|AdventHealth Doctor Outlines Challenge Posed by Omicron
At a media briefing on December 21, Dr. Victor Herrera (photo), Chief Medical Officer at AdventHealth Orlando, reported that the daily rate of positive cases at AdventHealth’s Centra Care clinics tripled in recent weeks—from about 5.5 percent to 21 percent. Dr. Herrera described the rapid positivity increase as a sign that the Omicron variant is spreading in the community, which underscores the need for more people to get vaccinated, including third doses. “This is the time to get your booster if you haven’t gotten it,” said Herrera, an infectious disease specialist. “Everybody who is eligible for a booster should go out and get it—or get vaccinated if you haven’t been vaccinated.” A review of records related to patients who recently tested positive at Centra Care, AdventHealth’s urgent care clinics, showed that most of the people with breakthrough infections had not received a third dose of the vaccine. Only about 4 percent of positive cases were found among people who already had the booster shot. With Christmas just days away, Herrera encouraged the community to embrace the joy of the season, while using masks, potentially gathering outdoors or taking other precautions to reduce the spread of the virus. “Enjoy your holidays,” he said, “but do it in a safe way.”
Hindu University Offering Free Webinar on Saturday, Dec 25
Hindu University of America, an Orlando-based pioneering online university teaching a Dharmic perspective through courses in Hindu philosophies, traditions, culture and civilization, is offering a free webinar titled “Appreciating Bhakti Music—Sangeetha Bhava Bodhini.” The webinar will be held on Saturday, December 25, at 12:00 noon EST. In the Hindu spiritual traditions, Bhakti is considered to be one of the main paths of Yoga, with Shri Krishna allocating the entire chapter XII of the Bhagavad Gita to the subject of Bhakti Yoga. One of the ways Bhakti manifests within the Hindu world, is through the traditions of Bhakti Sangeetha (i.e. devotional music). In this webinar, talented artist Aishwarya Srinivas will introduce a course that offers an immersive exploration of the world of Bhakti Music, across multiple Indian languages, by focusing on the language, lyrics and meaning of the Bhakti compositions from various genres, and their musical depth and range, while deeply enhancing the joy of appreciating and singing Bhakti songs. Click here to register for the webinar.
Op-Eds You Might Want to Read about Christian Nationalism
If you’ve been paying attention to the rise in Christian nationalism, you weren’t surprised by troubling comments from former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn calling for “one religion under God.” As Amanda Tyler (photo left) of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty recently wrote in Baptist News Global, Flynn’s rhetoric echoes explicit efforts that would damage our democracy. “One main problem with Flynn’s version of ‘one nation under God’ is that no one religious identity or belief ever has united Americans, Tyler said. “The idea of a national religion is directly at odds with the promise of the U.S. Constitution that our government stays neutral when it comes to religion.” Read her full op-ed online now. Locally, Robert J. Ray (photo right), a member of the Board of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, wrote in the Orlando Sentinel, quoting repeatedly from James Madison, the major architect of our nation’s Constitution. Ray quoted Madison as saying that “the duty which we owe our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence. The religion, then, of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man: and that it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.” Ray’s article can be read in full here or here.
HUA Hosting Webinar on Hindu Perspective of Hindu History
It was only in the late 1700s and early 1800s that “World History” became a critically important discipline. The European project of constructing a world history emerged from the so-called “discovery” of lands and peoples previously unknown to them, subsuming the Hindu civilization into a Eurocentric grand narrative. As Hindus embark upon the vitally important project of reclaiming their own history in the light of emerging evidence in multiple fields of knowledge, it becomes imperative to reconcile facts, hypotheses and theories into a viable interdisciplinary synthesis. In this free webinar from Hindu University of America, Dr. Raj Vedam will examine evidence from the fields of archaeology and astronomy and consider their relationship to the project of reconstructing Hindu History. The webinar will be on Sunday, December 26, at 7:00 pm EST. Click here to register for the webinar.
Mental Health Association Giving Holiday Help for Depressed
Approximately 24 percent of people with a diagnosed mental illness find that the holidays make their condition “a lot” worse, and 40 percent “somewhat” worse. People are struggling this year more than ever with isolation, anxiety and depression. The Mental Health Association of Central Florida provides hope and healing during the holiday season and throughout the year. This year, MHACF provided 969 free psychiatric visits to the uninsured at their Outlook Clinic, connected more than 2,000 people with mental-health resources and referrals, and 1,200 people found a safe haven in their Reflections support groups. To find how you or a loved one might benefit from the services of the MHACF, or to find how you might contribute to MHACF’s service to the community, click here.
