In a friendly yet sober morning of greeting and hand-shaking, leaders of New York’s various clergy arrived in the Celeste Bartos Forum at The New York Public Library to “break bread” in the spirit of unity, a particularly relevant event in our current climate of religious discord.
Presenters included Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady of New
York Chirlane McCray, Reverend Michael Walrond Jr, Executive VP of the New York
Board of Rabbis Joseph Potasnik, and Reverend Al Sharpton, among many others.
The opening speech by Library President Tony W. Marx reminded us of New York’s Dutch colonists who first arrived in New York’s southern harbor looking to cultivate an inclusive and peaceful community; how over time New York remains the most diverse, cultural capital of the world. In spite of our hopeful beginnings, New York is still plagued by social issues. Key social issues such as mental health, homelessness, and inequality of education are the 2016 cornerstones of the De Blasio administration as initiated by First Lady McCray.
Reverend Michael Walrond Jr., Chair of the Clergy Advisory Council and Pastor at First Corinthian Baptist Church, was Master of Ceremonies and transformed the room with passion when quoting a passage from First Corinthians 14:8, “If the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?” He encouraged attendees to sound their call to the city’s problems loudly and clearly for their congregations, and not fall prey to rampant egos or become intoxicated by individual values but to answer it together as people of God and love.
This theme, and emotion, resounded throughout the morning’s speeches. A collective prayer asked that all representatives be up to the task of working together to address these three main challenges by removing the stigmatization of victims, and with an open heart. Reverend Sharpton encouraged all to recognize and accept the tone the De Blasio administration has set for us – focusing on early education as opposed to test scores, protecting civil liberties and support for police. “Disagree without being disagreeable and without taking it personally.”
In closing, Mayor De Blasio commented on New York’s first cold winter night last night, and the city’s successful response to bring our homeless to shelter and sustenance.
We were moved by much of the words and cheers shared by our guests this morning, and feel we can take away as much lesson from them as they do.