The Tennessee State Capitol was a busy place on Tuesday, March 19, 2013, there were people everywhere, coming from all parts of the state. They came in groups, carrying tote bags, folders, papers, etc. equiped to raise their concerns about their needs and the needs of their communities. The corridors of Legislative Plaza, in some places, has passing room only, as the people made there way to the rooms were the legislators were meeting as well as to the State Capitol chambers. One of the groups that was in the midst that day were in attendance at Faith Day 2013, an event that was being hosted by Rep. resentative Brenda Gilmore.
Faith Day 2013 was held in the House Chamber, allowing individuals from the faith community to to occupy the seating area and the desk were the legislators sit. Rep. Gilmore said, “They [the faith community] were provided an opportunity to learn about the issues facing Tennesseans, learn more about specific faiths and be a part of a discussion on how the faith community can be part of the solution.”
Community experts shared insights related to issues facing our state. which included: healthcare, education, jobs & economic development, prison system, youth violence and gun violence. After the speakers gave insight related to the various issues; faith leaders led related prayers regarding those addressed. Below are those making the presentations, followed by those saying the prayers: Dr. Michele Gourley (Tennessee Department of Health), Rev. Viggie Henderson (Jesus Christ Uplifting Community Church); Commissioner Kevin Huffman (Tennessee Department of Education), Carol Mansour (Baha’i Faith); Ted Townsend (assistant commissioner ECD), Rev. Gail Seavey (First Unitarian Unitarian Universalist Church); Commissioner Derrick Schofield (TN Department of Correction), Rev. Sonnye Dixon (Hobson United Methodist Church/president, Interdenominational Ministries Fellowship); and Richard Moore, assistant director (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation), Rev. Scott Wallace, assistant pastor (New Livingston Baptist Church). Interestingly, there was continuous prayer that not only impacted persons in that Chamber, but all those on Capitol Hill that day.
Some legislators came in and listened to the proceeding and others were in and out during the day to greet those in attendance as well as encourage them to take an active part in the political system. One of the legislators was Rep. Johnny W. Shaw (D) District 80, who is also a minister, brought a “word” to the group. He said that the answer to every problems [the issues being discussed] is “you.” He said until he became a legislator he did not understand, but now “I know that Jesus dealt with these kind of folks everyday.” He said, It is up to you to change who you send here, you must help people to get out and vote,” Shaw said. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for … I hope for a lot of good things.”
Following lunch, courtesy of the Rev. Enoch Fuzz, pastor, Corinthian Baptist Church, an Interfaith Dialogue provided those in attendance with the opportunity to ask diverse faith leaders questions, regarding their beliefs. Faiths represented included: Baha’i, Christian, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Scientologist, and Sikh.
Faith Day 2013 concluded with a discussion with participants and facilitators on how the faith community can address the issues presented. Theose making up the interfaith panel were: Rev. Brian Fesler, Church of Scientology, moderator; Bishop Minnie Mitchell, House of God; Rabbi Shana Goldstein Mackler, The Temple; Imam Yusuf Abdullah, Masjid Al-Islam Mosque; and Dr. Prem Sikh Kahlon, Nashville Gurudwara.
Rep. Gilmore said, “As a legislator, it is empowering knowing that preachers, pastors, faith leaders and church congregants are praying for us to make good Godly decisions every day that will improve the quality of life for all Tennesseans.”
Others participating in the program was the Rev. James Thomas, pastor, Jefferson Street Baptist Church, who sang as a part of the devotional and the Rev. Gregory Hopkins, Anointed Life Fellowship Church, who prayed the opening prayer.
To round off the day, there will be a dynamic discussion of solutions to help prepare the leaders of tomorrow and create a better world for our children, called “After the Benediction, What Then?” This discussion primarily focused on education, specifically preparing our communities for education.
Church of Scientology Pastor Brian Fesler said, “Faith Day was an opportunity for everyone to really get to know one another for real so we can work together.”
Rev. Fesler participated in the planning committee for the event, along with members of the Baha’i, Muslim, Methodist, AME and other faith communities.