Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Not Inclusive, eh?

The article directly below is a news story involving my town. Praying in Jesus' name apparently offends some folk. Well, I knew that before reading this article. I will say, however, that this Baptist preacher will not go to the town meeting to announce the "moment of silence". I will not go the town meeting and pray a generic prayer. I pray in the precious name of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is it. There is not power in any other name.

Traditional Woodstock town meeting prayer not “inclusive,” selectmen told

Feb 09, 2012 12:00 am

A half dozen residents appealed to Woodstock selectmen Tuesday to alter the traditional opening invocation at the annual town meeting to be more religiously inclusive.

For years, the meeting has started with a clergyman from the Bryant Pond Baptist Church offering a prayer and invoking Jesus Christ in asking for guidance in the decisions to be made.

But, said Peter Gartner at Tuesday’s board meeting, “When we meet as a town, there are more than Baptists, more than Protestants, more than Christians living in our community, whether we’re Jewish, or Quaker, or Unitarian, or people who don’t practice religion. They’re all part of our community, and I think it’s important that we recognize that.”

Gartner said he was “also very much aware of the history of invocations at town meetings, throughout 200 years of history,” and he wanted to continue the tradition in some form.

He suggested that as a compromise, a selectman might ask for a moment of silence, “and perhaps ask for thanks for the young men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to protect the very freedoms we’re here to use that night. And secondly, to pray for divine guidance in terms of the decisions that we make as a community, that affect everyone in this community. I think that’s a much more inclusive way to start a meeting.”

Several others voiced similar ideas, and also suggested a moment of silence.

Arla Patch, a Quaker, said inviting one member of the clergy from a different faith each year to open the meeting would be more inclusive, but Woodstock is too small to have that variety of clergy available. She supported instead a moment of silence, for people to pray or otherwise collect their thoughts.

Patch said when she first attended a town meeting years ago, she was “stunned” by the specific invocation. She said she became aware a few years ago that other people were also concerned about the practice.

“We need to create a sense of community,” she said, “where everyone feels they belong, that there wouldn’t be people sitting in the town meeting feeling that it wasn’t their town, or that it wasn’t speaking to them.”

Others speaking in favor of a change to a more inclusive format were Emily Ecker, Gayle Russell and Peter Fetchko.

Longtime resident and former selectman Leon Poland, in commenting on the request, said he could go along with a moment of silence.

But, he said, “I still think we should have open prayer, and if we don’t I don’t think it’s fair. As far as I’m concerned, when we took prayer out of the schools was when the schools started going downhill.”

The selectmen said they would consider the group’s request, discuss options and have a decision in time for this year’s town meeting.

Town Manager Vern Maxfield said after the selectmen’s meeting that the Baptist pastor had routinely been called upon each year because he was generally the most available clergy in Woodstock.

In other business Tuesday, the board received a draft of a “Quiet Zone” ordinance proposal for Bryant Pond Village from Jan Kendrick; heard from several builders opposed to the town considering adoption of the new state Uniform Building and Energy Codes; and discussed possible parameters for inclusion of veterans on a new monument planned for the town.

They planned to discuss those issues and others further at a workshop yesterday (Wednesday), and make decisions/recommendations for town meeting at their next regular meeting Feb. 21.

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