Amid COVID-19, Most Churches Providing Hybrid Worship
From Religion News Service: Eight in 10 U.S. churches now provide hybrid services, offering options for congregants to worship either in person or online during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. And 67 percent of the Christian clergy surveyed said 2020 was the hardest year of their ministry. The new study surveyed 2,074 churches from 38 denominations online this past summer. “These findings . . . show that the pandemic has had a profound impact across the [Christian] religious spectrum, and that some churches are faring better than others,” said Scott Thumma, principal investigator. The vast majority of churches—88 percent—suspended in-person worship for some period of time. Most of those churches—93 percent—have now resumed gathering in person. The majority of clergy (62 percent ) encouraged church members to get vaccinated, but that stance varied significantly depending on their denominational affiliation. “Among clergy from historically African American denominations 100% encouraged vaccinations, while 77 percent of Mainline Protestant clergy, 49 percent of Catholic/Orthodox clergy and 41 percent of Evangelical Protestant clergy publicly encouraged their attendees to get vaccinated,” the study stated.
Longwood Church to Host Interfaith Religious-Liberty Event
The Markham Woods Church of Seventh-day Adventists (505 Markham Woods Road, Longwood, FL 32779) is inviting the public to a religious-liberty event on Saturday, January 8, at 2:00 pm. Topic for the event is: “What Current Religious-Liberty Issues Are of Greatest Concern to You?” That question will be answered by five diverse presenters, who each will give a brief presentation highlighting the two greatest concerns faced by the faith/worldview the respective speakers represent. Speakers/panelists will be: Rev. Dr. James Morris, Christian; David Williamson, Humanist; Ben Friedman, Jewish; Imam Muhammad Musri, Muslim; and Navtej Khalsa, Sikh. After their presentations, the speakers will take part in a panel discussion, moderated by Pastor James Coffin, former Pastor at Markham Woods Church and for the past 10 years Executive Director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida. The event is a collaborative effort between the host congregation, the Interfaith Council and the Central Florida Commission on Religious Freedom. The event is free, and all are invited. Reservations are not required. Phone 321-228-4599 for more information. IMPORTANT NOTE: Because of the uncertainty caused by the Omicron surge, on Friday, January 7, go to this link for the latest information concerning this event. There’s a chance the event will have to be postponed.
Annual MLK Interfaith and Multicultural Service Set for Jan 9
Each year, the Orlando Mayor’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Commission and the Interfaith Council of Central Florida partner for an event to celebrate the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The 2022 interfaith and multicultural event will take place on Sunday, January 9. The event will begin at City Hall at 5:30 pm with a brief program and Candlelight Vigil at Orlando City Hall, followed by a procession to a downtown-area house of worship for our annual one-hour interfaith/multicultural program. This year’s venue will be the First United Methodist Church of Orlando (142 East Jackson Street), which has sufficient space for social distancing. Masks are encouraged. The program theme comes from the words of Dr. King and includes representatives from a wide array of faith traditions and cultural backgrounds, reflecting Dr. King’s vision of the “beloved community.” It includes musical, poetic and other performances, an audio clip of Dr. King speaking, an affirmation led by leaders from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, Baha’i, Unitarian and Humanist communities. Speaker for this special event will be Florida State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith. Leaders in all faith communities are urged to let their members know about this event and to encourage their attendance. It is a great opportunity for Central Florida’s highly diverse community to become better acquainted and to bond together. Click here to learn about more events being held in conjunction with the MLK holiday.
Mayor’s MLK Commission Inviting Public to Sign Pledge
The Orlando Mayor’s MLK Commission is asking everyone to demonstrate their support of Dr. King’s legacy by signing the Orlando Community Pledge, noting that signing “offers an opportunity for every individual, organization and business to stand with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, the Orlando City Council, Orlando’s MLK Commission and our city to denounce racism and discrimination. This core belief is a powerful statement. An even more powerful effort will be answering the call to action in the months to come. The pledge reads: ‘We condemn racism and discrimination in all forms and commit to equality, justice, peace, respect and inclusion for all through equity, service and action in our daily lives.’” Sign the pledge here.
