This year marks the 40th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly declaration “International Day of Peace.” The purpose of the International Day of Peace was and still remains, to strengthen the ideals of peace around the world.
In 2001, September 21st was set as the annual day of commemoration – not only as a time to discuss how to promote and maintain peace among all peoples but most remarkably, as an annual 24-hour period of global ceasefire and non-violence for groups in active combat. https://www.un.org/en/observances/international-day-peace
The International Day of Peace reminds us of our commonalities. Regardless of where we come from or what languages we speak, we are more alike than we are different. Honoring those commonalities makes peace possible. Life is better in a world where peace exists. We draw on the wisdom and experience of the peacemakers and peacekeepers to learn how we can individually and collectively be catalysts for peace – how we can manifest a world that works for everyone, everywhere. Nations and communities around the world struggle with poverty and disease, severely limited access to education and healthcare, particularly in areas where violence is common.
There is something here much bigger than our day-to-day routines. We have the opportunity to transform the world so that our loved ones can live in sustainable peace. To achieve this we are called to step outside our comfort zones. Until we are willing to soften our own perspectives so we can catch a glimpse of someone else’s experience, peace will remain beyond our reach.
Peace is possible. The impact of each small act is immense. Imagine: If we were all simply kind and respectful of one another, how different life would be. We can all contribute to the worldwide culture of peace through generosity of spirit, prayer, advocacy, education and ensuring access to clean water and health resources. Every small effort makes a difference.
Throughout history, dating back to the Peace of God (989 AD) and Truce of God (1027 AD) we see movements that arose from the desire to curb violence by limiting the days and times nobility could practice violence. Most societies have lived in peace most of the time. Today, we are much less likely to die in war than our parents or grandparents. Since the establishment of the United Nations and the creation of the Charter of the United Nations, governments are obligated not to use force against others unless they are acting in self-defense or have been authorized by the UN Security Council to proceed.
Centers for Spiritual Living selected United Nations International Day of Peace in 2016, to conduct a ceremony at the Home Office in Golden, Colorado, to dedicate a Peace Pole and to formally recognize the Collective Meditation for Peace Initiative as an integral and essential element of our organization. The Heart of Peace Initiative coordinates weekly online Collective Peace Meditations and numerous events throughout the year.
At a Centers for Spiritual Living event in 2016, Rev. Dr. Kenn Gordon reminded everyone that every day must be dedicated to peace – that the consciousness of humanity must be uplifted to abiding in and as peace moment by moment. As he said, a Peace Pole is a material replica of the intention that has brought it into form, just as the actions we take demonstrate Spirit’s call to do our part to manifest a world that works for everyone. World peace is a product of what is in the hearts of individuals. To achieve world peace, we must begin with the individual. In order for us to experience and express peace, we must first reveal that peace from within us – to remove all obstacles to the free flow of peace and love.
Religious Science has always been a powerful presence for peace, a core attribute of our philosophy of Oneness. As Dr. Ernest Holmes explained in Spiritual Awareness, “When we become conscious of our existence as an idea in the Mind of God, we shall find that we are walking in pathways of peace; that something within us acts like a magnet to attract that which belongs to itself. This something is Love, the supreme impulsion of the universe.”
Today more than any other time in history, peace relies on the commitment to not only achieve equality, but to secure equity for all persons – to fulfill our vision of a world that works for everyone, everywhere.
Did you know that 1 in 5 US adults and 17% of US youth (ages 6-17) experience mental illness, more so since Covid?
In recognition of this growing problem, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors designated September 2021 as Suicide Awareness Month. Fairfax County resources for suicide prevention can be found here: https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/community-services-board/prevent-suicide.
Immanuel Presbyterian, a member of Tysons Interfaith, has also provided these resources:
- If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please call 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741. Help is available.
- Life Line for Veterans is a branch of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for veterans. Call: 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1; Text to 838255; or Chat online 24/7/365.
