There is a saying that “Heaven smiles when congregations work together.” If that is the case, the interfaith collaboration going on in Salisbury, MD must surely have heaven beaming.
It’s probably safe to say that when the Wicomico Environmental Trust asked Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake (IPC) for help in hosting an environmental workshop for congregations on the Eastern Shore back in 2013, no one had any inkling of just how fruitful the collaboration would be.
To be sure, both groups saw an opportunity to reach out and build relationships with faith communities in the Salisbury region unfamiliar with the work of the Wicomico Environmental Trust and Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake. What was not anticipated was the planning committee for the event, a group of local leaders from diverse faith backgrounds, would find the message of the event so compelling that they would go on to form their own group under the umbrella of the Wicomico Environmental Trust and name themselves Wicomico Interfaith Partners for Creation Stewardship, or Wicomico Interfaith Partners for shore.
The Wicomico Interfaith Partners have been gathering monthly ever since. Over the years, the group has worked together to host a range of events including tree planting, stream clean-ups, movie and speaker nights for the community at large, and a bus trip to the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C.
One of the most impressive aspects of the Wicomico Interfaith Partners is its diverse membership. Representatives from Episcopal, Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Unitarian Universalist, Bahai, Sikh, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and even Native American faith traditions have all played integral roles in the group. To help highlight and learn about the diverse traditions involved, the Wicomico Interfaith Partners rotate their monthly meetings to different member congregations each month and always open their gatherings with a spiritual reflection or lesson from the spiritual tradition of the host congregation. Learning about each other’s traditions has been a foundational element of the Wicomico Interfaith Partners and has helped the group build strong ties of understanding and friendship that have stretched beyond their environmental work.
Last year’s “Blessing of the River” event at Salisbury’s inaugural GreenFest is a great example of this diversity. To open the day’s celebrations, the Wicomico Interfaith Partnership led a prayer service involving members from the Islamic, Christian, Unitarian Universalist, and Native American communities. The service was highlighted by a traditional Native American smoke smudging ceremony that members of the audience could participate in. Over 50 people came forward to join in the ceremony!
The success of the Wicomico Interfaith Partners has served as a building block for IPC’s One Water Partnership program and IPC is thrilled to be working with the Wicomico Interfaith Partnership and Wicomico Environmental Trust again as we bring the One Water Partnership program to the Eastern Shore. We are excited to see what future blessings this collaboration will bring!
Matthew Heim, Program Director
One Water Partnership