Interfaith Discussion to Be Held via Zoom on January 12
On Wednesday, January 12, the monthly Interfaith Discussion sponsored by the will be held on Zoom from 7:00 to 8:30 pm. Theme for the evening’s discussion will be: “The meaning of religious festivities, holidays and holy days: Why do we observe them and how do we celebrate them?” The goal for the discussion, as always, will be to learn how your faith tradition or other worldview informs your thinking about such things. Please log in a few minutes before 7:00 pm just so you have time to deal with any failures to launch. Our Zoom hosts for the meeting are the Baha’is of Orange County East. Click here to join the Zoom Meeting. Meeting ID: 834 6828 6041. Password: 537979. Dial by your location: +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago) or +1 929 205 6099 US (New York). The monthly 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 more information, phone 321-228-4599.
Orange County Public Schools Seeking Volunteers
Orange County Public Schools has numerous opportunities for individuals and organizations—including faith-based organizations—to serve as volunteers, providing an array of assistance to either a school or individual students. Currently, there are several needs at Carver Middle School (4500 West Columbia Street, Orlando, FL 32811). The needs include Hall Monitors and Mentors and Role Models for male students in the My Brother’s Keeper program. For more information about Hall Monitors, contact Tasha Owens by email or by phone (407 296-5110): and for about My Brother’s Keepers, contact Dr. Brian Agard by email or by phone (407-317-3470).
First Muslim Confirmed as Religious Freedom Ambassador
From Religion News Service: Rashad Hussain has been confirmed as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, making him the first Muslim American in the role. Hussain was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on December 16 by a vote of 85 to 5. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom hailed the decision on Hussain, who has been director for partnerships and global engagement at the National Security Council. “With his years of knowledge and experience, Ambassador Hussain is well placed to advance the U.S. government’s promotion of international religious freedom,” said USCIRF Chair Nadine Maenza in a statement. Hussain, 42, previously served as a White House counsel during the Obama administration, as special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and as U.S. special envoy for the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications. When President Joe Biden announced his nomination of Hussain in July, the White House noted his work on countering antisemitism and defending religious minorities in countries with Muslim majorities. Hussain, who has served as a judicial clerk in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and as the editor of the Yale Law Journal, speaks Spanish, Arabic and Urdu. He also is a hafiz (someone who has memorized the entire Quran in Arabic).
Death Penalty Seems to Be Slowly But Surely Losing Ground
From a news release from Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty: In a year that saw the Southern State of Virginia become the 23rd state to abolish the death penalty, it is important to note the progress toward abolition here in Florida as well. As U.S. executions and new death sentences remained near record low levels, reflecting the growing public support for abolition, Florida too saw erosion of the death penalty. Our state went a second year without carrying out an execution, and juries here handed down just 2 death sentences—the lowest number of new death sentences since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977. We also saw progress in the state legislature, where a bill that would end the death penalty for persons with serious mental illness (“the SMI bill”) passed unanimously in the Senate Criminal Justice committee. Meanwhile, two more exonerations highlighted the continuing risk of wrongful capital prosecutions. A total of186 wrongfully convicted men and women nationwide have now been exonerated from death rows since 1973—one exoneration for every 8.3 people executed. Here in Florida, our record is even more dramatic—one exoneration for every 3 people executed. For more national and state facts, click here. PS: Check out this new article: Executions down in 2021, but still used for mentally ill, intellectually disabled
Group Offering Tours to Historic Christian Sites in Turkey
Many Christians think of Israel as the cradle of Christianity, and it is. However, the cradle is more geographically far-flung than just Israel. Many of the Apostle Paul’s letters were written to congregations situated in what today is Turkey—congregations he had established while on his missionary trips. So Turkey is rich with ancient landmarks of considerable interest to Christians. To learn more about what can be seen in Turkey, go to the Guide Service Turkey website. Of course, Turkey isn’t just rich in Christian history. It’s also rich in Muslim history. And rich in history in general. So whatever your background, you might be interested in forming a group or joining a group that’s heading off for some quality sightseeing in a highly interesting and historically significant segment of the world.
Aspire Health Partners Offer Advice on Coping in Pandemic
Life can be challenging at the best of times. However, during the past two years we’ve gone through—and continue to face—extraordinarily stressful times because of the pandemic. Aspire Health partners has put together a number of brief videos that offer suggestions on how to deal with various aspects of life that may be disrupted or made more complicated by COVID-19. Much of the advice is applicable even when we’re just dealing with life’s run-of-the-mill stresses and tensions. Click here, then scroll down to Managing Mental Health During COVID-19
International Holocaust Remembrance Day with Abe Pizam
The Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Florida (851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751) invites the public to celebrate International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2022 from 5:00 to 7:00 pm on Thursday, January 27, at the Center. A major feature of this free in-person event will be a presentation by Holocaust Survivor Abe Pizam (photo), founding Dean of Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida. This will be the first time Abe will tell his story outside of his immediate family. Holocaust Remembrance Day is an annual commemoration to mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945. In November 2005, the United Nations General Assembly declared January 27 International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. Note: This program, which will be presented live at the Holocaust Center, will also be live-streamed virtually. The program is free, but prior registration is required.