- You Matter is for youth between the ages of 13 and 24. It is a safe space for sharing and supporting one another. It is monitored by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
- The Trevor Project is a national organization that provides suicide prevention and crisis intervention for LGBTQ+ people ages 13-24.
- The Alliance of Hope for Suicide Loss Survivors is a nonprofit organization that seeks to offer support and hope to survivors of suicide loss.
- Compassionate Friends is a national organization that offers support and resources for those who’ve lost a loved one to sudden, violent death.
In solidarity with the effort to raise awareness about mental health and suicide prevention, Tysons Interfaith will host a Zoom session with the Northern Virginia Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) on Sunday, September 26 from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm.
Representatives from NAMI will relate personal experiences with mental illness and discuss how to detect mental illness in yourself or family members and how to help those with mental health conditions. NAMI is the leading national organization on mental health issues. Please join us for this important and valuable presentation. The link to sign up is here: NAMI Ending The Silence
When I first moved to the area, I was told that Tysons Corner Shopping Center was one of a handful in the country that is “recession-proof.” During the crash of 2008, for example, Tysons continued to thrive. That recession and the latest pandemic-caused downturn proved more difficult for Tysons II, but my sense is that even that less successful space will thrive as it becomes more of an entertainment than a shopping venue.
The reason for this resiliency becomes apparent when you visit any of the shops on a weekend or even a weekday, although COVID-19 has changed things a bit. The number of different languages and cultures represented is astounding. Many are visitors to the Washington area, but increasingly they are residents, which the data from the 2020 census shows is truly the case.
Foreign-born persons represent a whopping 45 percent of the population in Tysons, higher than in Pimmit, Idylwood or the other heavily Hispanic areas that abut Tysons, and “Asian-alone” households make up a third of the total. “White-alone” households are a minority at 48 percent, and over half of all households speak a language other than English at home. The Hispanic population is only 7 percent.
One of the founding members of my church was an original owner in The Rotunda, purchasing a spacious end unit more than 50 years ago when he could stroll leisurely around Tysons without a care in the world. When his family finally sold the property just a year or so ago, things had totally changed. Tysons is now a dense urban space, which is attractive for people who are used to living in apartments in large cities and where the amenities are upscale. Another attraction is education. I don’t have the data, but my perception is that a lot of the Chinese and Korean families who move into the area want their children to go to the BASIS School, one of the finest in the country, or any of the great public schools that surround the district.
Another interesting fact, which may rebut my contention that some families move into Tysons to take advantage of education, is that the average household size is the lowest in the area, hovering just above 2 persons per household. That would seem to confirm the view that Tysons is attractive to young couples that have no children or older, “empty nesters,” the “donut hole” in the population. Persons above 5 years old and under 18 years old represent only 17 percent of the people living in Tysons, which is the lowest in the area. Seniors over 65 represent 12 percent, higher than in Pimmit or Idylwood but lower than in McLean.
Tysons is a dynamic place and second in population size only to the sprawling McLean Census District, which will be featured in the next post in our series.
The Jewish High Holidays begin with the celebration of Rosh Hashanah the evening of Monday, September 6th and end with Yom Kippur at sundown Thursday, September 16th. The High Holidays are a time when many Jews make their strongest identification with Judaism, with their congregation, and with the Jewish people.
These ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the “Days of Repentance.” The holidays are celebrated in accord with the lunar-solar cycle. Consequently, on the Gregorian calendar the dates move annually. You might hear Jews describe this year’s High Holidays as “early.”
Rosh Hashanah literally means in Hebrew, “the head of the year.” The Erev (Eve) Rosh Hashanah service Sunday evening sets the stage to welcome the Jewish new year of 5782. It is also when the “Book of Life” is opened and is left open during the days of repentance. Jews are encouraged to identify things they have done wrong, might have done better, and to express sorrow for them, expressing sorrow to those affected. Hence the name “the Days of Repentance.” At the dramatic concluding Yom Kippur service, the Book of Life is symbolically closed for another year.
