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An Open Letter to the Three Village Community from the Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association

Over the past weeks and months we have witnessed yet again the devastating impact of gun violence throughout the nation. As clergy we are wrestling, alongside our communities, with how we can best respond to the increasing violence and tension in our country’s communities and throughout our entire nation.  What role can faith groups play?  Like the members of the congregations we serve, we are concerned, angry and frustrated.  We are facing a public health crisis; guns have taken the lives of too many of our siblings. 

As faith leaders we serve congregants who are impacted, directly and indirectly, by gun violence. We are there when families have lost loved ones due to gun violence, we hear the concerns and fears of our people, and we feel deeply within ourselves the endless attacks on children of the Divine. When our children return to school they will likely participate in active shooter drills. We want to co-create a better world for our children: a world where they do not have to hide under tables to prepare for an active shooter. We long for a world where our children will never have to hide from an active shooter. Enough is enough. 

Like our members, we have a variety of views about the root(s) of the issues we face and how to respond most effectively. We want to provide help and comfort to those who, like us, are distressed by what we witness on a regular basis.  How do the religious values our faiths teach us inform our thinking and actions, as well as our ability to talk with others who might disagree with us? We cannot compare our situation to the harrowing experiences of those directly impacted.  Nonetheless, as human beings and fellow Americans, we feel a sense of connection with all who have suffered, regardless of religion, age, ethnicity or gender.  From churches to mosques to synagogues; from schools to concert venues to malls; an attack on any one of us is an attack on us all.

What we have realized is that we are a country and society of differing religious and political views, and those who do not subscribe to such views at all.  Each of us as clergy represents a cross-section of this mix.  In a culture where sound bites serve as complete information and help form deeply-rooted opinions, and where truth is often subjective, we want to be careful to be substantive and intentional in our words and actions, and collaborative in our approach.  We hope that by doing so, we can provide guidance on how to approach difficult issues in challenging times.

Over the coming months and years, we will continue to provide safe and welcoming spaces for those who enter our houses of worship.  We also will be creating further opportunities to gather as an entire community for comfort, learning and inspiration, and to join in taking action together. In this vein we plan to build on the prayer vigils and study sessions of last year.

We are facing a crisis in our country and in our communities, but also are presented with a great opportunity.  Please join us in lending your voice to our efforts to promote communication, trust and good will in our corner of the world, with the hope that it will spread throughout our land.

In peace,
Members of the Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky, Temple Isaiah
The Reverend Kate Jones Calone, Setauket Presbyterian Church
The Reverend Ashley McFaul-Erwin, Setauket Presbyterian Church
Rabbi Aaron Benson, North Shore Jewish Center
The Reverend Linda Anderson, Community Minister in affiliation with Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Stony Brook
Cantor Marcey Wagner, Temple Isaiah
The Reverend Gregory Leonard, Bethel AME Church
The Reverend Margaret Allen, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Stony Brook
Mr. Ismail Zahed, Islamic Association of Long Island
The Reverend Chuck Van Houton, Stony Brook Community Church
Ms Elaine Learned, Member, Conscience Bay Friends Meeting
The Reverend Steven Kim, Setauket United Methodist Church
Mr. Frank Kotowski, Lay Minister, Summerland Church of Light, NSAC

The Reverend Richard Visconti, Caroline Church of Brookhaven

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