POTSDAM — Through words and music, about 100 people gathered Sunday afternoon at the First Presbyterian Church to learn about different religious faiths in the community.
The Festival of Sacred Music and Text is sponsored annually by the Potsdam Interfaith Community, which aims to encourage respect and understanding among diverse faith groups.
The 90-minute gathering involved having representatives from eight different faith groups provide brief remarks about their faith. Several followed their remarks with a musical piece.
The festival also featured SUNY Potsdam’s Crane Concert Choir, which performed two songs under the direction of Jeffrey Francom, conductor.
Excerpts from the writings of Martin Luther King Jr. seemed to capture the festival’s idea of uniting people of different beliefs, rather than segregating them.
The Rev. Brooke Newell, pastor at the United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Deborah Packard, pastor at First Presbyterian Church, recited the imaginary letter Mr. King wrote in 1956 from Apostle Paul to America that spoke of segregation within the church and society.
“You must come to see that God is neither a Baptist nor a Methodist; nor is he an Episcopalian,” King wrote. “God is bigger than all of our denominations. If you are to be true witnesses for Christ, you must come to see that, America. So I urge you to get rid of every aspect of segregation.”
Richard Lunt, a member of the St. Lawrence Valley Friends, also known as Quakers, explained that during Quaker weekly meetings, members spend a lot of time in silent worship and reflection.
He said spiritual learning often takes place in the course of daily life and often in unexpected ways.
“There’s inspiration to be found all around us,” he said. “Try to live simply, a simple lifestyle.”
The festival also featured readings and music from Congregation Beth El, First Church of Christ Scientist, The Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints, Potsdam Masjid and St. Mary’s Church.
The choir from the Church of Latter-day Saints performed.
After the program, several people stayed for a reception where refreshments were offered.
Barbara Burdick, a Canton resident who travels to Potsdam to attend the St. Lawrence Valley Friends, said she enjoyed the festival.
“I like the fact that it was diverse, both in message and in music,” Mrs. Burdick said. “We’re all people and not just part of a group.”
The Rev. Stephen Rocker, pastor of St. Mary’s Church, Potsdam, and St. Patrick’s Church, Colton, said the Jewish music and the Arabic chanting were interesting.
“It gives us a chance to interact with each other’s cultures. There’s a lot of cultural richness in various denominations and faith traditions,” he said.
For more information about the Potsdam Interfaith Community, visit www.facebook.com/diverse.community.