In Reform Jewish Congregations, the Erev Rosh Hashanah service is following by a full day of worship, this year Tuesday, September 7th. In Conservative and Orthodox Jewish Congregations, there is an additional day of Rosh Hashanah observance on Wednesday, September 8th.
These services feature special prayers delivered in a special High Holiday “trope” or chants; melodies heard only this time of the year. The music is soaring, the prayers special, the sermons special, with much of the worship experience dating back centuries. The Rosh Hashanah services conclude with the blowing of the shofar, or ram’s horn. This signals that we have all come together as the Jewish people once more, it marks the beginning of a new year, and that this is the time to commit to doing better in the year ahead.
During this time Jews will set our plates of apples and honey, the apples representing our world and the honey the sweetness of the new year. This is also the only time of the year that one has round challahs rather that the traditional loaf for services and at home. Again, the round challah represents the globe and recognizes this time as the birthday of the world.
The days following this service and leading up to Yom Kippur are to be a period of introspection. It is to be a time for “teshuva,” or turning around, identifying how one can do better.
On Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, these commitments are entered into the figurative Book of Life. From Erev Yom Kippur (Eve of Yom Kippur) through the next day the worship experience is solemn and serious. If one’s health allows, it is traditional that Jews fast from the start of the Erev Yom Kippur service through sunset of Yom Kippur service. The holiday concludes with a Break the Fast meal, often with family and friends.
For those who have fulfilled the mitzvah, or commandment, to observe these holidays, one leaves with a renewed sense of purpose, of commitment, and of peace.
The traditional greeting to Jews during this High Holiday period is to wish one another a happy new year. In Hebrew this is, “Le Sha-nah To-vah.” It means literally, “Happy New Year.” One can also say, “Yom Tov,” happy holiday, and on Yom Kippur, wish one an easy fast.
May this year’s Days of Repentance be a time of sincere renewal, commitment, and peace for all. “Le Shanah Tova!”
This is the first in a series of posts based on the latest 2020 census figures from the districts in the Tysons area, starting with Pimmit Hills, perhaps the “poorest” but in my experience the most rapidly changing neighborhood in our area. It also has a very interesting and long history, having once been a dairy farm owned by a family named Magarity, the name of the road that bounds Pimmit on the west side. Another street, Lisle, is named after one of Magarity’s children. History | Friends of Pimmit Barn
When land values and taxes rose through the roof in the 1950s, dairying became unsustainable and Magarity sold his property to developers who made Pimmit a home for working-class, white (I’m willing to bet there were few people of color at the time) families. The homes were modest wooden structures, most without basements.
They are rapidly being demolished and replaced with large, mega-homes valued in the $600,000 plus price range – higher than in Tysons proper, where smaller condo units prevail.
The neighborhood has the largest share of persons identifying themselves as Hispanic, almost all of them secondary owners or renters. I know only one original inhabitant, a check-out clerk at the McLean Giant grocery store, who is nearing retirement. She is lucky in that she is fully unionized and has a pension that, in addition to the money she will no doubt take in when she sells her property, will probably allow a comfortable retirement.
When I cycle through the neighborhood, I notice that the smaller homes often have five or six vehicles parked in the driveway or on the street, even though the homes themselves probably have only three small bedrooms. The online Nextdoor Lewinsville group features many posts from the residents in Pimmit, who also make up the bulk of the people who patronize the SHARE McLean food pantry located in the basement of the McLean Baptist Church, a founding member of and major contributor to Tysons Interfaith. https://www.shareofmclean.org/ (SHARE of McLean | Facebook)
SHARE is a 501(3)(c) non-profit that is supported by many, if not all Tysons Interfaith members, and as a totally volunteer-run charity has been operating with almost zero overhead since the 1970s. Please consider volunteering or donating. There are many opportunities.
