of intentions, charities will offer handouts such as food or clothing, which serve as a band-aid—offering short-term relief, but not addressing the underlying issue.” Which is why he appreciates the holistic approach of United Against Poverty to restoring dignity, teaching empowerment and helping individuals overcome the obstacles that are holding them back from their true potential. “We can break the cycle of poverty,” he says, “not by merely treating the symptoms, but by working together to reach a permanent higher ground by focusing on empowerment through professional counseling, dignified crisis care and proper job training.” Contact United Against Poverty (150 West Michigan Street, Suite A, Orlando, FL 32806) for details about the matching grant and volunteer opportunities.

JCC Visiting-Author Series to Feature Jonathan Weisman
Weisman 2The Roth Family Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando (851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751) will feature author Jonathan Weisman as part of its Visiting-Author Series on Friday, December 21.  Journalist Jonathan Weisman will discuss his new book, (((SEMITISM))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump, looking at how Jews are viewed since the election of our current president, and considering how Jews can move forward to fight anti-Semitism. (Read a review of the book here.) Weisman is the deputy Washington editor of The New York Times and author of the novel No. 4 Imperial Lane, which was a Chautauqua Prize finalist, Amazon Best Book of the Month and Great Group Reads Pick at the Women’s National Book Association. He has reported for The Baltimore SunThe Washington PostUSA TodayThe Wall Street Journal, and others. Click here to buy tickets for the presentation only. Or enjoy dinner with Weisman and receive a hardcover copy of his book at the VIP event. Click here for tickets for the VIP event. The VIP event begins at 6:00 pm. The presentation begins at 7:00 pm.

OCPS Parent Academy Helps Parents Help StudentsOCPS
Orange County Public Schools is always seeking new ways to enhance the educational experience of the more than 200,000 students it serves. Over the years it has created, refined and built upon an array of programs that have clearly demonstrated their effectiveness and benefit. One such program is the Parent Academy. Research shows that students achieve more when parents are involved in their child’s education. In order to provide families with a vehicle to empower them and their children, the OCPS Parent Academy was begun in 2013. It is a districtwide educational program designed to enhance student achievement through the support of community and family engagement. Workshops are conducted by experts from the district, school-based personnel and community partners. Parents will receive an array of support for their children and themselves. Coinciding sessions are provided for children ages 4 to 18. The academies focus on three primary tracks: Student Achievement; Parenting and Advocacy; Personal and Individual Growth. Academies, which are free, are scheduled for 2019 on January 12, March 9 and May 4. Phone 407-317-3300 for more information. Or go to the Parent Academy page. OCPS is looking for presenters for both face-to-face and online events to cover ELA, Mathematics, STEAM, Character Education and other such topics.

Your Tax-Deductible Contributions Greatly Appreciated
If you appreciate what’s being achieved by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida and Friends Talking Faith With the Three Wise Guys radio program, we invite you to contribute on a regular basis to these community-based, community-benefitting activities. It may be every month, once a quarter or annually. And it may be a large contribution or small. But whatever it is, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you played a part in helping to make our community more harmonious and peaceful. All contributions are tax-deductible and may be sent to: PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310. Or you can click here to contribute online. Thank you for your help.

Hindu Reflection
“Hinduism insists on the brotherhood of not only all mankind but of all that lives.”—Mahatma Gandhi

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