Different faiths unite in a single appeal

New London — The “God Squad” made its traditional summertime appearance at the Pequot Chapel Sunday night and told the crowd of 141 people that God sometimes talks to them in a “still, small voice.”

Monsignor Robert L. Brown , the chancellor of the Diocese of Norwich, the Rev. Benjamin K. Watts of the Shiloh Baptist Church and Rabbi Aaron Rosenberg of Temple Emanu-El in Waterford led the 11th annual interfaith service, which also featured performances by the Shiloh choir. Rosenberg filled in for the third member of the group, Rabbi Carl Astor, who is bicycling through Europe. Watts joked with the crowd that Rosenberg “hit a pinch hit home run” in Astor's absence.

The theme of this year's service was “a still small voice,” a reference to the belief that God often speaks to people quietly and in a way they may not recognize at first instead of with some grand display. The comments by Brown, Watts and Rosenberg centered on the Biblical story of Elijah, who did not hear God speaking to him in the wind, an earthquake or fire but in a whisper.

Brown said people have allowed the quest for affluence and materialism to rob their lives of meaning. He said, though, there is a new hunger for God that can only be satisfied by the intensity of God's love.

“We must take the time to listen, to hear his voice, be aware of his presence and recognize him in those around us,” Brown said. “Without him life is meaningless.”

He urged the crowd to let people see God's love in their lives, see that they hear his voice and that they recognize his presence.

Brown added, “We must take time to listen to God speak to us each day,” something he said can be done through prayer, reading scripture and by living holy lives.

“The question is how much do we really want to hear his voice?” he asked.

Rosenberg said some of the most fervent prayers come when people remove themselves from the din of everyday life. He said prayer allows God's spirit to suffuse peoples' lives.

Pointing out that Muslims pray five times a day, he said many people today are too rushed to even pray once.

“We're working longer hours, we're constantly running from here to there, our quality of family time is diminished and we only make a dent in our to-do lists” despite all the advances of modern technology, he said.

He suggested that before people go to bed each night they reflect on their accomplishments of the day, missed opportunities, seek forgiveness for errors they made and pray for peace of mind.

Watts, with his voice repeatedly rising and falling and sweat beading up on his face, also talked about Elijah, who he said had a crisis of faith and was ready to give up on God and life.

“Sometimes it takes a crisis for us to realize how much we need our intimacy with God,” he said.

He talked about a plane trip to Atlanta, where the woman sitting next to him, once she found out he was a minister, did not want to talk to him about God or anything else. Watts said that changed when the pilot announced he was having a problem with the landing gear.

“It's amazing we don't learn we need God. But in each of us there is some God consciousness. We recognize we need God. We can deny it and we do,” he said. “But in each one of us there is some part of God and some knowledge we need God.”

He said that without God, people have “no sense of center” in their lives.

j.wojtas@theday.com
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