The West Falls Church and Idylwood census districts that abut Pimmit Hills, are very similar in structure. Incomes and poverty rates are about the same, Idylwood being slightly better off by most measures, and the percentage of residents identifying as Hispanic similarly large. If you are interested in exploring what the new census has to say in numbers about our community, this is an excellent statistical tool: U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Idylwood CDP, Virginia; Vienna town, Virginia; Wolf Trap CDP, Virginia; Tysons CDP, Virginia; Pimmit Hills CDP, Virginia; McLean CDP, Virginia
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.
With the desperate situations in Afghanistan and Haiti, many are asking how they can help people in Afghanistan and Afghan refugees, as well as the people of Haiti struggling to recover from the recent devastating earthquake. The following list of resources has been compiled from suggestions offered by Tysons Interfaith contributors:
LUTHERAN SOCIAL SERVICES: The leading resettlement agency resettling refugees in the DMV area that is already in the process of resettling hundreds of recently arrived Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) holders, working with local nonprofit groups — they need financial donations, volunteers for apartment setup, transportation, tutoring, advocacy, and more. See https://lssnca.org/take_action/afghan-allies.html
LUTHERAN IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE SERVICES: See https://www.lirs.org/
CATHOLIC CHARITIES DIOCESE OF ARLINGTON COUNTY: Doing work in the DMV. See https://www.ccda.net/need-help/immigrants-and-refugees/migration-and-refugee-services/
ETHIOPIAN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION: Also doing work in the DMV. See https://www.ecdcus.org/
HIAS: formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, HIAS has been working in the U.S. and around the world for 130 years on refugee resettlement and advocacy — now seeking financial assistance, advocates, and volunteers to provide housing for newly arrived Afghan families. See https://www.hias.org/crisis-afghanistan-how-you-can-help
INTERNATIONAL RESCUE COMMITTEE: another leading refugee resettlement agency, resettling refugees in the Baltimore area and elsewhere in the U.S. and around the world – see https://help.rescue.org/donate/afghanistan
DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS: providing medical care for the neediest people in the toughest places around the world, including 5 still-operating projects in Afghanistan – see Afghanistan | How to Help & FAQs | Doctors Without Borders
NO ONE LEFT BEHIND: the only nation-wide association of wartime allies in the US dedicated to ensuring that America keeps its promise to our interpreters from Iraq and Afghanistan, now trying, among other things, to charter planes to rescue Afghan refugees. See https://nooneleft.org/default.aspx?
INTERNATIONAL REFUGEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM ( IRAP): a leading organization, headquartered in New York, involved in litigation and advocacy on behalf of refugees across the United States. See https://refugeerights.org/
WOMEN FOR WOMEN INTERNATIONAL: https://support.womenforwomen.org/donate/afghanistan-emergency-2x-match?src=HHUA21082A
CHURCH WORLD SERVICE: another leading refugee resettlement agency, run by U.S. churches for over 70 years, involved in advocacy as well as refugee resettlement around the world. See https://cwsglobal.org/learn/refugees-and-immigrants/
Many faith-based organizations are sending resources to Haiti, so you may wish to check with your local faith-based organization for additional information.
Also, the following NPR article explains precautions to take when donating and provides links to lists of organizations doing work in Haiti. https://www.npr.org/2021/08/17/1028421310/haiti-earthquake-how-to-help.
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.
A recent survey of religion in America provides some granularity when it comes to the so-called decline in religiosity in these United States. Survey: White Mainline Protestants Outnumber White Evangelicals
The data show that contrary to other research, the percentage of Americans identifying with formal denominations is on a rebound from a low in 2018. Is this good news? Well, there’s a lot to be said for maintaining a skeptical attitude about formal religion. And yet, at the same time, this modest (re)turning to organized religion may be a response to the spiritual void that “mass society” represents.
Philosopher, and deeply agnostic, Hannah Arendt, summed up “mass society” thus:
All of the features, however, that mass psychology has by now identified as typical of man in mass society: his abandonment (Verlassenheit—and this abandonment is neither isolation nor solitude), along with his utmost adaptability; his irritability and lack of support; his extraordinary capacity for consumption (if not gluttony), along with his utter inability to judge qualities or even to discern them; but most of all his egocentrism and the fatal alienation from the world that he mistakes for self-alienation (this, too, dates back to Rousseau)—all of this first manifested itself in “good society,” which does not have a mass character. The first people of the new mass society, one might say, constituted a mass to such a small degree (in a quantitative sense) that they were actually able to consider themselves an elite.
