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Bringing together different viewpoints

Community: Santa Clarita Valley Interfaith Council joins multiple belief systems from across the cit

Posted: July 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 23, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The Santa Clarita Valley Interfaith Council is working to help the community and include more faith groups under the leadership of council President Jonathan Kraut.

“If one church does something it’s a religious act,” said Kraut, a 55-year-old Santa Clarita resident and Theravada Buddhist. “But if five or 10 churches do it, it’s a community act.”

The purpose of the Intefaith Council is to bring different faith groups together to collaborate on community service projects and discuss different issues, Kraut said.

Community-service activities
The council sponsors an annual CROP hunger walk on Labor Day, during which participants walk around Newhall to raise money to end hunger. The CROP walk usually raises about $10,000, Kraut said.

The council supports SCV Emergency Winter Shelter homeless shelter and the Church of Hope and Santa Clarita Valley food pantries. The group also hosts a prayer circle next to Santa Clarita City Hall on the National Day of Prayer in May.

“The council is about various faiths coming together to do good in their community,” Kraut said.

Monthly discussions
The council hosts monthly discussion meetings at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Newhall. At the meetings, representatives from different faiths come together to discuss a theological or philosophical issue.

Anyone can attend the monthly discussion meetings, which are typically hosted at noon on the second Tuesday of every month.

Council representatives are appointed by their congregations. Ten to 15 faith groups are represented at a typical monthly meeting, Kraut said.

The interfaith council currently has representatives from Baha’i, Muslim, Episcopalian, Methodist, Jewish, Lutheran, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist and Unitarian Universalist groups.

“The one- to two-hour monthly theology meetings are like dessert,” Kraut said. “It’s the best two hours of the month.”

New directions
The Rev. Canon Lynn Jay, rector at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, started the Interfaith Council roughly 20 years ago. She started the organization when she reportedly discovered that a ministerial association in the Santa Clarita Valley did not allow women or non-Christian faith groups to attend meetings.

Jay wanted a group whereby people from different backgrounds could come together to talk and participate in service projects together.

“There needs to be a way for different people of different faiths to come together,” Jay said. “This gives us an opportunity to get to know other people.”

More faith groups are coming into the Santa Clarita Valley as the valley grows, and it’s important for the interfaith council to support newer faith groups, Jay said.

“We hope the Muslim community is able to build a mosque,” Jay said. “We know that there is a possibility for some rancor over that.”

Information meeting
According to Kraut, the interfaith council hopes to soon host an informational meeting where people who practice Islam can explain their faith to others in the community.

Erik Felker is a 68-year-old Burbank resident who represents the Unitarian Universalist Church of Santa Clarita Valley at the council.

The council will continue to grow as new faith communities join, Felker said.

“We don’t have to withdraw and build up walls,” Felker said. “We can reach out through the windows.”


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