CRYSTAL LAKE – Religious leaders and community members gathered Monday to celebrate diversity and to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
About 200 people attended the fourth annual Interfaith Prayer Breakfast at D’Andrea Banquets in Crystal Lake. Leaders of several faiths read prayers and sang songs, with the Rev. Calvin Morris giving the keynote address.
“I’m aware of the challenges of interfaith involvement,” said Morris, who is a minister and human-rights advocate in Chicago. “I’ve also learned how important it is to continue to be a learner so people can help teach us their faith journey. One need not be afraid of having your own understanding broadened.”
In 1967, Morris was asked by the Rev. Jesse Jackson to be associate director and national coordinator of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation Breadbasket.
He also served as the executive director of Atlanta’s Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change from 1973 to 1976, working directly with Coretta Scott King.
With Monday being both Martin Luther King Jr. Day and President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, Morris spoke about the importance of breaking from religious and racial prejudices, and learning from those who come from different backgrounds.
“As a historian, I’m aware that in this country there have been a series of contentious decades where any entrance of a new faith tradition … there has been misunderstandings,” he said. “What needs to happen is the discussions, the sharing, the breaking of bread together.”
The discussion Monday was one of religious tolerance and understanding. Religious leaders of Buddhist, Christian, Hindu and Jewish faiths read prayers and spoke about loving one another.
“I moved here from the city, and people said to me, ‘There’s no diversity in Crystal Lake,’ and I think this room shows you something very, very different,” said the Rev. Carrie Smith, a pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake. “I thought it was wonderful to have all these faith traditions in one place.”
The Interfaith Prayer Breakfast began in 2009 and is put on by Faith Bridge, a consortium of faith-based communities in Lake and McHenry counties.
Its mission is to promote mutual understanding among religious communities.
“We want to increase respect among religions,” Smith said. “We want to be able to have relationships. God forbid something tragic would happen in our community. We would have relationships with other faith communities and be able to work together.”
“Religion is truly man-made,” said the Rev. Anne Muelleman, a Faith Bridge board member and co-chairwoman of the Interfaith Prayer Breakfast. “But faith is what we all carry in us. At that level, I believe that we are all connected in that.”
The breakfast ended on a note of action as everyone recited a litany of commitment: “We will remember, we will celebrate, but most importantly, we will act. We still have work to do.”