One could argue that, with a few exceptions in Northern Europe, Americans represent the elites of the world. We are enmeshed in the ills outlined in this dense paragraph from Arendt’s critique of mass society, and it is natural to crave for some sort of spiritual solace. Most of us in Tysons Interfaith would probably quibble with the word “solace,” because that seems like a psychological cop out. Our faith traditions emphasize the Platonic world view that ideals, like good and evil, are real.
I believe that the beauty of religious worship is its communality. Megachurches excepted, most worship takes place in an intimate setting where loving relationships can be forged between individuals of different backgrounds and tendencies. This is what I experience in my faith community and with my participation in Tysons Interfaith. If you want to read about communality in action, I recommend to you the life of Gordon Crosby, who bucked the trend of bigness and put social responsibility front and center in his theology. Rebel pastor Gordon Cosby left lasting mark on mainstream Christianity – The Washington Post.
On a recent road trip to the west, we stopped in Columbus, Ohio. Among other things, we saw the Ohio Capitol building, which was beautiful and distinctive, especially at night. [Interesting fact – You might think they didn’t finish the dome, but the horizontal top was on purpose, to reflect the Greek Revival style to honor the Greek concept of democracy, whereas domes are more Roman style.]
One thing we didn’t expect was a Holocaust and Liberators Memorial on the Capitol grounds. Apparently during a Holocaust remembrance ceremony several years ago, the governor was so moved he said the state needed a more formal Holocaust Memorial, so one was commissioned. It is solemn and powerful, as you can see from the pictures (we thought particularly moving at night).
The memorial speaks for itself, but we were particularly inspired by the timeless quotes on the marble wall leading to the monument:
“If you save one life, it is as if you saved the world.”
“Every human being who chooses to remember this chapter in history and to infuse it with meaning is thereby choosing to struggle for the preservation of the bedrock moral values that alone make possible the existence of well-ordered society. This is a commitment to uphold human rights, above all, freedom and the sanctity of life, and the opportunity for people to live side by side in harmony.”
For more information on the memorial, see, http://www.ohiostatehouse.org/about/capitol-square/statues-and-monuments/ohio-holocaust-and-liberators-memorial. We particularly recommend the story of Michael Schwartz which is inscribed on the main part of the memorial.”
In December, when I started at Emmanuel Lutheran in Vienna as their associate pastor for evangelism and mission, I joined Tysons Interfaith right away. As someone entering my 10th year of ordained ministry, I have been part of a few ecumenical groups over the years, but this one is unique. As I attended our zoom meetings over the last year and participated in TI’s various discussions and forums, I’m so inspired by the work and passion that is happening in this group, despite the pandemic and its limitations.
At the end of July, I was finally able to meet some of the other members of Tysons interfaith in person, at Redeemer Lutheran in McLean to assemble “Welcome Bags” for new residents in Tysons. Our idea is to provide these bags to many of the major condominiums and apartment complexes in Tysons, to give away as new people move in. Inside each bag is a pen, magnet and lens cleaning cloth with the TI logo, a map of the community that includes a list of congregations in the surrounding area, a metro map, and a small package of tissues (because, pandemic!). We hope that new residents not only feel welcomed and connected to the community, but also learn that TI and these faith communities are ready resources. These bags will be going out in the next few weeks, to create a sense of connection and inclusion to the newcomers in our midst.
As someone still fairly new to NOVA, I’m so appreciative to have this group of passionate colleagues to work along with, and I am relieved that none of us are doing this alone. As a Christian and as a Lutheran, I believe that God is already present and at work in the community of Tysons, and God is continually inviting us alongside this work, as fellow participants. I’m thrilled to be along for the ride!