Universal to Host Florida’s Biggest Christian Music Festival
Raise Your Hands! Raise Your Voice! Raise Your Spirit! Rock the Universe is back on January 28 and 29 for an unforgettable weekend of music, Christian faith and fun. Experience two nights of powerful tunes from Christian music’s brightest stars and enjoy the rides at Universal Studios Florida. Lift your hands and let your heart soar with amazing artists including Casting Crowns, For King & Country, Matthew West, Big Daddy Weave, Zach William and more! Click here for more information and to buy tickets for yourself or your entire group.
onePULSE Foundation Offering Legacy Scholarships
When 49 lives were taken in 2016, 49 legacies began. The mission of the onePulse Legacy Scholarship program is to create academic opportunities—honoring the aspirations of all 49 Angels—for recipients who embody love, hope, unity, courage and unconditional acceptance. Legacy Scholarship Recipients are ambassadors of the 49 Angels and the onePULSE Foundation. Any person—no matter the age, gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability or faith—is welcome to apply. onePULSE Foundation considers many factors when assessing scholarship applicants, including: personal story; financial need; a proven track record of leadership, community involvement and/or work experience; working for the betterment of the community; strong academic or self-improvement interest. Preference will be given to applicants who are immediate family members of a Pulse Angel or those who are survivors of and first responders to the Pulse tragedy. Each scholarship will be for up to $10,000 for use at an accredited institution of higher learning, including career and technical schools. The application deadline is January 31. Click here to learn more and to go to the application portal.
Downtown Arts District Competition with $10,000 Prize
During the Renaissance, artists were commissioned by patrons and churches to create works based on interpretations of biblical scenes. The past year has been filled with chaos and turmoil, which led a couple of anonymous local art collectors to re-read the biblical Book of Revelation. Intrigued by the vivid imagery depicted through words, these art collectors/enthusiasts are sponsoring an art exhibit to feature selected works of art inspired by the Book of Revelation. Click here for more details. Or contact Barbara Hartley, Executive Director, Downtown Arts District by email or by phone (407-648-7060). The deadline for a submission is February 1, so respond quickly if you wish to participate.
Uprooting Prejudice: Exhibit to Run through May 2022
The exhibit “Uprooting Prejudice—Conversations for Change” will be featured at the Holocaust Center (851 North Maitland Avenue, Maitland, FL 32751) until May 2022. The exhibit focuses on the hope-filled activism of Daryl Davis (lphoto), whose life experience provides the backdrop for the exhibit. As a legendary blues musician, he devoted his life not only to the power of music but also to the power of peace building via courageous and thoughtful dialogue. Over the course of many years, Davis bravely befriended members of the Ku Klux Klan. His persistent and deep conversations with white supremacists led to more than 200 individuals leaving the white nationalist movement — with many of them giving their robes to Davis. The amazing stories of Davis’s heroism are being displayed for the first time at the Center. The exhibit shows the history and culture of hate and injustice. The exhibit also highlights the power we have as a community to become activists and to create cultures of equity, respect and compassion. Go to the Holocaust Center website for information about the exhibit and other upcoming events.
Interfaith Council Asking for Your Help with Funding
If you appreciate what’s being achieved by the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, we would welcome your support. Please send your contribution to: Interfaith Council of Central Florida, PO Box 3310, Winter Park, FL 32790-3310. Thank you for your assistance.
Jain Reflection: Giving Thanks for Meal
1. This food is the gift of the whole universe: the earth, the sky, numerous living beings and much hard, loving work.
2. May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude to be worthy to receive it.
3. May we recognize and transform our unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.
4. May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that we reduce the suffering of living beings, preserve our planet and reverse the process of global warming.
5. May we ask for forgiveness from all living beings that we may have harmed, intentionally or unintentionally. May peace and compassion grow in us and extend to all around us.
6. May we pray that all the people everywhere will avoid inflicting harm on animals and fellow human beings and practice nonviolence and compassion.
7. We accept this food so that we may nurture our sisterhood and brotherhood, strengthen our community and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.—Jaina Education Committee