Dear Colleagues and Friends, 

We are awakening to a pandemic more threatening than anything in our lifetimes. As people of faith it is important to face the harsh reality and our moral responsibilities that include being informed and acting in ways that protect ourselves, our families, our community and our world. 

Fortunately, faith leaders ranging from Anglican to Zoroastrian have been engaged for over seven years with one another, government officials and nonprofit executives. The bonds of trust and commitment to serving our common welfare was evident in last Thursday’s   Virtual Town Hall for Faith Communities Responding to COVID-19

I was pleased to work with Netta Squires, NCR Emergency Preparedness Specialist, in the Office of Emergency Management, which made the virtual exchange possible. At a time when we cannot gather, worship together, and be physically present for one another, we can still connect through our hearts and our words. 

The Virtual Townhall on March 19th began with the Rev. Dr. Abhi Janamanchi , Senior Minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church, and member of our FCAC Executive Committee offering the following prayer:  
“Nameless One of Many Names, 
Spirit of Life, and Love, 
In whom we live, move, breathe, and have our being. 
We are mindful of these times in which we live. 
Uncertainty, anxiety, and fear are present among us 
As we listen to and care for one another in these days. 
We are connected across time and space
Connected by invisible droplets that have come to instruct us, 
Bringing vivid, real-time, illustration of how much we need one another 
Connected across race, religion, nationality, political persuasion 
Connected across age, gender, sexual orientation, and economic status
Connected across all the reasons we separate and divide
Connected by our humanness and our fragility
Connected by our need for connection, for love, for safety
Connected by our need for access to healthcare and food,
a place to lay our heads at night
Connected by our need for hope, for kindness, for compassion and joy
May we take the lessons offered in this time and place
With us as we navigate our way
May we remember in the days and years to come that 
Truly - we need each other to survive.”
[Cindy Terlazzo, adapted] 
Netta Squires  then provided an overview of how the county is responding including safety tips. Next  Heather Burskin , Executive Director of the Montgomery County Food Council described how the food providers are meeting the challenge of food insecurity.  Leslie McDonald , Executive Director of Nonprofit Montgomery County, described how that sector is stepping up to meet the current crisis.  Jim Gilmer , Social Worker with the Crisis Center, next described the state of healthcare and access including behavioral health services. The  Rev. Dr. Ken Howard , Executive Director of FaithX, addressed strategies and technical tools for virtual meetings, pastoral care and worship services.  

In the Q&A session that followed, faith leaders offered space and volunteers, and questions were raised about healthcare, childcare, mental health services, and technology. Resource persons responding to questions included  Molly Calloway , Director of the Volunteer Center;  Hillery Tsumba , Manager of Communications for the Primary Care Coalition;  Diane Vu , Director of the Office of Community Partnerships;  Joe Corona, Outreach Coordinator, Office of Emergency Management; Rev. Dr. Carol Flett, Co-Chair of the Faith Community Working Group; and Jennifer Gray , Interfaith Outreach Coordinator for the Office of Governor Hogan.

The Virtual Town Hall concluded with a prayer written by Cameron Bellm, a Seattle mom of two young boys, and offered by the  Rev. Anne Derse  of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Norwood Parish. 
Prayer for a Pandemic
May we who are merely inconvenienced
Remember those who lives are at stake.
May we who have no risk factors
Remember those most vulnerable
May we who have the luxury of working from home
Remember those who must chose between preserving their health o making their rent.
May we who have the flexibility to care for out children when their schools close
Remember those who have no options.
May we who have to cancel our trips
Remember those that have no safe place to go.
May we who are losing out margin money in the tumult of the economic market
Remember those who have no margin at all.
May we who settle in for a quarantine at home
Remember those who have no home.
As fear grips out country,
Let us choose love.
During this time when we cannot physically wrap our arms around each other,
let us yet find ways to be the loving embrace of God to our neighbors.

[By Cameron Bellm]
You may listen to the Town Hall for Faith Communities Responding to COVID-19 below. It begins following my welcome and statement that it is to acquaint you with the collaborative work being done between government, nonprofits and faith communities.
T he resources identified that evening together with others are on the websites for the Office of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security and the Faith Community Advisory Council . We will be updating them and invite additions.

Everyone who participated in the Town Hall is encouraged to respond to this survey. It will determine our next steps together with questions and recommendations that you may send to interfaith@montgomerycountymd.gov

By holding one another in love and prayer, and virtually working together we will arrive at a new normal even stronger and more united.
Peace,





Rev. Mansfield "Kasey" Kaseman
Interfaith Community Liaison 
Office of Community Partnerships 
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