This blog post is the expressed opinion of its writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Tysons Interfaith or its members.
A recent BBC program reported on the controversy surrounding the “residence schools” established in Canada to “wring the Indian out of indigenous children.” Publicly funded, the schools were mostly established and run by the Roman Catholic Church and did not finally disappear until the 1990s. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000xzdm
I first learned about the U.S. version of this program when I participated in the annual “Jim Thorpe Day” competition at the Army War College in Carlisle, PA, the site of Thorpe’s on-again, off-again alma mater (he had trouble staying in school). Thorpe became an Army legend, possibly America’s greatest Olympic and professional sports champion ever and, lesser well known, a successful Hollywood actor. https://www.vice.com/en/article/z4d74a/a-thanksgiving-reminder-jim-thorpe-is-a-native-american-hero
Despite a bit of European ancestry, Thorpe was generally regarded as wholly American Indian, which made him both a curiosity and an advertisement for assimilationist policy. The founder and head of the Carlisle school, for example, believed that Native Americans must convert to Christianity and seek an education to prepare for success in the dominant culture. He once wrote that the U.S. government must “kill the Indian…to save the man.” His hubris, and a lack of proper oversight led inevitably to cases of physical, mental, and sexual abuse, only some of which have been belatedly prosecuted. Run by secular staff from the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs), Protestant religious organizations, or Catholic religious orders and parishes, the schools were part of what many call a program of “cultural genocide.”
Thorpe did not talk about this, but during his Hollywood career – he appeared in more than 70 films – he earned the title “Akapamata,” which in his Sac and Fox heritage means “caregiver.” His experience as co-founder and first president of what became the National Football League came in handy when he approached the BIA for a grant to launch an “Indian Center” in Los Angeles.
Together with a Native-American partner, Cecilia Blanchard, Thorpe formed what Blanchard’s great-granddaughter called a ‘Welcome Wagon’ for the Native peoples streaming in from all over. https://www.americanindianmagazine.org/story/akapamata-forgotten-hollywood-legacy-jim-thorpe. They would match the new arrivals with casting calls and auditions and, unwelcome in the city, organize Saturday-night potluck gatherings on the outskirts of town where the women used a traditional “dinner fire” to cook the game the men cleaned. All this eventually led to the Native American Actors Guild, formed because the Screen Actors Guild was even less welcoming than the Angelinos.
In the words of Blanchard’s great-granddaughter: “The industry was racist. They were portraying a vanishing people and a dying culture, and they were portraying it over and over again. That wore on the Natives’ psyche. That wore on their hearts. We are a proud people. We have worked hard to survive. Jim realized this and knew he had the best agency to create change. He tried to offer them an opportunity to be more than society was telling them they were going to be…. He went to his grave fighting for equal pay for Native actors and decent health insurance, especially for the stuntmen! Jim’s valiant effort laid the early groundwork for the benefits enjoyed today by indigenous people in the industry where we are still trying to crack the glass ceiling of film and media and taking back control of who we are as a people.”
Reflecting on the life and legacy of Jim Thorpe, I think he was an American hero on the order of Jessie Owens and Jackie Robinson, a man who could be embraced by Americans of any background. He is revered by the Army because he adopted its values of loyalty to service and country, action on the field of battle, and the performance of great deeds. He was embraced by most of his countrymen despite his Native American background and ongoing controversy and contradictions. These include his lifelong battle with alcoholism; his fraught marital life; the infighting among his heirs over whether he should be buried in the Pennsylvania town that took his name or back in Oklahoma on his ancestral lands; and the embarrassment of having the International Olympic Committee first strip him of his track and field medals because they found out he had played semi-professional sports and only posthumously reversing their decision. He had matchless God-given talents, but he also benefitted from the unique teaching and coaching that helped mold his individual talents into greatness. It is impossible to ascertain whether our efforts to wring the Indian out of him resulted in Jim Thorpe being more Christian and “American” than what he most certainly was: a hero of the Sac and Fox nation.